PROVISION FOR FULL TIME GOSPEL ENTREPRENEURS
by Gary Carpenter
The term Gospel Entrepreneur is a phrase I use to describe the ministry office of financial stewardship regarding the Kingdom of God. The New Testament mentions this office in at least two places:
Rom 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: HE THAT GIVETH, LET HIM DO IT WITH SIMPLICITY; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. (Capitals Mine)
This ministry of financial stewardship is also included in the ministry of "Helps" as described in:
1 Cor 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, HELPS, governments, diversities of tongues. (Capitals Mine)
The ministry of "Helps" includes many more functions than financial stewardship alone, but it is without question included within that category. So, you could say that the ministry of "Giving with Simplicity" is contained within the overall ministry of "Helps" as a sub-category.
Saul & Barnabus where at one time counted among the prophets and teachers. But during a meeting of these prophets and teachers at Antioch, the Holy Spirit separated Saul & Barnabus into a higher office … the office of apostle.
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Just as there is a maturing process, a progression, into higher offices within the five-fold ministry gifts, so there is a maturing process, a progression, into more and more responsibility in the office of the Gospel Entrepreneur. Most people begin as "part time" stewards. During this time period they are what we would call "lay ministers" who still spend the majority of their time "making a living" in the world. But they are being groomed and trained by the Holy Spirit to become givers with simplicity. As they spend time in the Word and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, He reshapes their desires, attitudes, and aspirations to line up with the mind of Christ for their lives. Covetousness progressively dies within them, and their hearts are turned more and more to that of a bondslave, to being a first class servant whose greatest joy is to serve their Master.
If they remain good students, willing to be trained by the Holy Spirit, their minds become more and more receptive to the instructions that proceed from the mind of Christ. It seems that the natural progression is that the Holy Spirit nearly always first trains them "how to give" before He begins training them "how to harvest" financially. If they cannot be depended upon to "give with simplicity" with small financial amounts, they will not be faithful later to "give with simplicity" with larger financial amounts. Why train a person to harvest millions from the world system for the Kingdom of God when they have already proven themselves to be unfaithful to give small amounts from the resources they already have?
Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Luke 16:12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Anyone who truly stands in the office of the Gospel Entrepreneur has one Master … not two! He is a bondslave to the Lord Jesus Christ … and to Him alone. To the Gospel Entrepreneur, money is a tool … not a lord!
That being said, let's consider the case of a person who is steadfast and diligent in his training to become a full fledged Gospel Entrepreneur. The Holy Spirit watches him mature in his understanding, his motivations, and his obedience to the mind of Christ. He proves himself faithful over and over with the handling of "unrighteous mammon." In other words, he proves himself faithful to obey every instruction he receives from the mind of Christ by the Holy Spirit. He is therefore entrusted with more and more wisdom to reap greater and greater harvests from the world system in order to finance the work of the Kingdom of God.
Eventually, just like the Holy Ghost separated Saul & Barnabus to full time apostleship, the Holy Ghost will separate this man to full time service as a Gospel Entrepreneur. At this point the man may be stewarding massive amounts of finances for the Kingdom of God, yet he himself is no longer a "lay minister" who receives a regular paycheck for his support. Now he is full time. The question often arises, "How do I determine my provision now? How am I supposed to house, feed and clothe my family? I steward tremendous wealth for the Kingdom. Does the New Testament give me any guidelines for how I am to function when it comes to personal provision for me and my family?"
Thankfully, the answer is "Yes!" Let's begin our research with a very important passage written by Paul. We'll look at it in both the King James and New International translations:
1 Cor 9:7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
1 Cor 9:8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
1 Cor 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
1 Cor 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. (King James Version)
Here is the same passage from the New International Version:
1 Cor 9:7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
1 Cor 9:8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing?
1 Cor 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
1 Cor 9:10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. (New International Version)
This passage was written after Paul and Barnabus had been set into their full time offices as apostles by the Holy Spirit. The point is … it is for those who hold a "full time" office in the body of Christ. We can glean from this passage the principles of personal provision for those who hold full time offices in the ministry. Paul poses some very good questions:
He goes on to say that this is not just a human tradition, but the principle was set in motion by God Himself when He said, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Said another way, if the ox is doing its job properly by doing its part to bring in the harvest, then it has the right to EAT FROM THAT HARVEST! That would be the ox's "personal provision," would it not? The ox has a "right" to a portion of the harvest he is helping bring in to the Master's granary. That is God's principle … not man's!
Notice also that it would not matter what "field" you have the ox laboring in on any given day. If on Monday you have the ox working in the cornfield, then the ox has a right to a "portion of the corn." If on Tuesday you have the ox working in the wheat field, the ox has a right to a "portion of the wheat."
