By Cecil Willis
In a previous article, some warnings were sounded to generous-hearted brethren who are too free with their money, and thus end up giving money in benevolence to unworthy and deceitful men. In this article, some similar warnings are to be given regarding “deceitful workers” (2 Cor. 11:13) in evangelism.
At least since the days Of Balaam, there have been those who “loved the hire of wrong doing” (2 Pet. 2:15). The apostle Paul referred to such persons as “evil workers” (Phil. 3:2). In a chapter devoted to the nature and doings of false teachers, the apostle Peter states that such men are “reveling in their deceiving” (2 Pet. 2:13). In covetousness, they with feigned words 11 make merchandise of you” (2 Pet. 2:3) ‘ However, the same writer is very explicit about the eternal destiny of such persons. He said, their “sentence now from of old lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not.”
Not Just a Foreign Problem
It is not right for us to make group judgments, or to bring under suspicion all men of a particular race or color. Several years ago, one of the liberal American “missionaries” in the Orient warned American brethren through one of the liberal papers that they should never, under any circumstance, send money directly to an Oriental gospel preacher. The inference was that none of them could be trusted. One Filipino brother replied to this liberal American, and I appreciated his reply.
There probably has not any problem arisen among brethren in foreign countries which has not also arisen among brethren in this country. There has no sin been committed by foreign preachers that has not been committed by preaching brethren here. There have been “deceitful workers” among both conservative and liberal brethren, on every side of nearly every ocean! If any of the liberal brethren doubt my word about that, let them challenge the statement and invite me to lay out the evidence to substantiate it.
Right now I am trying to warn brethren regarding the “deceit” of some among us. There is not a brother in this country who is in the religious book business who could not supply you a list of “faithful preachers” (?) who will not pay their bills. One brother insisted that we give him a discount on some books, since he was buying several copies of each book, evidently for re-sale. This was before we discontinued all discounts. So we gave him a discount on the books, and sold them to him on credit. He ignored bill after bill, but every time I would happen to meet this brother, he would say, “I have been intending to send you a check.” Though the bill amounted to more than four times this amount, in each instance this brother would give me a $20 check, and in each instance it would bounce. Finally, in my own mind I “wrote off” the bill as a bad debt. However, after many, many months, the brother finally paid the debt.
Just before I left home for gospel meetings in California and Washington, we received back about $200 worth of materials, which a preacher had bought on credit. Alter several months had passed, and he had ignored bill after bill, I wrote him a personal letter or two. Our bookstore manager did likewise. He ignored every “reminder.” Finally, we wrote and told him that if he did not intend to pay for the materials, we would rather have them back “used,” than to lose entirely the money we had invested in them. Generous hearted soul that he was; he then returned them without a word of comment. We have even offered to pay the return postage on some materials, including a nice Bible (!), ordered by one brother. He has ignored bill after bill, and letter after letter, and until now has not paid one cent on them, or returned them, or written to explain why he has done neither.
Several months ago, a brother told me that a certain preacher owed him several hundred dollars, and would not pay it. These two men had worshipped in the church of 40 or 50 people for quite a long time. Some time later, I happened to meet this preacher. I asked him if he knew the brother, whom he owed several hundred dollars. Even though I reminded him that they worshipped in the same congregation for quite some time, and though I tried to prompt his memory in several different ways; somehow he just could not recall the brother. About two weeks later, I saw the brother whom this preacher owed the money. I asked, “Does ______ ______ still owe you $750?” His reply was, “$750! He owes me $1500!” Do you think you could remember a brother, after his name is used several times in an effort to prompt your memory, which you owed $1500? This preacher could not, or else he flat tied. Yet he is preaching for a faithful church in a Southern state.
Another brother, now in Texas, absconded with the $5000 treasury of an Ohio church, and soon thereafter took up preaching. he has made two or three measly payments in the course of several years toward reimbursing the money, but has paid nothing on it in many months. Whether he is preaching for a liberal or conservative Texas church, I do not know. But I will be holding a gospel meeting, the Lord willing, this fall in the Texas City where he now resides.
It gives me no pleasure to report such sinful incidents among us, but they occur. They also occur among brethren in foreign lands too. Every sin that one can commit has at some time or other been committed by some preacher. Such men need to be exposed and their sins pointed out, and the local churches of which they are members need to correct them, or withdraw from them.
Similar Problems Elsewhere
It is even more difficult for brethren here to know whether some brother in a foreign land is worthy of support or not. One of the preachers of the liberal Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas told me in January that he knew of incidences where some people in India had been baptized as many as five times, under the guise of appearing as additional converts. One church who had supported a certain preacher in India for seven years found out later that he was a complete farce, and that no church even existed where he alleged to have been preaching.
Many requests for support as preachers are being received by brethren in this country from Mexico, India, Nigeria, Philippines, and other nations throughout the world. Some of these men come recommended only by themselves. One Filipino brother became highly incensed when I asked that he have some other brethren who knew him to write letters recommending his support as a gospel preacher. Brother Leslie Diestelkamp wrote me that he had received about 800 letters asking that he assist in raising support for preaching brethren in various countries, but principally in Nigeria. As one brother expressed it to me, it seems that “everybody and his grandfather” want to be a supported preacher.
One brother in the Philippines (Rufo Samodal) has proved himself to be unworthy of support by both immorality and theft. When he left Margosatubig, he sold the property of the church and absconded with the money. Yet he has had the audacity recently to ask other brethren in this country to support him as a gospel preacher. Some other brethren have been very “hedgy” about divulging how much support they are receiving and from whom, even when the information is requested by either a church or an individual contributing to their support. Such men ought to lose all their support, until they learn how to live, taking “thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:21).
