An open letter to those that think all Christian stuff should be free

My mother is a nurse, a gifted one.  I know this because I’ve heard reports from her patients. I saw her receive birthday gifts via AirMail from people she cared for decades ago.

My father is an engineer, a gifted one.  I know this because I’ve seen the things he’s built and repaired.  He’s built some amazing machinery and equipment that works and stays working.

I have a friend who is a very gifted school teacher.  I know this because she taught one of my kids. Parents openly confess that they’ve prayed their kids would end up with Lyn as their teacher.

Our current family chiropractor is very gifted. I know this because we feel the change in our bodies.  Our mood is better and her schedule is full.

Aside from their gifts, mum, dad, Lyn and Nicole all studied, sacrificed, committed, invested money and put thousands of hours into developing their gifts.

We have all witnessed gifted young people do amazing things on TV, in academia and in the area of the arts and sports – but how many of them spend (or get the opportunity to spend) the proverbial blood, sweat and tears developing their gifts into something of great value?

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book OUTLIERS, you’ll be familiar with the 10,000 hour rule.  It basically states that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.  Although that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, it does point out that gifts require developing – 2 Timothy 1:6 states something similar “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,”  However it comes to you – through laying on of hands or inherently, it requires effort if it is to grow and develop.  Would you agree?

I have a friend who is a very gifted musician.  She’s played and sung with some of Australia’s leading artists.  She’s a recording artist in her own right and now provides training and coaching to vocal artists across the globe.  I should mention that Roma is a Christian and she see’s what she does as her ‘ministry’. She acknowledges God gave her the gifts she has… and here is where things get muddy for many.  Should she charge for her albums? Should she charge for lessons?  After all, it’s a gift from God!

Why am I writing this?  Well,  as it turns out, I have a gift for creating healing prayer albums and teachings that bring people into freedom.  I know this because I’ve seen it work with my own family and heard from hundreds of people who say their lives have been positively changed. Healing from fears, insomnia, relational stress and all kinds of trauma related issues.  I know God gave me the gift but as natural as delivering and creating it all may seem, it still has come at a great cost. Decades of study. Years of ‘tent-making’. Years of practice in prayer ministry settings. Painful personal tests and lessons including break downs, bankruptcy, trauma and sacrificial giving. I’ve been fanning that flame buddy!

At least once a week I get someone, generally through social media (rarely face-to-face), leave a comment or send an email after seeing a story or advert related to my resources. It’ll read something like, “If it’s a gift, you should give it away for free”. Or, “I’m angry you are charging for this, God have mercy on you.” Or my favourite: “This is a spiritual gift and you shouldn’t charge for this!”

And to you sir/madam, I ask you to consider this one simple question: “What makes my gift any more sacred, spiritual or from-God than say a nurse, engineer, teacher or chiropractor?”

Here are some more questions:
“Why can they charge for their gifting, and I can’t? Do you refuse to pay mechanics, doctors and college fees too? Freely given, freely give right?!”
“Why do all things you regard as ministry need to be free?”
“What’s your spiritual development worth to you? You’re willing to invest in the latest smartphone, nicer cars, good food, fine clothes, coffee, hair-dos and vacations right? Is your Christian walk of value? Where might it sit in the investment scale? The thing is, when you expect others to feed you – it’s at their expense and not yours – which is fine for a baby or toddler, but we are encouraged to mature as sons of God – and that means going to the shop and feeding yourself. Right?”
and finally to that special someone out there, “How the heck do you suggest we pay rent and feed our family?” Hey kids, it’s faith on toast for dinner again!

The thing is, I believe that this spiritual, sacred and secular divide is something Jesus came to abolish.  Christ levelled the playing field by calling all people out of divisive and hierarchal mindsets by reconciling us ALL to God. (e.g. John 17. Ephesians 1&2. 2 Corin 5). He rebuked the religious leaders of His day who regarded themselves as higher, holier and more sacred than others. (Luke 18:9-14).

I believe this kind of dualistic, good/evil thinking is not only offensive to those in ‘ministry’ but to those in all industries.  (Ephesians 6:5-9 is a good read).  From what I read, Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, house-wives, the mentally ill and even ‘those in ministry’ to follow Him. All equal. All valuable. All gifted. That’s some Good News right there!

I don’t care if you are a Christian plumber, musician, accountant, writer, businesswoman, baker, psychologist, pilot, prayer minister or teacher – feel free to give away what you have – and feel free to charge for it too. Just don’t call the free stuff ‘ministry’ and the cost-based stuff your job, work or career. Please? You see, it’s all ministry (serving) – or at least has the opportunity to be if your heart is postured that towards God.”

So, it’s without reserve or shame that I will continue charge for some of my albums and teachings. They’re not that expensive and everyone has the free choice to go make their own or find something free elsewhere. And you know what? The sales provide a little income but like most who’ve chosen to serve God and humanity in the way we do, we still rely on support, gifts and part-time work to provide an income.

AND to my Christian brother or sister in this ‘ministry’ industry reading this with an inner voice screaming “Exactly Dave, it’s crazy! Tell ’em what it’s like!”.   I say to you, ‘Value yourself!’

