Wednesday, October 6
7:33 PM In my study of Paul this week I remembered something Ronald Hock once said in his book The Social Context of Paul's Ministry: Tent-making and Apostleship (Fortress, 1980). In his treatment of 1 Cor. 9:1-23, Hock notes that in the early church there existed a group of patrons who likely provided material support for the early Christian apostles. According to Hock, it is also probable that those apostles who did accept pay from the rich patrons were beholden to them as clients. Paul's refusal to accept support from the church, then, amounted to a rejection of the claim of these wealthy patrons on him. By refusing their support he undoubtedly would have offended some of them – a risk he apparently was willing to take. Paul thus makes clear to whom he owes his ultimate allegiance – Christ Himself and Christ alone. I suppose this is one reason Becky and I have never begun a "ministry" or become "incorporated" as a 501(c)3 organization. Once one goes that route, the emphasis almost invariably becomes that of supporting and perpetuating the organization rather than the kingdom. The psycho-social forces at work are, I think, almost too complicated and powerful to be overcome. The exclusive content of Paul's message was "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." In reading Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 we get a glimpse, I believe, of how the freedom of the Gospel can find concrete expression in the life of the community. By emphasizing the weakness and foolishness of the cross, which included his own embodiment of that weakness through his complete dependence upon God, he critiques the cultural values that are so often prized by the Eddie Longs of this world. I'll have more to say about this in my book on Paul.The "ministry" often becomes the main thing, as evidenced by all of the appeals for money to keep a myriad of ministries operating. We need this much to keep our programming on the air or that much to operate our webpage. Keeping the ministry running seems to trump the very purpose of these ministries in the first place. I am looking forward to Dr. Black's upcoming book on Paul.