Memos From The Head Office: Appendix III

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Is it Ethical to Pay for Memos?

In some of these stories, people make references to “Memos from the Head Office” calls and live events. Members of my New Renaissance Club are invited to these calls. I charge for club membership, and we charge an additional fee for the live events. This money is used to pay my memos team and to cover the expenses of renting the facility. On other occasions I ask for a donation.

I’ve been asked, “Is it wrong to charge money for memos?” …

Hi Perry,

As a Christian, I find this pretty surprising. You’re essentially selling access to a gift of the Holy Spirit. Telling people that if they pay money to join your program and attend their event, that they’ll get insight from God to help their business.

I think this is very, very wrong and you should reconsider what you’re doing here.

Respectfully,

Adam

 
I responded:

Adam,

The practice of paying prophets is described in the Old Testament. In 1st Samuel 9:6-8, king Saul seeks input from a prophet:

He said to him, “Behold now, there is a man of God in this city, and the man is held in honor; all that he says surely comes true. Now let us go there, perhaps he can tell us about our journey on which we have set out.” Then Saul said to his servant, “But behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is gone from our sack and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again and said, “Behold, I have in my hand a fourth of a shekel of silver; I will give it to the man of God and he will tell us our way.”

 
Here, the king is not comfortable asking a prophet for wisdom without being prepared to pay for it.

We find that Old Testament prophets were supported by the kings and by the state. So to suggest that they shouldn’t get paid or that people should not pay them is to suggest that what they do is not valuable. We pay pastors, don’t we? We pay counselors, don’t we? We pay teachers and coaches and consultants, don’t we? Scripture says, “A laborer is worth his hire” and “don’t muzzle the ox while he is threshing”.

The Didache is a widely circulated document of the early church fathers from 140AD. It’s a concise summary of what early Christians considered important 100 years after Christ and is very interesting. (It also shows that the church in the second century endorsed prophetic gifts.) You can read the entire text at www.thedidache.com. This is what it says about paying prophets:

But every true prophet who wishes to settle among you is “worthy of his food.” Likewise a true teacher is himself worthy, like the workman, of his food. Therefore thou shalt take the firstfruit of the produce of the winepress and of the threshingfloor and of oxen and sheep, and shalt give them as the firstfruits to the prophets, for they are your high priests.

But if you have not a prophet, give to the poor.

If thou makest bread, take the firstfruits, and give it according to the commandment. Likewise when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, give the firstfruits to the prophets.

Of money also and clothes, and of all your possessions, take the firstfruits, as it seems best to you, and give according to the commandment.

 
People pay for what they value. I have many prophetic people in my life and I make sure that they are well compensated for the services they render to me and my clients. This is consistent with scripture.

Anyone who objects can offer free prophetic ministry to whomever they desire. There are lots of places where people can get prophetic words for free and all are welcome to go there.

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One person said to me, “Paying prophets to prophesy things that we want to hear is troubling.” I certainly understand that. But I make my living as a consultant, and only amateurs and wannabes pay consultants to tell them what they want to hear. If you’re a serious player, you pay your consultant (or therapist, accountant or basketball coach… even your own employees!) to tell you what you need to hear. Not what you want to hear.

In all advisory relationships, the burden of truth falls equally on both parties. The prophet must be a truth teller and the listener must be a truth seeker. Since it takes far more skill, tact and love to deliver correction than encouragement, prophecy 101 trainings always focus on encouragement first.

Once a prophetic person called me out on a very unhealthy relationship, which I had told her almost nothing about. Prophetic people have corrected me on all kinds of things, major and minor. One of the biggest differences between king David, who ended well vs. Solomon who ended poorly, is David had prophets speaking into his life and Solomon did not. Throughout scripture we find prophets delivering both promises and warnings – never just one or the other.

I’ll never forget the first conversation I ever had with a high end consultant when I was 17. He said to me, “If that CEO is paying me $5000 a day to tell me what’s wrong with his company, when I sit down to tell him, he takes notes.”

I wouldn’t dream of asking my accountant, webmaster, business developer, project manager or custodian to work for free. But then I’m gonna ask my intercessors and prophets to work for free? Sure, maybe once in a while. It’s certainly the norm in day to day activities of a faith community. But if I am asking for their support on a consistent basis, I’m going to pay them.

Keep in mind, everything in this book is in a business context. This question of paying prophets would seldom come up with the typical lay person. But this is a book about aligning your business with the head office, is it not?

I must also add: Another one of my peeves is how stingy “church people” are. Because my profession makes me privy to a lot of backstage conversations, I know that, except for a few dozen famous “rock stars,” the Christian speaking circuit is a terrible place to make a living.

Because I’m a pastor’s kid, I also have an insider’s view of “church economics.” My dad worked for a nonprofit missions organization that paid its employees very meager salaries. We lived just above the poverty line for years. Later dad got a job at a church that paid their staff salaries that were competitive with the marketplace.

The difference for our family was huge. Right after my dad switched jobs and got his first paycheck, I’ll never forget the first time my mom brought home real cheese from the grocery store instead of Velveeta, and real milk instead of powdered milk.

Many church people have an attitude of “Let’s keep the pastor humble by paying him meager wages.” Many people receive months, even years of help with marriages, relationships, advice, teenagers and casseroles and never give those who serve them a dime. That is a terrible shame.

Paying prophets for services rendered makes it that much easier for us to be highly selective about who we put in front of our clients.

My firm is not a church, but a business. We exist to serve our clients, not everyone everywhere. I pay my prophetic people to come in and serve my clients just as I pay any other speaker or service provider. I would not consider not paying them! Similarly, I keep an intercessor on retainer, Sue Towne, to pray for our business. I pay her because I consider her valuable.

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