By Jeffery Kingry
My desire in this confrontation is to ignore it. I have always written and preached knowing that my words would have to stand before the Righteous Judge. When I made mistakes I corrected them. I do not feel that I have written anything that deserves the response you are reading. I believe my material will stand or fall by itself. My primary reason for responding is as a personal favor to the editor. I would not like to leave him to face my accusers alone.
Ron’s article is like a scene I witnessed once at the Grand Canyon. A group of people stood on the rim beholding in awed silence the rocky magnificence spread before and below them. A young lady elbowed her way through the group, took one look of indifference at the vast steep sloped valley, stifled a yawn and put on some makeup. Then she abruptly asked, “When do we eat?” Her comment revealed absolutely nothing about the scenery and was no judgment of the Grand Canyon. Instead, it pronounced profound judgment upon the woman.
I do not compare myself or my writing to the Grand Canyon. I merely use it as an illustration. My efforts are more a work of “art graven by man’s device.” Not everyone has the same taste in art. But our comments about something that someone else has done unveils our inner standards of judgment, our aesthetic values, our experience, our inner prejudices
and preferences. Ron does not see things as they are, but through what he is. I am willing to let the Lord judge me, I just wish Ron were. My writing has dealt with real human needs, with life as it is lived, and with problems that are real and not imagined. I believe God’s word addresses all of life. We sometimes miss seeing God at work in the world around us because we do not have enough of God in our hearts. We do not see Christ identified with every human hunger and thirst, with every human ailment, and all loneliness and hurt. We miss seeing Him out there, because we do not have Him in here – in our hearts.
Of Motive And Blankets
I could not possibly respond to everything that has been brought up, but I will try and touch a few points. John McCort reviews all that I have said in the article and calls it “Blanket condemnation . . . .” He discounts my original paragraph denying such with the illustration of a gossip (“Now I am not gossiping about _______ and then go ahead and gossip about them). Of course, illustrations do not prove anything. They merely illustrate. But if you will indulge me, John’s article reminds me of the uncharitable brother who declared in a conflict within a local church, “I know what he said, but what he meant was . . .”
When I mentioned “the seamy side of get it rich quick way to riches,” I assumed that those coversant in the English language would understand that there is a “finished side” and a “seamy side” to most every garment. The dictionary defines the word as “worse, or less pleasant or presentable.” If I had written about the “seamy side of politics, preaching, or journalism,” I doubt that anyone would accuse me of indicting all preachers, politicians, or writers. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth ….
It appears as though some brethren want me to say that they have liberty to sell Amway, Slender Now, insurance, Mutual Funds, Bibles, books, etc. But, no one took it away. The issues raised in my article was not buying and selling for profit. Several brethren who sell Amway, and who have sold other things like insurance, mutual funds, etc. commented to me that they did not misunderstand the article, and felt that strong exhortations need to continue to be given. The sinful and questionable actions of some give them a bad name. I have no doubt that there are many honorable brethren who sell and make gain to provide for their own needs and maintain their virtue while doing so. My article was directed at the covetous, worldly, exploitative, materialistic, and indulgent.
I would encourage John to read the article again. Men who sell Amway and other similar products have attempted to equate their work as “godly” because they make contacts to teach the gospel. That is deceived. Men do not sell to preach the gospel. Selling Amway is not teaching the gospel. It is a justification for selling that incidentally contacts are made that might also prove fruitful in preaching the gospel. But, people do not go into Amway to do personal work. They go into it to make money. Making money is fine (we all do it). My objection is in the deception that whatever else they may do in the pursuit of prospects is justified because a “prospect” is also a potential convert. Think about what that line of reasoning justifies! I could open a house for shady ladies of the night on that justification.
It is not sinful “to support one’s own preaching efforts instead of receiving full support from the brethren.” But then, I never said or inferred that it was. In point of fact, what I wrote was, “I am not opposed to free enterprise or to selling a product for profit, or even a preacher working for a short while to supplement (or provide) his support. I have done all three and believe that Christians have the liberty to do so.” I do not know what else to say, John.
