In CPM we stress the following three approaches: Educate, through teaching, to increase knowledge. Train, through coaching, to increase skill sets. Equip, through mentoring, to increase capacity. We know that one of the problems with traditional Western Christianity is that it is almost exclusively focused on the first of these. Teaching is important, but inadequate by itself.
Lately some of us have noticed that those of us who train others in Church Planting Movements often have this same weakness when it comes to Access Ministries. We teach the need to do access ministires. We share the CPM counter-intuitive that says, “Small for-profit projects often yield much higher long-term access and goodwill than free services.” But how many skill sets are we training church planters in the area of access ministries? How many are we mentoring to greater capacity?
Church Planting Movements often grow rapidly for a while, and then begin to slow some because our fund raising capacities fail to keep up with the need to financially support the number of CPM trainers necessary to keep the work moving forward. The greater the numbers the more “just in the nick of time training” is demanded. The broader the area is that is being impacted by churches being planted, the greater the needs for coaching and mentoring. Thankfully, these very needs push us to become more creative and alert to new ways to accomplish what God is calling us to do.
Biblically we often are drawn back to the “tentmaking” material. Paul’s most fruitful work came when he was in the city of Ephesus for roughly three years. Even his enemies acknowledged that the work of Paul’s team was incredibly productive. They felt like if they did not do something quickly they would no longer have employment because their silver images of Artemis were being purchased by fewer and fewer people. This recession was being produced by the fact that more and more people were following Jesus and rejecting their polytheistic past (Acts 19). Reflecting on his time in Ephesus, Paul notes, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:33-35).
The apostle Paul’s practice in the matter of support is an intriguing study. For “right/wrong” people (where everything has to fit into one of these two categories) he can be frustrating. There are places where Paul was adamant about the right of kingdom workers to receive support from those who were being blessed by their ministry. But then there are those places where he chose to forgo such support and appears to expect the same from others. I fear we try to make an “either/or” out of something Paul deals with as a “both/and.”
I can almost imagine a modern query, “Paul, are you for self-support or full-time support from those who were coming to know Jesus?” Paul’s answer woud be, “Yes.” “But Paul, that was an either/or question,” would be the reply. “Yes, I know. Why do you choose to make an either/or out of a both and?”
Paul’s choice in this matter appears to be situational. He strategically decides to work with his hands to support himself (and even his team) when that will do the most good for the spread of the gospel. At other times he lives off the financial support other churches forward to him. But he consistently did not accept financial support from the people where he was currently working. We need to be open to using these two approaches depending upon which is best in a particular situation.
To recognize which strategy will be most fruitful we must know the culture where we are working well. What are the attitudes of the people we are trying to reach about money? How do they view someone being supported while spreading the gospel? Do they have a history of religious charlatans? How will our choices now affect the spread of the gospel later? Is our course of action infinitely reproducible? Is our course of action sustainable? These are some of the questions we must learn to ask and answer.