The Bible and Problems in the Church

Chapter Ten

Problems About Preacher Support

Does a preacher have a right to financial support?

2 Corinthians 11:8 says Paul took wages of other churches to serve the church at Corinth. 1 Timothy 5:18 teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire. The Lord has ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14).

Whose responsibility is it to support a preacher?

The general responsibility is for those who are taught to support their teacher (Galatians 6:6). This means that primarily a church where a preacher works is to pay him. But often in the planting of a new church, a strong church will help a weak church to pay its preacher. Romans 15:1 says that they who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please themselves. In this way strong Christians are sending the Gospel into other parts of the world (Mark 16:15). The church is the pillar (support) and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). But it is God’s will that the weak church not remain weak. It must grow strong so as to send the Gospel to plant other congregations. Romans 10:15 asks how a preacher can preach except he be sent.

How soon should a new church be able to help a preacher go to another work?

Philippians 4:15 says that “in the beginning of the Gospel” the church at Philippi sent to Paul when he was in Thessalonica. This shows that a church should not be a receiving church very long before it is able to be a sending church. A church must soon grow to support its own preacher and also grow to support other preachers.

From what source does a preacher’s support come?

The only source of finances in the Lord’s church is the regular first-day contribution (1 Corinthians 16:1,2). As part of the Sunday worship, each member gives as God has prospered him. He sacrifices cheerfully so as to be able to support the preaching of the Gospel. Christ’s plan of supporting the work of the church must be respected. No assessing, harvest fees, or bazaars must ever be used to support a preacher or to do any other part of the Lord’s work.

How much support should a preacher receive?

Matthew 7:12 says to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. A congregation must support its preacher with a fair and reasonable amount. He is worthy of his hire as is any other laborer (1 Timothy 5:18). If he gives full time to the Gospel, he should live of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). If he sows spiritual things unto the church, he should be supported with physical things (1 Corinthians 9:11). Those who are taught should communicate unto their teacher in all good things (Galatians 6:6). A preacher should be given at least the same support as an average man’s income in the congregation.

Should a preacher refuse to preach if there is no support?

The apostle Paul worked with his hands at tent-making so as to be able to plant the church in Corinth (Acts 19:3). Paul shows that he had the right in Corinth to ask for support, but he did not make this demand so as not to hinder the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:6-19). Preachers often have to suffer in a new work because the brethren have not become strong. But they should have the same spirit of sacrifice and love of the Gospel which Paul had Jesus promised that those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness will have all necessary physical things added unto them (Matthew 6:33).

What can a preacher do to encourage the church to support him?

His hard work and sacrifice are the most effective things possible. A church will do more in supporting a preacher who is zealous and unselfish than for any other reason. Elders (or preachers) who labor well in the word and doctrine are worthy of double honor (including support), according to 1 Timothy 5:17. But on the other hand, if the preacher is covetous, selfish, and always demanding his money, he discourages the church’s support. Most congregations will be ashamed to deny a hard-working evangelist an honorable wage.

What is the purpose of American aid to a new church?

Strong brethren in America are willing to help newly-planted churches in Nigeria (Romans 15:1). This help is sent to enable the weak church to become strong so as to support its own work and help other weaker churches. The purpose of American aid is to encourage Nigerian churches to grow to self-support.

Is American aid permanent?

No, it is temporary. American aid is given during the beginning period of a church. The Bible teaches Christians to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Every Christian is to do his own work so as not to have to depend upon another (verse 4). Those who are taught in the Word of God are the rightful ones to support the one who teaches there (verse 6). This is the permanent plan of preacher support. Each independent congregation is to support its own preacher. Any outside help must only be temporary. American aid is not meant to be permanent.

How long should temporary aid continue?

A father temporarily helps his baby learn to walk. But in doing so, he begins to put the child on its own feet to get experience. The baby can never learn unless it takes steps for itself. In the same way American brethren wish to teach new Nigerian churches to do their own work. To do so, they require them to begin to take steps for themselves. A church will never learn self-support if it does not get practice. It must begin immediately to do all that it possibly can. Then it must increase its ability step by step until it is able to walk by itself.

