The Relationship of Full-Time Ministry and Business

The Relationship of Full-Time Ministry and Business December 24, 2018

I think we have to weigh very carefully whether “business” has become an idol in our lives.

It is also something to deeply ponder, for those of us engaged in full-time Catholic apostolate work, or “ministry”: the relationship of “business” to that. In my own life, I try to minimize and avoid the application of pure, secular “business” techniques and outlook to my work.

I’m here primarily to follow my calling and to serve others. Yes, I have to make a living; gotta pay the bills and bring home the bacon. And I have done that. It’s just not my primary concern, because I trust that God will provide. My primary motivation is sharing the gospel and God’s truths and the fullness of the Catholic faith with others, so that they can live a happier, more confident Catholic life and be aided in their quest to make it to heaven (by God’s boundless grace and mercy) in the end.

It’s not naivete, or blind faith. God has provided my family’s needs these last 13 [and now 17] years. I can testify to it, and am delighted to be able to do so. He’s good to His promise. He does provide for the sparrow, just as He says. We pay our bills, have good credit, don’t use credit cards, have no debt except for our mortgage, take good vacations (not including the Israel trip, which was paid by someone else).

We live in a decent suburban neighborhood. And my wife homeschools and we have four children (two other myths smashed; that everyone must have two incomes, and that more than two children are economically “impossible”). I’m the sole “breadwinner.”

Having needs met is a lot different from having desires met. A good friend of mine who lives a life similar to mine, noted that “God provides exactly what is needed, and not a penny more.” That was a great saying that has stuck with me. It has certainly proven true in my life, so that I can truly say that God has provided our needs.

I’m working my tail off; always have (and I think that is evident in my output). But this field does not, in and of itself, provide much of an income because the number of Catholics who are seriously interested in learning more about their faith and defending it, and knowing reasons for why Catholics believe what we do, is tiny, and getting smaller all the time, or so it seems.

And that gets back to business. This is why most Catholic apostolates are vigorously applying a “business model,” including the latest Madison Avenue techniques of fundraising and other approaches. They feel that they must solicit constantly, not help “competitors” (whom I prefer, rather, to call “fellow Catholic workers” or — more quaintly — “friends”). That’s not intrinsically wrong. It’s for a good cause. I fully understand why it’s done. Most of these ministries have tons of expenses and overhead that I don’t have.

But I have deliberately, consciously chosen not to take that approach. I do one very low-key fundraiser a year, out of absolute necessity [well, I did from 2012-2014, till Facebook changes made it impossible]. I never solicit people individually, or in their e-mail or through the post office to their mailboxes. Consequently, I have a very modest income, but I’m quite content, happy, and have my needs provided for. I’m doing what God has called me to do.

And that’s what it’s all about. I think “business” (i.e., if divorced from ethics, etc.) is relatively low on God’s priority list (and we know how often the Bible warns about riches), but I’m fairly certain that family, religion, and friendship are.

I have not made any “anti-business” (or anti-capitalist) remarks, as I see it. The Bible never runs down business per se or riches, but it runs down greed and materialism and making money an idol. I agree that one can be a good businessman, make a lot of money, and be a good Christian. That’s not my beef.

I think it’s a very fine balance and that some go too far in some respects in the “business” direction: to the detriment (in my humble opinion) of ministry elements. But that’s not knocking business itself: only certain perspectives on the relationship of business to ministry.

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(originally 11-17-14 on Facebook; revised slightly on 12-24-18)

Photo credit: Image by Gods Motivations (10-30-17) [Flickr / public domain]

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