I have had a lot of questions over the years concerning the conferences/seminars we do across North America. One of these questions and I might add, criticisms, that comes is the idea and concept of charging a fee for participants. I want to write a short column on this, not as a defense, necessarily, but as a way to communicate WHY we have chosen this route and invite discussion and thought about these topics.
Allow me a bit of background: I was raised in a cornfield in Iowa. We worked all the time. I do not have many memories of free evenings that we lollygagged about. I do remember driving tractors and combines into the wee hours, and occasionally around the clock; and in those lonely hours, I never once dreamed of doing seminars, that I recall. I was engaged to a sweet young thing at about 23 yrs old when she 'crashed' mentally and physically. Many doctor and psychiatrist visits later condemned her to pills for the remainder of her visit to planet earth. We married that way, and two children later, with my wife unable to function five days per week at least, we stumbled across some real answers in a local revival meeting. To condense the story, we became free from occultic involvements, among other things, and my wife was instantly healed from all the maladies.
Ten years later, we find ourselves in trouble, swamped with people begging for help, unable to parent correctly or focus on business success. We were offered an opportunity to address some of the things we were learning to the public, and we took it. We simply thought it would save one-on-one teaching time and be more efficient. As we prepared for the first event, several realities began to emerge:
1. This is going to take a LOT of time and effort.
2. This is going to be very intensely focused, and folks will need to 'get it,' or it will be a waste of time.
3. This is going to take money from somebody somewhere.
4. When this is done, it will likely be misunderstood.
All of the above proved to be correct. (What an understatement.)
The first one we held became somewhat of a shock to us. People came, they heard, understood the lack of professionalism, and understood much of the content. But the shock was that it began to change them. People wept and repented on their own and found their lives changed without extensive "counseling." Hearts came into alignment with Christ, and miracles happened.
When it was all said and done, 1,2,3, and 4 also happened.
The coffers showed up woefully short. People registered and did not show up. Others showed up some of the time, then left angry because it "didn't make sense. In the meantime, another one was being planned, and long meetings/discussions ensued. How should all this be handled?
None of us wants to charge for the gospel. Jesus didn't; Paul didn't; we don't want to either. On the other hand, SOMEONE will pay the bills for this. Who should it be... those receiving help from it or others? We faced the same thing in the counseling office... WHO should pay the bill here?
Following are some of the conclusions I have come to concerning these issues today.
A. There are no seminars in the New Testament. I am assuming this is because God did not intend for us to have them. I cannot find another way to address all the wounds and wounded in church and society today. I would to God this thing of counsel and prophecy were returned to the church, so the hurting might be healed there. Until then...we will likely keep trying to hear from God and follow as well as we know how.
B. People's heart follows their money. Jesus was pretty clear about that, and following that idea, people will engage their hearts and SHOW UP if they pay for something. This is perhaps the main reason for deciding to charge for events we do... people show up for the classes.
C. Someone is going to pay for it, and it seems Biblical to me that the ones receiving the benefit do the paying. While Jesus had several wealthy people who followed Him and paid the bills, they were also folks who had been helped. (Luke 8:1-3) Paul endeavored to work to pay his way, but he commanded that it not be so to others. (1 Tim 5:17-18) He also pointed out that this is not necessarily the way God ordained it to be. ( 1 Cor. 9:1-18)
D. We have, in our traditional approach, created a welfare mentality among God's people. This is not of God.
Recently at an event we did, we provided the meals for folks who attended. Hearing the continual braying of critics ( who hate both fund-raisers and charging), we placed a bucket at