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Podcast episode 13

Joe the Author - Christians Who Sell Jesus

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This series on "⁠Christians Who Sell Jesus⁠" takes profiles that represent real-world scenarios wherein well-meaning individuals are actively engaged in the Jesus trade, often unwittingly. Our intention is to engage with practical matters and have an open conversation about how each person can follow more closely in Christ's footsteps and give ministry freely.

Joe is a gifted author who writes books to help churches be healthier. He has valuable biblical teaching to share, and he genuinely wants to serve the Body of Christ. Since he has friends in high places, he’s been able to get his books published by a large and influential Christian publishing house. He’s happy that the publisher only charges $14.99 for each of his paperbacks, and $9.99 for the e-book versions. They pay him a dollar royalty for each sale. When people ask him about how much he makes from his books, he’s always quick to say that he’s not in it for the money, and the small kickback he gets doesn’t even cover the amount of time each book takes him to write. The fact that he’s losing money (in the sense that his profits don’t equal the value of his time) makes him feel good that he’s making a sacrifice for the Kingdom of God.

Although Joe is well-meaning and sincere, and willing to sacrifice time and money to build up God’s Church, he has been deceived in several ways. First, he wrongly assumes that Scripture allows the sale of ministry. What he’s doing is clearly Christian ministry, and both Jesus and Paul make it crystal clear through their lived example and teaching that ministry should never be sold, but it should definitely be supported by the free generosity of God’s people.

Second, Joe wrongly believes that the only way Christian writers can care for their families and keep from poverty is by putting price tags on their books. The Bible and Church history are full of examples of servants of God who were provided for through the free giving of his people to do ministry, or who worked a secular job (like making tents) in order to pay the bills.

Third, Joe has been deceived by promises of renown and acclaim if he publishes with a big-name publisher. Although he knows that he could distribute his book for free online digitally, and self-publish a paper version without receiving any profit, the lure of being perceived as a “legitimate” or “real” author because of the imprint of a well-known publisher prevailed. However, he covers up this desire for prestige by telling himself that a big publisher will reach more people. This may or may not be so, since he has never tried the alternative, but it doesn’t matter. God does not measure success in numbers of copies distributed, but rather in obedience. And obedience would mean giving his writing away, and supporting his ability to write by some other means than selling it. Joe is unintentionally living the lie that reaching more people with his writing is more important than obeying God. For him, the ends justify the means.

Music: "Amazing" by Liborio Conti,