In drawing illustrations of personal experiences with salesmen /brethren it was not my intent to paint a picture of a cat and not put c-a-t beneath it. An illustration only makes clear, it does not prove anything. When an illustration becomes the point of contention rather than the truth it illustrates, it has destroyed its purpose. It was not my intent that anyone should recognize themselves in the illustration.
Some brethren recognized themselves in the portrait drawn, and objected to my truthfulness. Cecil Willis once gave me some sound advice that had been given to him by an older brother: “If your name is not called, do not stand up.”
But since some brethren did not like my illustrations, I would like to use a few from the many letters of appreciation folks sent me on this article.
From Tennessee: “You hit the nail on the head when you wrote that they see the church as their `private fishing hole.’ How much more the salesmen/preachers who hold meetings . . . . during their meetings more prospects are sought and more distributors signed . . . . Allow me one personal testimony . . . . the visiting preacher and the local preacher (previously signed up) came to dinner . . . . before we knew it we were surrounded by cans, bottles, charts, diagrams, and other evangelical aids. But, then, someone checked a clock and a mad dash to the meeting house ensued. Although he had just given a smooth and enthusiastic presentation, and had preached 25 years . . . his sermon was dull, disjointed, and almost entirely read from notes.”
From Kentucky: “Got the mail at lunch and couldn’t wait to write . . . . I just returned from a visit with some of the brethren . . . . two of them, whom I have known since 1962, got into a verbal battle in the (church) parking lot because one had just signed up an Amway Distributor with ___________ instead of ___________’s group.”
From Washington: “At we had the same problem with those who were selling as you mentioned in your article. In fact it got to be so bad that, at one point, I was afraid to greet any of my brethren after services for fear that they would try and push some of the stuff on me again . . . .”
A Truth Magazine staff writer: “I have to say `Amen.’ I would think that gospel preachers had better judgment than to join get rich quick schemes and use innocent brethren as their sales victims . . . . I predict that the next fad will be the selling of gasoline and oil additives for better mileage. A lot of preachers need to add more time to that which they now spend with the Bible so that they will get better spiritual mileage.”
From Georgia: “Oh, I pray that (our preacher) would work as hard toward salvation of souls as (he) does towards this world’s goods, for we know that the harvest is white and the laborer’s few. I know that (he) will give you some real trouble about your article, but maybe on the other hand, this might help him.”
From Florida: “The one thing that burns me the most, is that I used to love to see those brethren. Before they got involved in the business we would talk about the Lord, the church, the work of God, and all the things that mean so much. Now I see them coming a mile away and avoid them. I hate what the devil has done!”
These are but a few of the comments from letters all over the U.S. that I have received. I do not believe that some brethren realize the wide-spread resentment and anger that exists towards those who have used their spiritual relationship for personal profit.
I have been accused of being too specific and too broad. It is my conviction that I have been too correct, and have accurately described something that we have skirted the edge for too long in our relationships with one another. I have observed that so long as we indict “everyone and no one” by our preaching and writing there is often very little response.
It is my view that the objections have been peripheral to the substance of what I wrote. But then, how could any Christian come out in favor of greed, indulgence, covetousness, worldliness, exploitation and materialism? I will certainly be more careful of what I write in the future (“burned once . . . “), but I do not believe it will make much difference. It all reminds me of something Brother Larry Hafley once wrote, “Reactions to articles in Truth Magazine run the gauntlet of opinion from the sublime to the silly. An all too frequent judgment is, `We agree with what you say, we just do not like the way that you say it.’ . . . We shall continue to oppose error and expose its leaders and urge others to do the same. For those who flinch at the truth, there is no way to say the right thing the right way, and we do not propose to even try” (Truth Magazine 3/14/74, p. 296). 1 close with no comments or apologies about the purity of my motives in writing. After all, l have written nothing that might call it in question.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 42, pp. 680-681
October 25, 1979