Posted by Gary on October 9, 2008
I am increasingly grieved and angry with that which I see in the realm of Christianity and "ministry" concerning copyright restrictions. In particular, I believe that it is wrong for that which is called ministry or gospel to be conducted as business.
Today I picked up a book from my shelves, the classic work on predestination by Lorain Boettner. What a joy it was to open the front pages and see this written:
Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use.
Compare Boettner’s position with the warning given in many other books on my shelves:
All rights reserved-no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review in magazine or newspaper.
Or, how about this one?:
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher or a license permitting restricted copying.
Here is the fundamental question that must be asked, are we involved in ministry or in a business venture? If it is ministry than I cannot demand and impose in the same way I do if it is about making money. Some may remember the radical position of Keith Green who did not charge for his concerts and told those in attendance that they could take an album for what they could afford even if they could afford nothing. Steve Camp in our day has come to a similar position and I am grateful to see it.
If I am a sinner who was rescued by God’s grace and then granted the privilege to serve Him in the ministry in what sense can I claim that anything I offer in ministry is "mine"? When I write a sermon or prepare a study do I not believe that God has given me the information? Can I therefore claim it as mine and demand that others pay me and threaten them with legal action if they infringe on my rights?
For example, what would most think if before I preach my sermon I read a statement telling my listeners that if they quote anything I say in the sermon that they must attribute it to me or litigation will ensue? Would it be right for me to charge a fee for copies of my sermons and then demand a portion of every copy sold?
I struggle at times between the need for someone to make a living and greed. I understand that as a pastor I am provided for by my congregation and that the musician or author might claim that their album or book is their living, that is granted at least in some cases (many times authors are pastors or musicians are making money from various ventures often to the tune of large sums of money).
There is much more to be said about these things and I continue to think on them. For now let it suffice to say that much of what is going on in evangelicalism today is not ministry, it is business. The genuine mark of gospel ministry is found in an attitude that seeks above all things to bring the truth about Christ to as many as possible without hindrance and freely.
Would we still do what we are doing even if we weren’t being paid for it? That’s how you know if it is a call to ministry.
Matthew 10:8 "Freely you received, freely give."
1 Corinthians 4:7 "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"
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