What about churches which do not try to do their part?

There are churches which do not want to learn to walk for themselves. When American brethren learn the true nature of these churches, they do not plan to continue to help them. The Lord helps those who help themselves. When churches do not try to do their part, it indicates that they do not understand the purpose of temporary aid. Such churches disqualify themselves from any help. They are like beggars on the streets of a township. Many beggars grow so accustomed to begging that they do not try to learn any business. In fact, they like begging. Many churches like to be begging churches. They do not really try to do their own work. If a person refuses to provide for his own needs, when he could do so if he really tried, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). The same is true of a congregation which does not wish to provide for itself but wishes others to continually do its part.

Isn’t it unkind for American aid to be cut off from a church?

The Bible teaches that if any man will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The apostle Paul was a zealous worker who served as a good example to the churches where he preached (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). He commanded that disorderly members who would not work be disfellowshipped (2 Thessalonians 3:6,10-15). Likewise today, when a brother or a congregation will not work hard to do its part, it is a disorderly church. Money must not be continually wasted on such a church. It should, instead, be used to help some other church which will try to help itself.

How long should a church expect to receive outside help?

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Churches must grow up and put away childish things. It is no shame to be a baby for a while, but it is very shameful to continue to act like a baby even after one is older. Members who at first are expected to be babes in Christ are not expected to remain babes continually (1 Corinthians 3:1,2). “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

What are some of the reasons preachers change churches?

At the beginning of each year many preachers begin to search for new churches. This is not a good sign either for the preachers or for the churches. If we look at some of the reasons for these changes perhaps it will help to stop a bad practice (1) One reason preachers change churches is the poor cooperation and support which some congregations give. Many churches will make good promises and agreements for supporting their preachers and then not even try to fulfill them. When a preacher struggles for several years with such poor encouragement, he finally is forced by necessity to move. (2) Another reason for changing churches is some self-appointed “bishop” or “head” of the congregation. Some man will claim that he brought the white men or that he was the first member or that he gives the largest contribution. He calls the congregation “his church” and seeks to have all the prominence. Many congregations will not assist the preacher in rebuking or in disfellowshipping such a brother. When all efforts have failed and such a brother continues to oppose the work of the preacher, the evangelist may find it necessary to leave. (3) A third reason is often covetousness on the part of the preacher. He may hear of a place which gives more support or which provides more physical benefits. Some have even moved to a distant place so as to take a job so as to get gain. The primary consideration with some preachers is the financial promise for themselves. (4) A fourth reason may be the matter of the agreement for American aid. Preachers will remain at a place until American aid finishes or diminishes and then leave. The next place he is searching for is not the church where he can do the most good, but he is looking for the church with the most American aid for the longest period of time. It is much easier for these preachers to find a new place than to build up the present church to self support. (5) Some preachers leave a congregation and look for another because of sin which they want to leave hidden behind. They may have been guilty of fornication or other ungodliness and may wish to run away before these sins are detected. They are seeking a church as far away from the former one as possible.

Are there good reasons for preachers to change churches?

Other preachers change churches because they believe that their usefulness has diminished at a congregation. They may have worked zealously for several years and done much good, but due to the fact that their teaching gets only small response, they want to work where their talents can be used to produce more fruit. They are not seeking an easier place nor a place with better support. They only want to work where they can be the most useful. They may even move to a more difficult place which will require greater sacrifices, but they want to be where the Lord can use them best.

How can changes be made for good reasons?

Congregations and preachers should pray long and earnestly before making any change. If not, preachers may be like Jonah in running away from the place where God wants them to be. Or churches may select a rogue who will cause great harm to the brethren. Decisions and agreements between churches and preachers are very important. They must be made with good motives and with wisdom from God.

What question should preachers always ask themselves before a change?

If Jesus Christ were in your place as a preacher, would He make the change which you plan to make? Would He be looking for the easiest place with the best support? Or would He be found working where He could give the most humble and useful service? Jesus forgot His hunger when He found a woman at the well who needed His teaching and who would hear Him (John 4). He said the foxes had holes and the birds of the air had nests, but He had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). Would Jesus change preaching places for the reason that you are?

