By J. Wiley Adams
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:14).
I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service (2 Cor. 11:8).
It is certainly right for those who preach the gospel to derive their living from those who benefit from their efforts. It is not “charity” but “wages.” There is most certainly a difference in the two.
At Corinth Paul received his living from two sources. Although he preached to benefit the Corinthian brethren, he declined to accept any support from them. Therefore, he “made tents” and was assisted in his further needs by “other churches.” It would not have been wrong for him to have received his support from them, but Paul did not do so for a very good reason. He did not want his teaching efforts to be hindered by anyone raising the question as to his motive. He sought carefully to avoid anything to cause these rich brethren to think he was out to feather his own nest. Here and there you do find those who will say some very hurting things in this regard.
When I first began preaching in 1948, I had a good job with Hercules Powder Company in Hopewell, Virginia. During this time I preached on a Sunday appointment basis all over eastern and southeastern Virginia at a time when no one spoke of liberal and conservative churches. I made good money and was able, because of this, to decline any support or even gas money. I did not need it. I first accepted car expenses when I was a Bible student at what is now called Florida College. From 1951-55 as a student with very limited income I needed my expenses so I accepted them. I also accepted homemade syrup, Rhode Island Red chickens, a bundle of collard greens now and then, and a batch of frozen squirrels. These were “fringe” benefits.
Since 1955 I have done full-time local work with a few gospel meetings when brethren wished to use me in this way. From that day forward I have taken my living from the churches.
Some local churches are able to fully supply the needs of the local evangelist. I have worked under such arrangements. Other churches are not able to supply all the needed support to their preacher and other churches make up the difference. I have also worked, and am now working, in that kind of arrangement. This can be at times an up and down proposition as contributing churches have to regulate the amount they can send out by their local situation. In my own case I have been blessed greatly from generous churches and sometimes individuals. I am most thankful for this.
However, there is a deficiency in some churches in the matter of preacher support. Not with all but some. The receiving preacher is sometimes not certain as to when to expect his checks each month. This is poor business. No one can plan a budget or meet payment dates when the promised support may not arrive at the expected time. Yet, we want the preachers to pay their debts, which indeed they should. Sometimes the treasurer is out of town and makes no arrangements while he is gone. It can be an honest oversight but that does not change the fact that a gospel preacher is trying to keep his mind on his work while fighting the check book. Some think any day in the month is sufficient but the creditors do not think so. Hmmm!
Some years ago I recall having to call one treasurer nearly every month because, as he laughingly would say, “Well, Mama did it again and forgot to make out the checks.” Somehow I failed to appreciate the humor intended. (I could camp down here a while about this kind of thing and wax eloquent but I will resist the urge.)
How many times have I sweated out the mail man over the years and sometimes had to make other arrangements to make ends meet until the support arrived. In order to keep on in their preaching, brethren will make such adjustments, however hard it may be, for the gospel’s sake.
To balance the picture I am grateful for the many diligent men who write the checks who are right on time with the arrangement. You can set your clock by this kind of brother. May their tribe increase.
While I am out on this limb let me say that preachers ought to send adequate reports, say thank you for the sup- port received, and keep the sending churches informed as to any progress made where the receiving preacher is working. This is the right thing to do and I was always taught that saying “thank you” should be second nature. Brethren, let us be profited from a study of God’s Word on this subject.