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Podcast episode 2

My Journey to Freely Giving & Abolishing the Jesus Trade - Andrew Case

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In this episode I’d like to tell the story of how I got to where I am today in my conviction about freely giving ministry—the belief that ministry should be supported, not sold, and that spiritual resources should be published as public domain. My journey hasn’t been straightforward. Indeed, it’s been somewhat complex and multifaceted and messy.

I share these experiences to reassure anyone who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain in their journey towards understanding these concepts. It’s normal to feel disoriented when first considering these alternatives, especially if you’ve been immersed in a single way of thinking for a long time without ever being exposed to other options.


In this episode I’d like to tell the story of how I got to where I am today in my conviction about freely giving ministry—the belief that ministry should be supported, not sold, and that spiritual resources should be published as public domain. My journey hasn’t been straightforward. Indeed, it’s been somewhat complex and multifaceted and messy.

So the story begins during my college years, a period deeply shaped by the ministry work of John Piper. His generosity, especially his practice of distributing his books for free, struck me as highly remarkable. As a struggling college student, burdened with tuition fees and working a minimum wage job of $5.15/hour, getting books was a substantial challenge. My parents, who were and continue to be foreign missionaries, weren’t able to financially contribute to my education, which made Piper’s whatever-you-can-afford policy all the more meaningful. I vividly remember calling Desiring God ministries for the first time and asking them for three Piper books, which they sent me for free, no questions asked.

During that same season of my life, I began to dabble in music. The thought of putting a price tag on my creations or putting up an access barrier felt counterproductive to my objective of making God-centered music that could be enjoyed freely. Inspired by Piper’s example, I decided to offer my music without a fee or other strings attached like giving your email address.

Sadly, up to this point, no one had provided me with a solidly biblical argument for this type of generosity. I had presumed that Piper’s approach was just extra radical. Not necessarily the right way to do things, but an extra nice way that no one had to necessarily emulate in order to obey and reflect Christ. At that time, I thought that selling one’s ministry was ethically and morally acceptable, but my experiences were teaching me that there’s something profoundly satisfying and joyful about freely sharing the work I did for the edification of the Body of Christ.

So, as a young and, admittedly, naive and ignorant college student, I observed well-respected figures in the theological sphere, like Tim Keller, RC Sproul, and John McCarthur, among others, and thought to myself, “They’re clearly monetizing their ministries in various ways, not merely to offset production costs, but to turn a profit. So it must be ok.”

So I accepted the commercialization of Christianity as a standard and valid protocol, mainly because there was no countervailing argument from within the evangelical world. Literally no one in my circles was talking about an alternative. Nobody ever challenged the idea of the Jesus trade, although they definitely didn’t label it that way. Not a single person ever said anything to me that might call the status quo into question based on scripture, and as far as I was concerned, it appeared to be a universally accepted norm in Christian history.

Despite this apparent consensus, something felt amiss. The notion of selling Christian ministry conflicted with a deep personal sense and instinct that the gifts God had given me to build up and encourage other believers, like writing books or songs, should be shared freely and without hindrances of any kind.

So why were these renowned figures in Christianity selling their ministry? Perhaps they had compelling, biblically justified reasons, but none were explicitly stated. Occasionally, I might hear from someone a kind of vague argument from Scripture like, “Don’t muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain,” suggesting that it was justifiable to monetize any ministry. So in spite of the uneasiness and conflictedness I felt, I resigned myself to accept that selling ministry was permissible, though I harbored doubts about its alignment with the spirit of Christ.

Another complexity I grappled with during my early years of growth in my faith, and particularly during my time at seminary, was the concept of copyright. Every author, including John Piper, had a copyright claim on their books. Despite Piper’s generosity in providing his books for free online and giving away physical copies, every book bore a copyright assertion on its first page. Naturally, as a budding author, I assumed I should follow his lead.

Like most people, I didn’t really know anything about copyright law, nor was I interested in spending months grappling with legal documents to better understand it. To be honest, at first the notion of retaining control over my work by declaring “all rights reserved” appealed to me. I believe it played into an inherent desire for control that we all have, especially to control things we consider “ours.” But I now realize that this urge for control, particularly over spiritual things, is misguided, since we are merely stewards of these gifts from God, and He is the owner and source.

In the infancy of my writing career, I was preoccupied with figuring out how to copyright my work and maintain control over it to prevent unauthorized usage or profiteering. I even registered my first book, Water for the Word, with the US Copyright Office and got an official copyright certificate. Looking back at this, I consider it laughable and sad on many levels. Unfortunately, the lack of dialogue or information in the Christian evangelical world regarding intellectual property from a biblical perspective left me fumbling in the dark, simply following the crowd, an ignorant, well-meaning evangellyfish floating with the current.

Eventually, as I began to critically assess the situation, I adjusted the copyright notices in my books. And they were somewhat confusing, because I would say, “All rights reserved,” and then say, “Any part of this publication may be shared, provided that you do not charge for or alter the content in any way without permission.” I adopted this practice from John Piper’s sermon recordings on Desiring God, wherein something similar was voiced at the end of each recording.

