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Mammon, you cruel bastard!

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 20, 2008

Ok, I’ve made a decision to remove any requests for donations from Jesus Manifesto. I realized that it might seem distasteful to some folks. Plus, it wasn’t working.

As annoying as those requests for donations may have seemed, I thought it was preferable to including advertising. Sure, I have those “ads” at the top of the site, but those aren’t really advertisements. They are promoting things that I think are worthwhile.

I’ve avoided putting ads on Jesus Manifesto because I believe we should resist consumerism and commercializing our gifts. At the same time, however, Jesus Manifesto has grown into this thing–a very good thing–that takes a lot more time than simply blogging ever did. Every week, I spend hours writing, editing, commenting, and responding to reader emails.

We have a very respectable reading community for a site that deals with issues that are outside of the religious mainstream. And every month, more readers become fans.

So, it seems that this site is only going to get more readers. I’ve thought about adding a second editor, to share the load, but before I put out a request, I want to explore the issue of funding.

I know that this is a touchy subject. There are a lot of purists that would think I’ve enslaved myself to mammon for even raising the question. But the reality is that my efforts provide a service to people. I have always offered it freely, and will continue to do so, but at some point I have to think about providing for my expanding family as well.

After I get some feedback on this, I’ll move on. I don’t want to keep struggling over the question of funding on this site anymore. It really isn’t a personal blog anymore. And I think sharing stuff like that is too personal.

So, please respond to the anonymous poll below. And then, if you are up for it, respond to the follow up question. I’m really interested in your feedback on this issue.

{democracy:2}

In general, do you think of blogging or webzines as legitimate ministry?

How do you think web editors should be compensated for their time?

How do we find the balance between appropriate means of financial requests and “selling-out?” Where is the line?

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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Comments

Viewing 29 Comments

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    I think you should create some banner ad space so that you can design ads from organizations you don't mind too much. That way, you can charge them a copywriting/design fee (usually around $100 per hour) and then charge them for using the space. It might take some time to sell the space, but it should pay much better than Google. In fact, it could eventually pay for a lot of stuff.

    I don't get the selling out talk...but then again, I am a copywriter. Which brings me to another question...As a former soldier and current advertising writer, should I even be reading this blog?
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    :)
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    Like food for the body, money is a necessity for many of the aspects of our lives and in this case, ministries as well.

    To pretend that this is not the case is naive. Therefore to ask the question, as you have, "what is the appropriate balance to strike?", is a wise and a delicate one.

    Trying to merely win 'points' for absence from capitalism only works so far; nevertheless abstaining from aspects of it can provide opportunities to explore alternatives.

    I know we're on a tight budget ourselves, but I would be more than willing to talk this over with my wife and see if there is a monthly amount we could dedicate, not only to Jesus Manifesto, but to your work in other areas as well.

    If you need help on the admin side as well I'd be willing to lend a hand where necessary.

    I've seen the 'trustworthy ads' work well in an independent zine (Bandoppler) which included several pages of ads which were often subjects of the zine as well; there was a relational aspect to the advertising in a sense. The zine folded, but I think that was more due to staffing compensation than anything else.

    Regarding your end questions...

    Yes, I see blogging as legitimate ministry, especially with the quality of comments that have spawned from many of the articles. I know that I have grown and even come to feel somewhat close to some of the posters already, some of whom I communicate with in real life now...

    I'm not sure entirely what you mean by web editors, so I'll let you clarify that point.

    Peace
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    b-nut: we're so glad to have you!!!

    If all that JM becomes is a means of preaching to the choir then it's pretty purposeless. that's partly why I love the signal:noise ratio in the comments so much - the respectful discourse from disagreeing parties is such a breath of relief from most of the internet....

    ...which is epitomized by today's xkcd comic:
    http://xkcd.com/386/
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    Hey bnut...you are hardly the typical former soldier / copy editor. And I'm just surprised I don't see you commenting here more! (by the way, everyone b-nut is friend and neighbor).

