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God's Free Gift

Current Events >> Conferences, Their Speakers -- and the validity of the Advertising

So, if you knew your speakers paid to be at the pulpit, rather than their being paid for being there, would it change your mind about listening to them?


Maybe this note should be under Web rather than Current Events . . . but bear with me.

In one of his letters Paul wrote, essentially, that he worked to pay his way because the Gospel should be free and he did not want to be criticized for charging people to listen to him. Now, admittedly, elsewhere he draws upon Old Testament Scripture to argue that the worker is entitled to be paid. This is the basis for paying your pastors.

This all makes for an interesting discussion as to when people should be paid. If one adopts the attitude that the work of spreading the Gospel really sits in God's hands, then it is up to God to provide the means. So, if a speaker charges $X for performing a service, or a seminar, or a retreat, that seems to me to be more self-centered than the speaker who comes and talks without a guarantee and then graciously accepts a love offering or gratuity from the church, without any advanced discussion as to the size of the payment.

In my mind, there is a relational scale between speakers or entertainers and how they get paid.

The best do it on the basis of a love offering and nothing else,

although there is a second best who might ask for some very small amount to cover the cost of essentials and then rely upon a love offering for they own welfare. An example of this is the singer who needs, say $500 to cover the cost of the bus and his helper, but relies upon the love offering for the remainder of his overhead and his "profit."

Last on the scale are those who up front declare their cost is $X paid in advance or, at least, guaranteed. If the church wants to take up a love offering to cover its outlay, that is up to the local church.

Now, I recognize that some performers and speakers are so famous and will draw such a large crowd that ticket selling becomes the only practical method of crowd control. If you sell tickets, then the issue becomes one of relationship between what the performer asks for and the price of the ticket. You could still sell tickets for $5 or $10 to cover the overhead, and take up a love offering for the speaker. Of course, you should tell people this up front.

I say all of this to set the stage for my real comments. There is a buzz on the technical blogs about tech conferences. Seems like the practice for many of the software and hardware developer conferences is to sell speaker slots. No, the conference does not pay the speaker, the speaker pays the conference!

So, how much confidence does this create in either the speaker or the conference? How many hot topics make the table? I, as a small time web developer, could by a slot and ramble on about absolutely nothing. This is truly the height of self-grandisement. No wonder Paul was so emphatic about the Gospel being free. What if the various speakers had to pay your church to appear on the pulpit?

Consider the possibilities. We could build a new building by selling the pulpit for a year! I wonder about the quality of theology we would receive. It might be interesting, but might not reflect what the Bible says. This would not do much good.

Now, in all fairness to some of the tech conferences, there are conferences who do not charge a fee for the podium. Still, makes you think that Paul knew what he was talking about. Those who work for you and your spiritual health day-in and day-out deserve to be paid out of your regular offerings. Those who show up once a year or less need to learn to depend upon love offerings. That is God's way.

Maybe those guys running the software development seminars should try reading the New Testament. There are a lot of good management ideas in the Bible.

Jim A

Posted On: 2006-02-16 18:40:37 || Comments (0 ) || Add a Comment
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