By Fred Pollock
All relationships in Christ are to be developed and directed by the Word of God. Too often we focus only on Scriptures which deal with a specific relationship. We neglect the “first and great commandment” and the “second like it” (Matt. 22:37-40). Christ gave us a corollary for the second which men call the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:37-40, NKJV).
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).
Paul expanded the teaching in Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Using these comprehensive teachings with Scriptures which are specific to the church-preacher relationship we can find a beautiful pattern of the way our Lord would have preachers and other Christians interact in reciprocal edification:
Elders & Others Give: Preachers Give:
Fruits of Righteousness
Glory to God
This model has scores of Scriptures to support it. As a prime example, read the entire epistle to the saints in Philippi. I believe that if all Christians would use this passage daily the results in church-preacher relationships would be amazing. This is no less true, of course, for all our relationships as members of the body of our Lord.
For Elders and Others Who Support Preachers
At the foundation of any good relationship is mutual respect. We should see the dignity and beauty in the work of preachers as God sees it: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15a, NKJV).
God has not made any of us, elders or others, “bosses” over the ones who preach. Paul teaches that preachers have the right to be supported from fruits of the labor of other Christians. It seems that many brethren think that financial support should be minimal, not taking into account the special demands made upon a preacher and his family nor many other factors that relate to his work which involve expenses not incurred by other Christians. Two things will help us carry out God’s will in this matter. First, as Peter instructs husbands concerning their wives, we should diligently seek understanding of the preacher’s needs (1 Pet. 3:7). This understanding would come as a surprise to many who have never stopped to consider how different is the preacher’s situation from their own. Second, we should form our judgments in this matter according to the great principles of love and “the other’s interest” as given in the references cited earlier. If it should happen that the preacher’s family can enjoy more of this life’s goods than can my family, find happiness in their blessings and thank our Father for what we have.
Although preachers are supported by others, we are not taught that they are to be “bossed” as may be our lot in secular jobs. The preacher is governed by the Word of God, not by my words. He is supported by the Lord’s vineyard, not with “my” money. He responds to my needs as the Word instructs him, not according to my whims and dictates. I have the same obligation to serve him as he has to serve me, but usually in a different area of need. He will finally be judged by the same Judge who will judge me, according to the same Word.
When we develop love, interest and understanding, we will have no trouble applying all the great teachings referred to in the beginning of this article. In short, when we have love for God and have in us the love he has for others, we will render the support for preachers that will yield the best they can give in zeal, fruits of righteousness, and glory to God. It is a beautiful thing when our love for them shows in our appreciation for their work, in our concern for their spiritual welfare, in our understanding of their need for encouragement, and in our generous provision for their financial security. It is sad to see the Lord’s cause hindered, when it is, by failure to render to hard-working servants their God-given rights.
When the will of our Lord is known and practiced we will honor his messengers as we should and cause them to say with Paul, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received . . . a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Phil. 4:17-20, NKJV). And so say I, “Amen.”
The preacher who applies the Word in his life and work will not seek nor accept honor which is reserved for God, as in religious titles (Matt. 23:6-10).
The Lord’s preacher will not only be diligent in his work, study and family responsibilities but will be seen as diligent. This is mentioned because preachers often work best with a flexible schedule compared to the rigid “time clock” demands of many other kinds of work. Wisdom dictates that they and their wives avoid the appearance of a leisurely life which they almost certainly do not have.
Since his financial support will usually be known by other Christians, special care to avoid “conspicuous consumption” is required. While he has no greater responsibility than others for responsible and sacrificial use of God’s blessings, it is important to consider the feelings of others who have less to spend or who think they have less. (Other Christians who are unusually well blessed materially should practice the same constraints.)
The preacher who is financially supported will normally be able to devote more time to personal teaching and visiting than the Christian in secular employment. His work and that of his wife cannot fulfill the responsibility of other Christians to do their own spiritual work; but by cheerfully and ungrudgingly giving personal service to others, preachers can enhance their influence for good. I recently heard of a wise and mature preacher who advised younger men that “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ” This seems to be a good observation to help preachers decide how much effort to put into study (vital!) versus how much to put into private encouragement, exhortation and teaching.
A summation statement in Paul’s instructions to Timothy takes into account virtually everything a preacher should be as he lives and works among others in the Kingdom: ” – – be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . Meditate on these things: give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both youfself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:12-16, NKJV).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 1, pp. 3-4
January 5, 1989