Let me say again that reference about some “deceitful workers” in Nigeria, Mexico, the Philippines, or India does not cast reflection upon all men in those countries. But one bad apple in a barrel is one too many. I would resent brethren inferring I am guilty of every sin, which some brother in this country might commit. Such a charge is about as non-sensical as that of those who say, “Dallas (the city) killed John F. Kennedy.” “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
The whole purpose of this article is to advise brethren very strongly to investigate as thoroughly as possible any man whom you are considering for support as a gospel preacher. Some churches in this country have hired preachers to work with them, about whom they knew nothing. One church wrote me asking about a certain preacher, who has since defected to the liberals, after they had hired him. I simply suggested that they contact about the last four places where he had worked. By the time those reports came, he had written his 11 confession” on the pages of the Gospel Advocate, Brother Gus Nichols had commended him, and he is now safely at rest among the liberals, or was the last I heard of him. If such men are of any use to the liberal cause, they are welcome to them. They cannot help the cause of Truth. Any and every “deceitful worker,” whether in this country or elsewhere, ought to be exposed and faithful brethren certainly should not be a party to the maintenance of such deceivers.
A Pragmatic Argument
Brother Reuel Lemmons, Editor of the Firm Foundation, has tried to use such “abuses” to prove that support should not be sent directly to a gospel preacher, as it was sent to Paul (Phil. 4:10-18). He seems to think that such abuses justify the support of preachers being sent through the elders of a sponsoring church. The Christian Church makes the same argument to justify the missionary society, and the sending of support through it. Such an argument is about as silly as the one that says that poor singing authorizes mechanical instruments of music in worship.
Frankly, by and large, I have as much confidence in preachers as I have in elders. If sending money to preachers can lead to abuses, and it can; so can the sending of funds to sponsoring church elders lead to abuses. Though I know of some instances where preachers directly supported have abused their right to support, I do not know of any who have abused that right to any degree comparable to what some of the sponsoring church elders have done. Someone told me recently about a certain preacher whom they investigated several years ago, and they found that he was receiving about $2000 per month support. But literally hundreds of thousands of dollars have been sent through some of the one-man-missionary societies among the liberals. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know exactly how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been funneled through the hands of Ira Rice or Jimmie Lovell? Several years ago, when one of these one-man-missionary societies died, he died with $40,000 of the brethren’s money in his hands.
Even the orphan homes have been involved in misusing funds sent to them. The Morrilton, Arkansas Orphan Home loaned the Sixth and Izard church in Little Rock $40,000 to use in erecting a new meetinghouse. Under the guise of helping poor little orphans, some brethren are contributing to mammoth institutions that have great stores of wealth. The last financial report I saw of Boles Orphan Home showed that it had assets of over $2,000,000.00, and many thousands of this was invested in government bonds. The Tipton Homes’ financial report shows that they are not far behind Boles in accumulating wealth under the guise of caring for poor orphan children. Brethren for years sought to get Gayle Oler to divulge how much he was being paid to supervise Boles Orphan Home, but without success. While the liberal missionaries have yelled about the Filipino brethren being paid $100 a month or so, not a single one of them has been willing to tell us how much he is paid to live and to work in the same country. Will we have any “takers” now? Brother Lecroy? Brother Buchanon? Brother Wilkey? Why don’t some of you speak up?
But the worst of all “abusers” are the elders of the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas who promote and prepare the “Herald of Truth.” They have begged $15,000,000.00 of the brotherhood’s money! Suppose some preacher did one-tenth of that. The brethren would bring the heavens down upon his head, unless his name was either Ira Y. Rice, Jr. or Jimmie Lovell.
The budget of the Highland church in a recent year showed that they were spending $100,000.00 a year for “Administration” of the brotherhood’s radio and television work. Under the guise of preaching the gospel, they are spending $196,000.00 a year to beg more -money I Their “Administrative” costs and their “Support Solicitation” costs run nearly $300,000.00 a year. Yet every little country church that scrapes up $25 a month to send to Highland thinks their money is being spent to preach the gospel. It would take the entire contribution every week of ten churches with a $600 per week contribution just to pay Highland’s “Administrative” and “Support Solicitation” costs.
Sponsoring churches, one-man-missionary societies, and missionary societies are without scriptural authority, and hence are sinful (1 Jno. 3:4; Mt. 7:21-23; 2 Jno. 9:11, etc.). There is no way anyone can make one of them right without citing a Bible passage for it, and no one has done that yet.
However, the sinfulness of the above mentioned “methods” is no justification of brethren irresponsibly spending the Lord’s money to support unworthy and dishonest men, whether in this country or elsewhere. Churches ought to do all the scriptural evangelistic work that is within their power. But no church ought ever to send any money to support any man anywhere until they have satisfied themselves, either by experience in the past or by thorough investigation, that such a man is indeed a faithful preacher of the gospel, and hence worthy of their support. God requires faithfulness of his stewards (1 Cor. 4:2).
So beware of “deceitful workers,” “evil workers,” men who love “the hire of wrong doing,” men who with feigned words would “make merchandise of you,” men who revel “in their deceiving… men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.” But such are men whose “sentence now from of old lingereth not, and their destruction slumbereth not.” God will attend to each and every one of the “deceitful workers.” But until He does so, be very careful that you are not “suckered in” by one of them.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 29, pp. 3-7
May 24, 1973