What question should churches always ask themselves before a change?

On the other hand, if the congregation where you are a member should be changing preachers, would you likely invite a preacher like Jesus? He had no earthly prominence. He could not be bribed or favoured so as to smile at your ungodliness. He would preach the whole truth and rebuke sin even in the leaders of the church and the village. He could see through all hypocrisy and pretense and know your hearts and the motives of everything you did. Would you want Jesus to be your preacher?

How much time should a preacher give to his work?

One of the reasons it is difficult to persuade congregations to support their preachers is that many preachers do not give sufficient time to their work. Because an evangelist does not have specific hours like other workers he often makes poor use of his time. He can actually spend most of his time with personal matters and have very little time remaining for the Lord’s work. All of us have personal responsibilities such as bathing, preparing our dress, buying food, and many other matters. But secular workers who have daily hours for their jobs also have these personal duties. They know that time is required for these things, but they do not let them interfere with their work. They arrange and plan their personal activities so that their work will not be hindered. Every employer expects his workers to manage their own personal responsibilities so that a full day of work can be given. In like manner, evangelists must use their time well for their work. The work of preaching the Gospel is very much more important than any secular job. It requires more of a person’s time and requires better use of one’s time. Unless a preacher keeps all hindrances of a personal nature from crowding out his work he will not be an effective worker. Of all people he must arrange his time and his duties well. If he fails to do so he cannot expect good results from his efforts.

How can a preacher give full time to his work?

The Bible says we must lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us so as to run the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). The ancient Greeks in preparation for their races would practice with weights tied to their feet. When the time came for the actual race the weights would be taken off. If the weights were not taken off the runner would run very poorly. In this way must a Christian discard all hindrances to his service to God. Unless he lays aside all weights and sins his Christian race will be poorly run. Suppose at a large celebration a great race is to be run. All the runners have been training for many months. The time for the beginning of the race draws near. All the participants are ready at the starting line; all, that is, except one. He is the runner representing the churches of Christ. The game-master sends messengers to find the runner who is delaying the race. When they find him he is ironing the clothes which he hopes to wear as the winner at the reception following the race! It is good, of course, for the runner to want to have a good personal appearance, but he has let personal hindrances keep him from running the race. An evangelist being supported to give his full time to preaching the Gospel should not use the majority of his time on himself. The most of his time must be for reaching the lost and building up the church. The church is not supporting him to occupy his time with personal responsibilities. How can he be a proper example to the weaker members if he constantly spends his time for personal use?

Why is a preacher’s time especially valuable?

The apostle Paul urges us to be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). “Redeeming” means “buying back.” This shows that a Christian’s time is very valuable. The devil is bidding for our time, and the Lord is bidding. We will decide to whom we will sell our time. We must “redeem” or “buy back” the time from the devil’s use and put it into the Lord’s service. This is especially true of preachers. The devil can keep them from putting their time into the Lord’s work merely by keeping them occupied with small personal duties. Congregations usually watch well the way a preacher spends his time. If he keeps his private affairs from dominating his time, the members see this. Since such a preacher puts much of his time into visiting, teaching, studying, and working, the congregation grows. Most churches will grow if the preacher occupies his time usefully in the work of the Lord. Few will grow if he does not.

Will churches usually support a hard-working preacher?

Most brethren in the churches are willing to support an active preacher. They like his work. They believe a labourer is worthy of his hire. They will be led by his example to join in his zealous activity. They will pay him because the church receives much benefit from his continuous work. They do not want him to leave. But failure to support a preacher well and allowing him to leave is often a sign of inactivity on his part. A young preacher being supported for full-time preaching recently said that he did not live in the village where he preached, he lived at his home. He cycled to the congregation on Sundays for services and perhaps on one or two other days a week. Yet he called this “full-time preaching of the Gospel.” An evangelist cannot do full-time preaching without living among his members and among the people he is trying to convert. He cannot build up a congregation with two or three days a week. He cannot preach the Gospel effectively with a divided interest. Young preachers should not be offended by these answers. These admonitions are written by brethren with temptations like your own. The writer knows the many insignificant distractions that can hinder a preacher’s work. He has seen in his own life the results in congregational growth which come from effective work and ineffective work. The Lord has blessed us to see these drawbacks to successful preaching and has enabled us to pass this instruction and advice on to you. All that is written is written out of love for you and your work. We want you to be strong, faithful, and zealous preachers. We want you to take heed to yourselves and to your teaching so as to be able to save yourselves and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16).

