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Missions 101

Would You Pay People to go to Church?

Jul. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

With all the emphasis on church growth and attendance numbers I am sure that someone has considered this before:“ Why don’t we just pay people to go to church?”

It’s simple – offer people $20 / $50 or $100 a Sunday to come to church.  $10,000 and you could have a thousand member church over night. Mega-church here we come!

Obviously, I’m not the first pastor to think of this so let’s examine the reasons we don’t do this (I reasons why I hope you’re not doing this).


1)   It gives people the wrong motivation to come. They aren’t coming to learn, worship, service or give – they are coming to receive, profit and do their time.

2)   It gives people the wrong view of the gospel. Didn’t Jesus tell people to count the cost of discipleship rather than tell them to count on the profits that come from following?

3)   It harms the people who do want to come. How would you feel if you came to worship and the guy next to you keeps asking “when’s this over” and “what’s the time?” How would you feel if you came to learn and as the pastor comes to preach the whole crowd around you pulls out their iphones and ipads to start playing games?

4)   It gives the pastor a false sense of his influence, impact and following. Bigger isn’t always better (just ask your friend who failed their summer diet). Your ego might feel better having a big crowd but ultimately you are attracting a crowd that cares more about the coffee and doughnuts than they do about the gospel.

5)   It is a waste of the churches resources. If I need to explain – stop reading here because you’re not going to like me at all as I’m about to turn the tables.

Here is where I am going:

As a missionary I am shocked at how many short-term missions teams pay the nationals to attend their conferences, trainings and seminars.

Not only do they pay for the conference, food, lodging, gifts (bibles, books, etc) but many of the conferences in East Africa now as part of the registration pay the transport of the pastor to and from their conferences.

Now imagine if we do this in the US. Catalyst, Desiring God National Conference, Gospel Coalition and every other conference dropped their conference fee, paid for your hotel, meals, and gifts at the bookstore and then reimbursed your plane ticket or fuel. Pastors would become professional conference attendees and the churches would suffer without their leaders.

This is exactly what I see happening in Uganda and hear from other missionaries in surrounding countries. Pastors are turning into professional conference attendees and the church is hurting.

The argument against this is “the church in the west is rich and the church in Africa is poor why can’t we help them”

There are plenty of answers – let me tackle that in part 2 tomorrow…

Jeff Atherstone is the President of African Renewal University and has served as a missionary in Uganda since January 2006.


Jeff is the Vice-Chancellor of Africa Renewal University. One of the greatest needs in Africa is the training and mentoring of pastors. Before coming to Uganda Jeff served as a Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church of Moorpark and has been involved in pastoral ministry since 1998. Jeff has a Bachelors Degree in Theology and a Masters of Divinity from The Masters College and Seminary. He lives in Uganda with his wife Christine and their two sons Noah and Kadin.

Tags:  uganda, africa
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