Further down the road, I questioned whether these restrictions were still too limiting. I didn’t want to just mindlessly mimic someone else’s practice without thorough evaluation. My goal was to allow individuals from various countries to share, and potentially alter or translate my work for the glory of God, without feeling controlled or needing my permission. I was gradually moving towards easing the constraints, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, and I had no one around me either in private or in the public eye to be an example.

Sadly, up to this point, no one had even brought to my attention the simple possibility of releasing my work into the public domain. Neither had anyone in my Christian community or seminary brought up the existence of Creative Commons licenses, which began in 2002. Looking back, it saddens me that nobody, including the scholars and professors whose teachings I had been immersing myself in, ever discussed or exemplified the use of Creative Commons instead of the traditional default of “All Rights Reserved.” To my knowledge, even John Piper hasn’t published anything under Creative Commons or in the public domain, and I’ve never even heard him acknowledge the existence of such.

Finding yourself in an environment surrounded by people who seldom challenge established norms can be limiting. It was surprising, especially considering that these were and are individuals committed to aligning their actions with God’s word, seeking continual reform, and presumably fighting against harmful cultural currents. It’s baffling that such individuals would never question the standard practice of publishing ministry resources under restrictive copyright laws, particularly when these works aim to fill the earth with God’s glory as the waters cover the sea. How can that be achieved if we restrict access to our resources and artificially limit their availability through copyright laws? It astounds me that the people I admired and looked up to never introduced these concepts to me, not even to criticize or dismiss them. It’s as if these alternatives didn’t exist in their minds or were irrelevant to the point of not warranting a discussion.

I found myself trapped in this restrictive mindset for years. I moved to Africa to work in Bible translation, spending about seven years in Equatorial Guinea. One thing that struck me there was the theological impoverishment due to a lack of quality, freely accessible biblical resources in local languages and even in the language of wider communication, which was Spanish. Everyone had cellphones and could have easily accessed a digital book or an audiobook, but the resources simply weren’t available.

Even if people had the funds to buy these resources, the absence of credit cards in the country rendered online platforms like Amazon inaccessible. Regardless of your financial status, you simply couldn’t purchase a digital book. And I know that for most people in the world this is the reality. It doesn’t matter if you only charge a penny for your book; most of the world won’t be able to buy it simply because they have no way to pay online. But if you made your resource freely downloadable, it could bless billions.

My heart grew heavy as I saw the need in the developing world for these resources. Yet, even among the thousands of people engaged in Bible translation, not a single person mentioned Creative Commons or the idea of publishing materials as public domain. Nobody in my vast network of intelligent Bible translation workers seemed to entertain these alternatives.

I share these experiences to reassure anyone who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain in their journey towards understanding these concepts. It’s normal to feel disoriented when first considering these alternatives, especially if you’ve been immersed in a single way of thinking for a long time without ever being exposed to other options.

For me this whole journey was like growing up knowing only one church denomination, and then, at 35 years old, discovering there are different ways to do church. It’s a shock, and I expect others to be shocked as well, and that’s ok. I think most of us grow up similarly uninformed about issues of copyright, and selling versus giving away Christian ministry.

So how did I get to this point where I am now? A rather random web search led me to an organization called Unfolding Word. After some conversations with them and reading their free books, I learned about Creative Commons for the first time and its potential to aid the global Christian community by providing automatically accessible resources, free to be adapted and used as needed, precleared to be translated and shared without fees or contracts.

The main advocate for this idea was Tim Jore, who suggested that Christian resources should be licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.” This means anyone can do anything with the resource, but they must share it under the same license and give credit to the original author. I liked the idea, and when my wife and I began producing Hebrew training videos over at, we released them under this license.

But I hadn’t fully arrived at what I now believe is the most biblically rooted conclusion and approach: giving freely without imposing a financial cost or any other obligation on the receiver of ministry. “Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike” still encumbers works and obligates receivers in some ways. For example, if I share the gospel with someone at work, I don’t say, “I now require you to give me credit each time you share this gospel with others.” That doesn’t make sense, and it’s not biblical either. If God is truly the source of the truth we write, sing, and preach, do we have the right to demand credit?

This shift in my thinking was inspired by a book called The Dorean Principle by Conley Owens. His thesis, after a careful investigation of Scripture, is that ministry should be supported, but not sold; and that people should give freely out of obligation to God, not to man. He advocated for public domain as the most biblical model, and this resonated deeply with me and my wife. It felt beautifully simple and consistent with the spirit of Christ to offer our work as public domain, with no strings attached, fully given to the body of Christ. And I believe now that it’s better to err on the side of radical generosity than restriction when it comes to ministry. Thus, we decided to release all our creations – music, books, and more – as public domain, besides always giving them free of cost.

Still, some of my old publications remain under previous licenses due to my earlier missteps and the time-consuming process of republishing. I have some work to do to align everything with my current convictions. So, don’t be surprised if you come across my older work that doesn’t reflect the approach I advocate for today. I’m getting there little by little.

Anyway, I hope my story serves to encourage or inspire those who listen. After pondering these things for years now, and incessantly running into pervasive and systemic ignorance about them in fellow believers, I’ve been called to help raise more awareness. And if you have a similar story, I’d love to hear it. You can write to the email address in the description. Thanks for listening, and I invite you to look more deeply into these things for yourself and become part of the movement to abolish the Jesus trade.