Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tickets to hear the Good News, should we pay?

A well respected Bible Teacher, (not one of the popular tele-evangelists and a man who is particularly respected by Alien Warrior) is coming to a church in my neighborhood. I just saw the flyer at my local bakery shop where we buy our "bunz" bread. I was about to make a note to find time to attend when I saw

"Ten dollar donation to be taken at the door"

What's up with dat? Why not just come out and say tickets cost 10 dollars? I suppose if you press them they will say they have to cover their costs and no one will be refused entry for lack of 10 dollars. I probably would have put more than that in the offering bowl but I am going to give it a miss. - Robbo-not-buying-no-10-dollar tickets to hear AW’s "mentor"

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I am disappointed to hear that. I also respect that man greatly. We used his Bible study guide recently and it's pretty good, although a bit too hard to get through. Their Study Bible is pretty solid too- my wife has one. I'm also disturbed by gate fees at these things. I've argued against them ever since that gospel singer at Orion Cinema in Accra. I think it is the better way to make such events free. My reasons are:

1. The Gospel ought to be free. "Freely you have received, freely give", ".... the Good News is preached to the poor." The Apostle Paul also describes how important this was to him.

2. Sometimes they say the event is for people who are already Christians. I believe some amount of the basic Gospel message should be there regardless, because some non-Christians always attend.

3. I do know some people for whom ten bucks is a significant amount. They just won't go.

4. I suspect it's a tax cop out. Send me a donation of 20 bucks and we will mail you, without obligation, a copy of Dr. ...'s new book. In the business expense book they can call the book a gift that they gave out, and still call the money you gave them a donation. Win, win. I think it's dishonest- an example of the situation we talked about before, in which something that is legal is ethically and morally questionable.

5. It turns people off.

6. It embarrasses Christianity. We ought to be supporting the ministry, not leaving our full timers out dry so they have to resort to this kind of stuff. We have surpassed even the non-Christians. If I go to a marketing event they don't ask me for money. Some even pay me for my time. I would love to see a ministry that raises money from within the church in order to have events where non-Christians are induced to come by offering them something. Remember when the disciples observed that people were hungry at the big sermon, and they suggested that Jesus send the people into the villages so they could go eat something. The Lord said: "you give them something to eat". And it led to a miracle.

He later did have to correct the impression it created, but at least it set an example. If I may quote from the Achimota School Chapel Prayer book

"Remember the words of Jesus, how He said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. Let us pray for all those who in various parts of the world work to relieve the suffering of the sick, the poor and the hungry.

“Lord, hear our prayer, And let our cry come unto Thee"

7. It is interesting to see how this has evolved. At first it was a suggested donation AFTER the gift. Then they started stating the amount that would be good to give. Now the donation is taken at the door. Some people actually call it a ticket.

What my brother would say is this, since it's the same door one enters that they will leave through, why not collect the donation on the way out? That way they can be sure that those who can't afford it are still allowed in, and those who are very blessed can give more. After all, at the restaurant you pay after you eat.

Finally, I find it hard to believe that a Bible teacher of this stature, with the knowledge of the Bible that they have, cannot see how unchristian this is. It must be an example of compromise, possibly for the sake of gain. But I cannot say that with certainty because no-one (with the possible exception of…….) can read another man's heart. Maybe it's an honest mistake. -Calorius-who-wouldn’t-attend-either.

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I agree with all your sentiments, Calorius. I have also struggled with the same thoughts. I suspect that the meeting was organized by the church and some misguided church leaders sought to defray their costs rather brazenly like the heathens do. That said we do not know if the man himself was or was not aware of it. I feel that the church should pay the cost and seek to defray their expenses by taking an offering and being open about how much was spent on books, food etc. I always give more meaningfully when I know what the money is to be spent on.

Having said that I feel there is nothing wrong with asking people to pay for the books etc. If one can't pay for the books then taking notes is sometimes a better option. I have the workbook for that conference.. It reminds me of Our Daily Guide in our Scripture Union days. Robbo, sorry if Our Daily Guide sounds unfamiliar to you but you were still a heathen at the time and in the throes of Pope John Paul 1 or perhaps 2. I have never found it user friendly and the video recording with notes is all I need. I do the study once every other year in our prison ministry and I am not ashamed to say that I have never read the book in its entirety.

I have sometimes wondered with all the materials we have to study today whether we are better Christians today than our mostly illiterate brethren of the 1st century? All they had was the spoken word and they had to commit it to memory or perish for lack of knowledge. There is a passage in Daniel about how in the last days there shall be an increase in knowledge and men shall run to and fro. I guess women too. Today we underline our Bibles with all the rainbow spectra of highlighters, we have prayer diaries, we have a zillion Bible study aids and I wonder if we ever read these things or if we are any better off.

My recommendations: cut out all the pork of study aids. Have the man teach the people by all means and let the church pay him a handsome amount of money for his work and then let us give to the church as needed. If you go on line, you actually buy the video and work book. I must warn you that the video is expensive and rightly so since you refused to pay $10 to see the man in person. ;-) – Alien Warrior

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I think they should have just offered the workbook/study materials/video for a fee. I am sure after the presentation people would have snapped up any books or videos offered for sale. I like Calorius’s idea of collecting the donation as people leave. Instead of "10 dollar donation at the door" they should have said "a freewill offering will be taken'. I may be wrong but I think more money is raised by freewill offerings at such events than will be raised by gate fees.

Maybe past experience has taught the guys in this church that attendees at such events are rather tightfisted, hence this approach. What will be really bad is if you take gate fees and then take an offering as well. When that same gospel singer came to the Great Hall in Legon, I coughed up savings from my allowance of 42 cedis per week to buy the 50 cedi ticket and during the interlude in the musical show (while she changed her outfit) a certain Rev Dr came on the stage and made a further passionate appeal for funds to support her career and I obliged and went to the front to put a further 5 cedis kelewele money in the offering bowl.

I think the Rev Dr’s main point which swayed me was that one day when that lady became a superstar gospel singer we the people could also say that we helped launch her career. I could picture her accepting her Grammy award and thanking God, her family and those good people of Legon who had faith in her. As it turned out, her performance at the Great Hall in Legon that day turned out to be the peak of her career. If I ever meet her again I may ask for my five cedis back (with interest and corrected for inflation).

But seriously speaking, there is a fine balance to be made here. Books and videos cost money to produce and I am all for selling then at whatever the writers want to sell them. I agree with Calorius that the NPR method of "for a donation of 25 dollars we will send you a book and for 100 dollars we send you a book, video and DVDs” that has now been appropriated by many ministries where they will send you that book "for a suggested donation" is fishy, to say the least.

So let them sell books and videos all they like. I draw the line at buying tickets at the door to hear a politician, a motivational speaker or a Preacher speak. If the man was going to sing and play the Ukulele then I may reconsider. – Robbo

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