"Most of Them Have Said Nothing"

Fred Shewmaker
Wilmington, Ohio

The title of this article is taken from an article by Brother James E. Link. He was reporting his progress in raising the funds necessary for him to go to preach the gospel in Nigeria. Brother Link makes mention of the number of congregations he has written and states, "MOST OF, THEM HAVE SAID NOTHING." (emph. mine).

This is not some new thing which brother Link is experiencing. His experience is just another in a long list of similar happenings. He has come face to face with a shortcoming which characterizes churches of Christ.

For the last few years I have discussed this subject with a number of brethren. Among the brethren with whom I have talked there are preachers who have tried to raise support to preach "across borders and seas" and labor with small congregations which were seeking a preacher. Several preachers have had the experience of waiting for a congregation to inform them of their decision regarding their working together. Most preachers with whom I have talked these matters tell substantially the same story. Some congregations write you an answer, but many will not.

Preaching brethren have no way of knowing what keeps a congregation or a number of congregations from answering their inquiries. When these answers are delayed, or never received, the preacher must make decisions amid anxiety and his decisions are not always the best when such a condition exists.

The failure to answer inquiries is not peculiar only to congregations. We who preach are also guilty of neglecting to answer those who inquire of us. We need to make corrections of this shortcoming. Let us all keep Luke 6:31 in mind. As translated in the New American Standard Translation Jesus said, "And just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way."

Let us share some examples of this shortcoming:

1. A preacher in one area of the nation desired to move to another area. He was not acquainted with the congregations in the area where he wished to locate. A contact was made with a preacher in the distant state. The preacher contacted provided a list of congregations in his state that he knew to be seeking a preacher to come and work with them. The preacher who wanted to move wrote each congregation on the list informing them of his availability. Of the six congregations written only one saw fit to answer. Do not forget, these congregations were SEEKING a preacher to work with them. The fact that the preacher was not known to any of these congregations may be the reason he did not hear from five of them, but it does not excuse the breach of common courtesy on their part.

2. A preacher gave notice that he would resign the work where he was on a given date. However, he had not made arrangements regarding his next place of labor. He made an appointment to preach to and discuss the work of a congregation which was at the time seeking a preacher with them. After filling the appointment the last thing one of the elders said was, "you will be hearing from us." Not being too anxious to locate there the preacher made no more inquiries regarding the matter. But in view of the statement of the elder it would seem to me that the preacher could have expected to be informed of their decision without making an inquiry. However, the statement of the elders was, apparently, ambiguous. The only way the preacher ever heard from that eldership was through the bulletin the congregation there publishes.

3. A preacher had agreed to move to a small congregation and was in need of some outside support. He wrote only to congregations where he was acquainted regarding the needed support. Before he moved to his new work the congregation where he was still working held a gospel meeting. The preacher for the meeting was working with a congregation in another state that was not acquainted with the local preacher. The visiting preacher urged the local preacher to write to the congregation with whom he regularly labored. When the visiting preacher returned home he could discuss the matter of support for the local preacher in his new work with the elders there. The suggestion was accepted and the offer of assistance was appreciated. The local preacher mailed a letter to the suggested congregation and shortly thereafter moved to begin his new work. After a few Weeks passed he wrote a second letter to the congregation to explain that part of his needs had been supplied but that part of them still existed. When neither letter received a reply the needy preacher called the preacher who had encouraged him to write and asked what he knew about the situation. The answer was to the effect that I do not know but will find out and let you know. Now that conversation is the last communication to ever pass between these brethren regarding that matter.

Why do congregations not answer their mail? I do not know. There may be various reasons. Some time ago I was having a conversation with an elder of a working congregation which spends a considerable sum for evangelism, both locally and in distant places. This good brother told me that they receive so many requests for aid that it is out of the question for them to give consideration to requests received from brethren they do not know. There is merit in knowing those we help. Those who are recommended to us by respected brethren are also worthy of our giving consideration to their requests.

At this time I am making a suggestion that I did not make to the good elder at the time we were conversing. The suggestion is simply this: All congregations which are in a similar situation to the one described would do well to have a form letter which points out their involvement in the support of the gospel and that the assistance being requested is being denied. We should reply even though a brother is neither known nor- recommended to us. Every congregation should have a responsible person to handle their correspondence.

Brethren when we fail to answer one another regarding these matters we are not treating each other as Christians should.

June 1969