Published: 26 February 2024

When Does Ministry Become a Business?

When Does Ministry Become a Business?

Julia is a well-known Christian YouTuber and blogger. Her mission is to leverage the reach of the internet to edify believers with God-centered, Christ-exalting content. When her subscriber count hit 100,000 she was advised by her cousin to monetize the channel and start earning ad revenue and seek out sponsors.

Now Julia has nearly half a million followers and several revenue streams besides ads and sponsors. First, she has a special subscription option that enables people to access some of her content early, as well as suggest ideas for future videos and blogs. People who pay for an even more premium subscription also get some kind of free merch once a year, along with an opportunity to ask her questions in a livestream she does every couple months.

When her sister admonished her to think more carefully about whether it’s biblical to force people to watch ads before receiving spiritual guidance from her, she got offended. ‘How dare you judge me, when the Bible clearly says that you shouldn’t muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain! Besides, people don’t have to sign up for the premium stuff, and they can get an ad blocker if they don’t wanna watch the ads. Or if they don’t like it, they can go listen to someone else! It’s a free country.’

Julia has bought into the lie that, as long as you don’t maintain an extravagant lifestyle, you’re incapable of mismanaging the relationship between money and ministry.” — Adapted from

When Does Ministry Become a Business?

It has always bothered me when a minister/ministry charges money for biblical teaching. It just doesn’t seem right to hide biblical material behind paywalls, Patreon accounts, paid livestream events, etc. My first thought when encountering this is, “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matt. 10:8 ESV). Yet, at the same time, I know it costs money to provide these things and it’s unreasonable to expect the minister to foot the bill. After all, “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7 BEREAN). So, I have always swept my concerns under the rug and didn’t dwell on them. Occasionally, someone emerges who articulates in concrete terms what was previously a vaguely defined notion for me. In this case, that person is Conley Owens and his book “The Dorean Principle.”

Money changes us

Money, or the prospect of money, changes us. It rearranges our priorities and we can find ourselves doing, or not doing, something that would never transpire otherwise. Allow me to give a personal example. 

Several years ago, I monetized my YouTube channel, a time when the number of ads on the platform was still tolerable. It wasn’t long before YouTube started demonetizing the channels of YouTubers who said things YouTube didn’t like. Almost without realizing it, I began to question what I should or should not say in my videos to avoid the risk of demonetization. I was not making much money on YouTube, but just the prospect of earning ad revenue was enough to cause me to question if I should teach things I knew YouTube would object to.

Walking a tightrope

I was aware of what was happening, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. This wasn’t denial; I was trying to convince myself I could maintain a balance between teaching the whole counsel of God and staying out of trouble with YouTube. I eventually had a “come to Jesus talk” with myself and turned off monetization. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want money, or the lure of money, to influence my teaching in any conceivable way. Secondly, the ads had become so numerous that I didn’t want my viewers inundated with them just to hear Bible teaching.

Money can cause teachers or ministers to adjust their message in other ways as well. For example, one might alter his or her message if they sense it will result in more advertisers and more viewers. It is a temptation to focus on what people want to hear rather than on what they need to hear. Chasing views and likes on any social media platform is temptation enough for some people to alter their message. Adding money into that mix makes the temptation even more potent.

You see, reciprocity compromises the sincerity of ministry no matter how well intentioned. It can compromise our teaching in the pursuit to gain more followers and ad revenue. Likewise, it will call into question why we are doing ministry in the first place. How can people know if a minister or teacher is in it for the kingdom, or for the money? 

Ads are harmless, right?

Many people who obtain ministry funding from ad revenue think it is a win/win situation. They are able to fund their ministry without charging their viewers, listeners, or readers. What could possibly be wrong with that? As stated above, money, or the prospect of money, influences content creators in subtle, yet concrete ways.

Bible teaching is too special and too sacred to commercialize.

Beyond that, why make people sit through ads they don’t want to watch? Why make people endure mindless advertising when what they really came for was Bible teaching? Indeed, why do we think such advertising is appropriate? Allow me to illustrate.


Imagine you are sitting in church one Sunday morning. The song service has ended, and during the transition from the singing to the sermon everyone closes their eyes and bows their heads during prayer. With the prayer finished, you open your eyes and see something you’ve never seen at a church gathering before. 

While everyone was praying, the worship team had erected banner ads for local businesses all around the pulpit. As the sermon begins, the pastor thanks all the sponsors of the morning message and encourages the congregants to support these local businesses. Next, you find yourself dumbfounded as he skillfully weaves a paid promotion into the sermon while transitioning to his next point.  As the sermon ends, the worship team sings an advertising jingle to wrap up the lesson.

If you say that would be scandalous and grossly inappropriate, you would be right! Now, tell me, aside from it being a Sunday gathering, what is the real difference between this and placing ads in an online video or blog whose purpose is Bible teaching? If it is inappropriate to serve advertisements during a sermon, why is it acceptable online? The fact is that ads cheapen the word of God. We are bringing Bible teaching down to the level of a secular talk show. Bible teaching is too special and too sacred to commercialize.


Recently I decided to place all the content of this blog into the public domain. After becoming convinced of the truthfulness of the dorean principle I could not, in good conscience, retain copyright to the articles on this site. To claim rights to my articles is to claim the work as my own. Yes, I have authored every article on this site. However, the foundation of each article is God’s word – the Bible. 

The lessons I teach on this site are not my message, they are God’s message. Like every Christian, I am merely a steward of God’s word, not its owner. Who are we to claim that which we were freely given as our own? Is it not better to liberate our writings, videos, podcasts, and music so that they can be re-used or adapted for the furtherance of the kingdom? If we cannot see fit to do this, then who are we really serving? Am I serving God, or myself?

But my ministry relies upon selling a product!

There are any number of ministry leaders who would not be able to keep their ministry afloat if they couldn’t charge for their services. Like a secular enterprise, they have not built their “ministry” on the economic principles of the kingdom, but upon the principles of commercialization. Doesn’t this, in reality, make the “ministry” a business? 

“Just ask this question: Does your favourite Christian ministry sell a product? If so, they’re a trader or a business (not just a ministry). True, they might also solicit donations, but donations are just one of their multiple income streams.”1   (emphasis in original)

If your ministry isn’t sustainable based on co-labor funding from other Christians, then you might want to ask if this is a ministry God even wants you involved in. Perhaps God does want you to minister full time, but not right now. The New Testament implies that even Paul didn’t have the financial support to engage in full-time ministry throughout his entire missionary career. “Paul refrained from full-time ministry and instead labored to support himself. When fellow evangelists from Macedonia arrived, presumably with financial relief (cf. Phil. 4:15), Paul resumed full-time ministry (Acts 18:5).”2

One of the most successful ministries of the last ten years, one which has risen to international awareness, is fully funded by co-labor. I am speaking of The Bible Project. I have watched their videos and listened to their podcasts for years and have yet to see them charge money for access to content. They have done amazing work with the resources which God has provided them with through the donations of co-laborers around the world.


If you have read through this series on this site, you have merely heard a summary of Conley Owens’s book, “The Dorean Principle.” You really should read the book because I have only hit the highlights in this blog series. Every now and then someone comes along that gives me a great deal to ponder. Owens has done that and I have been blessed by his efforts.

Let us not be “peddlers of God’s word” (2 Cor 2:17), nor like the condemned priests of old who taught for a price.

Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets practice divination for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD, saying, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster can come upon us.” (Mic. 3:11 BEREAN)


  2. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 102). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.