    By web editor, I mean me :) Writing is only about 1/3 of what I do on this site.
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    I like your way to bring this question up in this way, it´s a good decision so far as I can tell.
    -I think blogging can be legitimate ministry and I think this site is a good example of this. As I see it, blogging can be different things, for example spreading the good news (evangelism) or teaching, this site would mainly fall into the last category. Since I believe that teaching/prophecy should be discussed and not just swallowed or rejected, blogging is a better medium than books or articles.
    -I think people within Christ´s body with teaching roles/gifts and the like, should serve (like others with other roles/gifts) without expecting economic pay-off. The gospel should be given for free. If people would freely help us with basic supplies, it´s ok to receive it, but we should not take it for granted. For this to be possible, the normal way to do it is to work with one´s hands, as Paul taught and practised it. Sometimes work hard. This might be scary, especially for people like me that has spent their whole lives within "the ministry" and different bible schools and seminaries, and it might make it impossible to give as much time to "ministry" as the ones can do that receives salary for using their gifts of grace, but it keeps the integrity of the gospel in a better way. (An exception to this rule could be people sent out and moving around in order to spread the message) I think. But few agree, I know.
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    That's what I figured, just wanted to make sure we're talking about the same thing here.

    Btw, good job on the extra languages bit. Will it attempt to auto-translate comments as well or just article content?
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    By all means, get some ads up, or find some support. You should not be doing this for free unless you want to. The worker is worthy of his hire.

    In general, do you think of blogging or webzines as legitimate ministry?
    Absolutely. Articulation of truth is essential, and providing the church a space on the internet is missional.

    How do you think web editors should be compensated for their time?
    According to individual contracts.

    How do we find the balance between appropriate means of financial requests and “selling-out?” Where is the line?
    If you are providing a valuable service, people will be willing to pay for it. Advertisers would be willing to pay for exposure to your audience. The sell-out occurs when the content changes in response to a desire to earn more money and neglects the direction of the Holy Spirit. In other words, only you can know, so I won't even try to judge.
    Nathanael Snow
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    I didn't mind your asking for donations, I minded not being able to donate.

    I don't mind ads. (I'm not entirely sure where's the beef with being commercial, except that it doesn't fit into the traditional church mold -as if blogs do.)

    Grants are great -if you can find someone.

    Sharing responsibilities sounds good too, (probably a necessity in any case).

    Some of the postings might be able to be sold to magazines or other traditional media.

    I think this kind of space is important as we move into an age where more and more people are online. I think this is a pretty good face for the church online. I grateful that you have had the vision to put this together.
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    We've already talked a bit about this in person, but I'll just say that I completely understand your urge to find compensation, not only for the sake of living expenses, but for the sake of expanding the ministry you feel God has led you to. Connecting with your clan and Jesus Manifesto has been a great tool of learning and understanding to me personally. If I wasn't in the same boat you were, I'd write you a monthly check to cover costs!

    I used to think that anyone who had ads or went "commercial" was "selling out"--

    ............................................And then I turned 19..........................................................

    This isn't about being "indie"...it's about being faithful, that is the only goal worth striving for (a good friend of mine recently gave me this advice via facebook). In no way would you be detouring from that goal if you found a way to fund this endeavor. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. Meeting with churches, reps from other ministries, promotion, editing, whatever...you know I"m here.
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    Cline. I get a little upset with your age-argument. Age is no automatic road to christian maturity. Using the "I am older and you are younger, and therefore I am right"-line of reasoning might be effective and powerful, but I don´t think it´s very Jesus-like (or Pauline). If your 18-years-old-position was not genuine and solid enough, that doesn´t necessarily mean that you were wrong, but now have grown up and become "mature". I am 33 and Jesus was 33 (if we believe the gospels more than Iraeneus..), and both me and Jesus thinks that the gospel should be given for free. ;) Jesus seems to be very "naive" in his view of money (Matthew 6). "Maturity" is actually often a cover-up for sell out. Probably not in your case, though. But the age-argument makes me angry, I have to confess.
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    I don't think Michael's argument was a blanket statement for everyone; it sounded more illustrative of when his 'epiphany' occurred. That was a turning point where his ideas changed, but I doubt very much that it was meant as true for everyone everywhere.
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    Jordan. He used it in a context where the issue was Mark´s question and survey, so the context suggests that his statement was normative, at least within this context. But the author may be willing to clear up what his intention was?
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    While I appreciate Jordan's coming to my defense (or at least backing me up a bit), I think you are both taking my statement way more serious than it was intended. Perhaps I overstated, but I was simply trying to say that the attitude of "running ads makes you a sell-out" is naive and immature. Jonas, I didn't think you had this attitude, therefore, in no way was my comment directed at you. Trust me, I'm far from thinking I'm mature.