When is it wrong for a preacher to hold a job?

The apostle Paul did secular work so that he might preach (Acts 18:3,4; 20:34; 1 Corinthians 9:11-15). Some preachers today do the reverse, they preach so that they may do secular work. Making tents for Paul was only a means of enabling him to preach the Gospel. The opposite is true of some present-day preachers. They preach only as a means of enabling them to find secular work. There is certainly nothing wrong in a preacher doing secular work. Christians can work at any honorable labour. Sometimes it is necessary to work with our hands in order to continue preaching the Gospel. But it is wrong for a preacher to do secular work while claiming to be preaching the Gospel full-time. If an evangelist is being supported to spend all his time working with a congregation, and has entered into an agreement with a church to do so, he is bound by honor and honesty to do full-time preaching. He is practicing deceit to do otherwise.

Can a preacher choose to be a part-time preacher?

If a preacher wishes to be a part-time preacher and makes such an agreement with the church or with whoever may be helping to support him, there is no dishonesty. This type of arrangement may be necessary until a congregation can be strong enough to help more. But in such case the evangelist is not receiving full-time support for doing part-time work.

How do some preachers misunderstand preaching?

The major mistake most often made by preachers, especially young ones, is their idea of the work of a preacher. Paul labored night and day with tears (Acts 20:31). He taught publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). He suffered all things, not receiving his rightful support, so that he might not hinder the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12). How different was his attitude toward preaching from that of some preachers now. There are preachers among churches of Christ who have entered preaching because they think of it as easy money. Their idea of a preacher is of one who does most of his work on Sunday with only a few duties at other times. Such preachers can see no reason why they should not take a secular job while receiving full-time support for preaching. They have plenty of time for other work because they do not spend much time at the work of preaching.

Why do preachers sometimes leave preaching?

Other preachers leave preaching and begin secular work. They are unwilling to suffer as a Gospel preacher must suffer. They are tempted by the higher salaries and greater worldly prestige of many secular jobs. They forget that the Lord has given them more talents because of their training and experience and will therefore require more of them in the Judgment. By leaving preaching they may be burying their talents instead of using them to bring forth an increase for the Lord (see Matthew 25:14-30).

Is preaching a greater work than other work?

Preaching the Gospel is the greatest work on earth. A Gospel minister is doing a far greater work than a government minister. The earthly salary is low, but the eternal reward is worth more than all our labour and suffering. The work of a zealous preacher requires more time than that of any other work. He must do his work more carefully and more thoroughly than the most skillful doctor or government official. His responsibilities are heavier than those of any other type of worker.

Do some preachers need to choose another work?

A preacher is not worthy of his work if he makes preaching take second place to any other thing. The work of preaching must always be primary and every other thing secondary to it. Jesus said a man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). James said a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Some brethren need to reconsider whether they really want the life and work of a preacher. Perhaps they have entered into preaching merely because there was no other means of being trained or no other source of employment. Such men may continue to pose as preachers, but they can never truly be Gospel preachers with such an attitude. They need dedication to their Lord and to His work. They need to decide whether they are willing to pay the price of being an evangelist of Christ.

How long should a preacher plan to remain at a church?

The apostle Paul worked at Corinth a little over eighteen months (Acts 18:11,18), and at Ephesus up to three years (Acts 19:10; 20:31). In order to support himself at Corinth he worked as a tentmaker. There is some evidence that he did the same at Ephesus. In considering Paul’s work at these and other places, we can see three principles that helped to decide how long he should remain at a given work. These were: (1) the work that needed to be done, (2) the response of the people to his work, (3) whether greater or more necessary work could be done elsewhere.