Value your gifts. Especially if they have been developed at a great cost – others do right?. Charge if you feel led. Give your skills and product away for free if you feel led. Do what’s in your heart. I’m sure most of you never got into this industry of ‘ministry’ for money but you and I know that you can’t do much without it! Some seed is for bread, some is for sowing isn’t it? Enjoy your bread! (1 Tim 5:8)  Keep at it. We need you. We need each other.

Love and Peace!

David Tensen
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16 Comments

  1. Carol Nickless July 15, 2016 at 10:10 am

    David , I love your teaching and the freedom we get from being Blessed by it.Always grateful when you come to Hillview and count it real Joy to give a love offering.No one can walk into a book shop, JB hi fi and just take what they want, or go and have a nice meal , because that’s a God given gift to be able to cook and create dishes for people to enjoy.I know you will shake off those words they don’t belong on your shoulders Mighty Man of God.

  2. Rachel Woodward July 15, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    The Lord bless you David! Thank you for this eye opening article.

  3. aja July 18, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Co 9:13–14); And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house (Lk 10:7); for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Ti 5:18)

    What’s so hard to get about this? I know exactly how you feel. Some Christians seem to think that doing business of any kind with a Christian in any sort of business entitles them to a discount or free service/product.

  4. Letina Day August 2, 2016 at 1:26 am

    Well stated!

  5. Bryan Whitmore-Parks August 12, 2016 at 2:50 am

    Thank you Dave for touching on an area long in contention in the body, and for eloquently stating the truth without condemnation. Blessings to you and yours – Bryan and Julie Whitmore-Parks

  6. John Spencer August 12, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Have you ever thought of saying “I’d be happy to give it free. And what can I have free from your ministry” 😉

  7. Donna Crow August 12, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Totally agree. I’ve had to work through this stuff myself, over the years, and I do some stuff on a donation basis and some things are charged for, and when the Spirit leads me I give stuff away. I do understand the heart of the person who thinks that love should be free. That is what is at the heart of it, the knowing in our hearts that life should be free . . . and you can get to a certain place in life, with Him, where He blows you away with free provision on the right hand and left, but it comes from renewing your mind about money/wealth/provision, and exercising faith for grace to receive everything as a gift, rather than working to take care of your own needs. My needs are far higher than what I can produce in a 40 hour week, so I have had to exercise faith for more than I can get on my own. That is when financial freedom kicks in, when you get into financial grace. Loved your article.

  8. Stephen Michael August 18, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    There are tons of people out there who sell lots and lots of unedifying non-revelatory crap via cd ‘s mp3’s tapes whatever who are, in the ‘christian’ arena, not doing what God’s asked them to do at all but rather preying on vulnerable ‘believers’ so they can advance their own materialistic lifestyle. That point needs making more emphatically amidst your valid writing in this article!

  9. Jan szemray August 19, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you David! You have exposed the “religious claptrap” that is rooted in a poverty mindset. Keep on being the authentic and transparent man you are.

  10. Jim Hutton August 20, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Actually, if it’s a ministry gift, the Bible clearly teaches it SHOULDN’T be free. Luke 10:7, 1 Tim 5:17, Gal 6:6, 1 Cor 9:9-14, Deut. 25:4, Matt 10:10

  11. David Tensen August 20, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Thanks! I intend to. ?

  12. Kevin Cullis August 24, 2016 at 3:45 am

    THIS!

    I don’t know HOW many of those in “‘ministry” want MY stuff for free!! I’ve had “ministries” walk off and put my books with their stuff EXPECTING to be given it for FREE!! I had one “ministry” woman who I told about my books and Fish Tank Startups workbook who asked if she could borrow them. I told her that there were only two ways she’d get them from me: 1) Pay for them like everyone else, or 2) Get an Amazon book review! She said, and I kid you not, “I don’t think so!”

    I have a friend that her friend has a “ministry” and EXPECTS people to give her steep discounts!

    Want a RUDE awakening? Read at my web site regarding the parable of the talents and how MUCH a talent is worth today.

    And BTW, when I’ve shared this talent information to others of influence, they then next get on stage and say how “God spoke to me about how much the talent is….” never ONCE acknowledging my contribution.

    Lastly, read the 10th commandment (Exod 20:17) WORD FOR WORD and what does this phrase say, “or a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ that belongs to your neighbor.”

    Thanks David, you hit a raw nerve that needs to change in the church.

  13. David Tensen August 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for your thoughts and contribution Kevin. I’ll be checking out your website and talent reference.

  14. Carole January 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    David, THANK YOU! My husband and I have an Inner Healing Ministry and I have heard every “Religious Comment” under the sun regarding WHY we should not charge for our in depth inner healing sessions of which we spend countless hours preparing for, not counting the sessions themselves! You have said everything I’ve wanted to and so very eloquently! (I will save your article for future reference). I am also very interested in your product for our ministry! So here’s to you brother! May God richly bless you, increase your giftings, and empower you to reach the masses WHILE you get paid as a workman who is WORTH HIS WAGES!

  15. John March 3, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    My only upset here is the weakness of your textual justifications. Did you use the Ox eating as he grinds etc. Paul uses that. I totally agree with you, and say, the skill set required to obtain an injunction in a court in heaven can be way ahead of lawyer training. People who do THAT for real should get support too.

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