    This is the peril of blogging and online communication. Much harder to get the "meaning" of the text without "embodiment." (critical realism) Or, if you prefer Speech-Act theory:You read my "locution" but missed my intended "illocution." Wow, I really need to get out of hermeneutics for a while.
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    First off, it is certainly worthwhile to recognize that wisdom can come with age. Younger people are generally less wise than older people.

    Secondly, Jonas, I think you're wrong in some of you assumptions about the economics of the Bible. Paul didn't always work with his hands. He did that in Corinth, certainly, but sometimes he lived off of the generous hospitality of his hosts.

    Paul also taught that elders are worthy of "double honor" which many take to be an economic statement. He also said that we shouldn't "muzzle an ox." All of this is to say that people like Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles lived off of the hospitality of others...and sometimes Paul would settle in and work his trade if he felt he needed to do so.

    It is a mistake, I believe to think we should do things precisely that way...that falls into the trap of primitivism, which says "we should do things exactly the way they did things in the New Testament." We live in a very different world when it comes to things like economics and household practices. Instead we should strive to do things for the same (or similar) theological reasons. In other words, our hospitality should still be hospitality, even if it looks different. And people should provide for those who labor among them.

    You say: "If people would freely help us with basic supplies, it´s ok to receive it, but we should not take it for granted." I agree...but what are "basic supplies?" Shouldn't EVERYONE live off of simply "basic supplies?"

    Should anyone ever take any financial support for granted? Why should teachers and evangelists and apostles and prophets and pastors not eagerly ask for support as the Apostle Paul did in almost every one of his letters? Paul only occasionally plied his trade for his well being. Jesus spent 3 years without working a trade, as far as we can tell.

    I think you are setting a more rigid standard than even Scripture asks for. And I'm not sure we should simply take what Scripture says and plop it into our own context directly anyways.
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    On a more practical note: what about selling the email delivery service as a subscription? For say $.05-.10/day. The basic content is available to anyone who visits the site, but those that want it in their inbox pay a little. It still would not cost as much as an equivalent newspaper or magazine and JM has a lot more content than a magazine.
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    Blogads might be a good avenue. They require 500 hits + daily and you can be somewhat choosy as to who you let ad with the site.
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    In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, Paul seems to basically be pumping up the Corinthians ahead of time before the offering plates are being passed. Their tithe goes towards the ministry in other churches and to Paul's pursuits around the Church universal. Oddly enough, chapter 10 starts off with Paul feeling the pressure to defend his ministry.
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    I am not sure I want to press my case further. I was just, since Mark asked for it in the post, giving my view of this, since every body else seemed to be saying something different. I am perfectly aware that there comes maturity with age, if we keep on following the narrow path. (Some don´t, you know.) I just don´t think it is valid argument to name a position as "naive".

    I am not alone in my interpretation of this (though it definitely is a minority perspective), and I deny that this is primitivism. It´s a question of the integrity of the gospel, we should do everything possible to make the gospel appear as something that is free (and costs all). And the same with our spiritual gifts (which I take not to refer to whatever interests, work assignments and talents we happen to have). There are good answers to the texts mentioned her