By John Shadowens
Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord, said, “. . . go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). This is one very important work of the church. There are many good men who are wanting to go and preach the gospel, and there are quite a few churches who would love to have a good man working with them, but they do not have the means to support a man fully. It is getting increasingly difficult for good men to get the necessary support to go and work with these churches. I have been on both sides of the fence, needing support and working within the comfort of churches that are self-supporting. There seems to be an element of security in a self-supporting congregation as opposed to working under the uncertainty of outside support. Now, one may say, “Where is your faith? Don’t you know that God will provide for you?” Yes, I know these things, and have been provided for by God through the good brethren (Matt. 6:33). It is just that it seems to me that brethren are changing in reference to outside support. If there are godly men willing to go into these areas where other gospel preachers are not willing to go, then we need to uphold these holy hands and provide the necessary provisions for them to go (1 Tim. 2:8). Last year a good friend of mine, a gospel preacher, wanted to go and work with a group of Christians in a particular area. He tried unsuccessfully to raise the necessary support to go. In the end, he couldn’t come up with enough money to pay his obligations. It must have been that the brethren he contacted thought that particular church did not need a preacher, or that that area did not need evangelizing.
Many churches have large bank accounts. They are holding on to the money as though it belonged to them personally and not to God (Acts 5:1-11). They refuse to launch out in faith (Lk. 5:4), to help some of these good men who are willing to carry the gospel where some of us might not want to go, because the churches are not big enough for us, not self-supporting and do not have elders. These congregations are not acting like good stewards of God’s things. God does not want the church to sit on 25-30 thousand dollars because “there might be hard times heading our way.” See Matthew 25:14-30 – the parable of the talents, and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 4:10. God’s word will not return to him void (Isa. 55:11). The word will produce the results. Brethren need to turn lose of money that does not belong to them and support preachers, so the word can be spread, which is the work of the church.
On the other side of the ledger, there is the gospel preacher who wants to go to a work and is seeking support, finds it, moves to the new place. In a year or two, the brethren who were willing to help him go in the first place, now want to discontinue, because either it doesn’t look like he is making much progress, or they have forgotten him and he has been lost in the shuffle of the new budget. Churches need to make it clear that their support is for only one year, two years, etc. At least the preacher will know where and how he stands. There is nothing more discouraging than to get a letter stating that your support will be discontinued on such and such a date or be surprised to be holding your final check. The preacher then frantically starts looking to replace what he is losing, distracting him from his work. I realize that sometimes this cannot be helped by some churches, but could we not be more sensitive toward those drawing outside support? I believe that when we decide to support a man we should be aware and be prepared for the long-haul, realizing that things are not accomplished over-night. God is going to bless the congregation sending to the evangelist (Phil. 4:17). It also helps to send the preacher a note of encouragement to let him know how much you appreciate his willingness to move his family to distant places to work with a group of Christians in a certain locale. I know when I received support, it meant so much to me to receive a note of kindness (every dog loves a bone). One other thing that I want to mention is this. Please, brother treasurer, be consistent in sending the check to the preacher. Send it within the same time frame every month. He needs to know when it is coming, not be guessing when it will come or whether it is in the mail. Think about yourself. What if your employer didn’t hand out checks until he felt like writing them? Maybe they want to add on to the plant or assembly line and this is going to be costly and they called you or wrote you a note saying that your pay would be reduced by one, two or three hundred dollars per month? Could you suddenly make up the difference and keep up your obligations? Preachers are mere men whose families have needs the same as any other.
In conclusion, these are things that often go unnoticed except by those that are or have been on the other end. I believe that brethren need to be alerted to these facts.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 21, p. 658
November 5, 1992