What is included in considering the work that needs to be done?

The Apostle’s labors with the churches of Christ at Corinth and Ephesus included some that preachers today cannot do, such as imparting the Holy Spirit through laying on of hands, and performing other miracles. But it also included the ordinary hard work required in public, congregational, and private teaching. As a result of his own labors, and the labors of those whom he taught, Christ’s cause prospered. It is said in Acts 19:10 that “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” Making disciples of non-Christians, baptizing them into Christ, and teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19,20) is a very large work, even when limited to a congregation, the village in which it meets, and the immediate area. The work that needs to be done can keep a preacher busily employed for a very long time.

How should the people’s response affect his choice to stay?

A second factor to consider is the response of the people to a preacher’s work. As long as local conditions permitted a fruitful work, Paul was willing to remain. The wrath of the Jews of Corinth brought an end to his most effective work there, and a similar prejudice later erupted at Ephesus. Anyone who has studied Paul’s life knows that he had boundless courage. He did not leave these places for the sake of personal safety, but for the good of the cause of Christ. In so doing, he was acting in accord with the Lord’s teachings (Matthew 10:23). Why should a preacher leave a congregation as long as the church and the village are receptive to his good words and works?

When should a preacher move because a greater work can be done elsewhere?

Paul left one work in order to undertake a greater or more necessary one. Like Mary, he chose the good part (Luke 10:42), that is, the more necessary of two good and necessary courses of action. For example, although he might have labored with brethren at many places, enjoying their esteem and support, he instead hurried to Jerusalem with the money which Gentile Christians had sent to their needy Jewish brethren. Paul’s visit to Jerusalem involved him in much suffering, including imprisonment at Caesarea, a hazardous voyage to Rome on which he endured shipwreck, and another two-year imprisonment at Rome itself. Yet by it he relieved the suffering of many, drew Jewish and Gentile Christians together with cords of love, and preached the gospel at Rome. A preacher today should be willing to remain with his present work unless he has opportunity to enter another which is clearly more necessary, and which will definitely permit him to render greater service in the kingdom.

How long should a church want a preacher to stay?

On the other hand, a church should support a preacher as long as his preaching is true to the Gospel, his life upright, and his work promoting Christ’s cause. The churches at Corinth and Ephesus would have been glad for Paul to remain with them longer than he did. They did not mind that his preaching was “not with enticing words of men’s wisdom.” The faithful never seemed to mind any fleshly infirmity he had (Galatians 4:13,14). Those who loved God gladly endured when he reproved, rebuked, and exhorted without fear or favor. They did not urge him to move on when he refused to spoil the pure religion with pagan and ungodly customs and influences which festered in the Roman Empire.

Are frequent changes good for churches and preachers?

Both churches and preachers are injured by frequent moves. Often a preacher is just about ready and able to do his best work when he is asked to leave. If a preacher wishes to move too often, this may be taken as a sign of his inability to get along with others. Or it may indicate his inability to give sound instruction over a long period and upon many needed subjects. Such a reputation will hurt the preacher, and cause him to have fewer opportunities for serving Christ. Likewise, churches which change preachers often will come to be thought of as undesirable. The better preachers, who are in demand everywhere, will avoid such churches, and the churches will then suffer from lack of good teachers.

What Kind of Churches Are the Strongest Churches?

Some of the best churches are those whose preachers have been with them a long time. I know of outstanding churches in America who have been working with the same preacher for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Both the churches and the preachers are much farther along in their development as a result of their long partnership. The same is true in Nigeria. As a rule the weakest churches are those who have no preacher, or who change preachers every year. I know of a congregation whose preacher has completed four years with them, and they want him to stay. This is a very encouraging sign which speaks well both for that church and their preacher. Churches are looking for preachers who are able Bible scholars, who work hard, and who are upright in life. Such a good man in partnership with a good church will glorify Christ and save many souls.

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