Paul goes on to say that God intended this to be the principle for "people," not just oxen. The principle is, the laborer in the harvest field has a right to a portion FROM THAT HARVEST FIELD for his personal provision. This is the method instituted by God for His full time ministers.
In Paul & Barnabus' case, they were what we would call "front line" ministers. In other words, they were right out there among the people, preaching the gospel directly to lost souls. They were ministering "spiritual things" to those lost souls, endeavoring to bring in a harvest of born again souls into our Heavenly Father's granary. Paul goes on to say,
1 Cor 9:11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? (New International Version)
Paul and Barnabus labored directly in the harvest field of souls. From the free will offerings that the people gave, they had the right to a "portion of the harvest" for their personal provision. The remainder would be used for the expenses of the ministry and to help the poor, as the Lord directed. The principle is what must be noted: Because Paul and Barnabus were laboring directly in the harvest field of souls, they received a "portion" of the free will offerings for their "personal provision" FROM THAT HARVEST FIELD!
The Gospel Entrepreneur is one step removed, normally, from the harvest field of souls. In other words, most people who hold the office of a Gospel Entrepreneur are not "full time preachers" or ministers on the "front line." The end result of their labors provides the finances FOR the "front line" ministries. The Gospel Entrepreneur labors in a different harvest field … the field of finances. By the gifts of the Spirit, they co-labor with the Holy Ghost to work in the "chief places of concourse" to reap harvests of finances to be used in the Kingdom of God. Staying precisely with the method of "not muzzling the ox" that God instituted, we must conclude that the Gospel Entrepreneur has the right to a "portion" for his "personal provision" FROM THAT HARVEST FIELD … the field of finances!
Now that we have determined "where" the Gospel Entrepreneur's "personal provision" comes from, the next question we are faced with is, "How much of the harvest should be allocated for personal provision?" This is a much more difficult decision making process, and it is one where there is no substitute for hearing the "present hour instructions" of the Living Lord who "speaks from heaven." (Heb 12:25)
In the beginning this ministry, I decided I ought to start preparing a budget so I would know how much to ask the Lord for financially as our "personal provision" amount. I started preparing the leanest budget you can imagine. I was only including the bare essentials of what I thought we could survive on. My mind was still full of traditional "religious" doctrine that convinced me that God was really kind of stingy and was not pleased when we had much abundance.
So I was working on this extremely meager budget when, all of a sudden, the Lord said to me, real strong, "Don't you think that I can provide for you at least as well as you used to provide for you?" I had never thought of that. I began going back over our financial records for recent years and took the average amount we had personally lived on. Sue and I discussed this and came to the conclusion, "Well, this is the amount we have been personally living on anyway. Surely the Lord is capable of providing for us as well as we provided for ourselves." We took that average amount and presented it to the Lord as a place to "start" regarding our personal provision amount.
Over the next few days, we spent a lot of time in prayer listening to see if either of us got any "checks" in our spirit concerning that dollar amount. We did not, and in fact, we seemed to be getting more of a "green light" via the inner witness. We set that amount as our "personal provision," making this promise to the Lord: "Lord, we are your bondslaves. We are agreeing that this set dollar amount will be our personal provision out of all the finances you send our way. Anything above this amount we will consider to be our "stewardship" amount for You. Desiring to be your hand in the earth, we will give it and use it in any way that You say. But, we will not consider it to be ours personally."
That was one of the best decisions we ever made in our lives. Prior to that decision, the best we had ever been able to do when it comes to giving amounted to roughly twenty percent of our total income in any given year. Since making that decision, we have sometimes been able to give more than we used to earn in the world during an entire year! It's almost as if the Lord said, "You are agreeing that everything that comes in above your personal provision is mine to use as I desire? Let Me show you what I can do with that which is mine."
Of course, as our lives have changed and our circumstances have changed, there have been times when we have needed to go back to the Lord in prayer to request a "cost of living" increase, if you will. Our Lord Jesus is alive and well. He speaks from heaven, and the Holy Spirit will bring His mind to your spirit if you spend time in fellowship with Him. Sometimes the Lord has granted our requests, sometimes not. But I can tell you this, nobody ever loved us like Jesus. Every decision He has made for us has been in our best interests. We have not found Him to be a hard taskmaster, but rather a loving and generous Master who deeply loves His bondslaves.
I have told you about how we determined our own provision as an example only. Every case is different. As I said earlier, there is no substitute for personal communion with the Lord via prayer, worship, and fasting. Some people may be living "far beyond their means" when they first attempt this process and the Lord may have some correction in mind in order to establish your initial "provision" amount. Others may be living too frugally, and you might be surprised at the amount He desires to establish as your "personal provision." You will have to spend time with Him yourself. There is no other path.
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