By Bill Cavender
“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied . . . . Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:15-16).
It is a matter of “the faith,” the plain will of God in the New Testament, that churches are to pay wages to gospel preachers. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). Paul preached the gospel. He gave his life and time to that work. Churches supported him with wages while he did so (2 Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 4:14-16). It is a matter of human judgment as to which preacher(s) a church will pay wages, but it is a matter of faith that they must do so. A church which does not pay wages to preachers for their work is not obeying the will of God. By plain precept and by apostolic examples, this truth of God is established.
Until a church and its elders really believe that the greatest, most necessary work in the world is gospel preaching, they will not have a dedicated and sacrificial disposition toward preaching. Until brethren really believe that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21), they will continue to be unconcerned for the lost and for the world beyond their own city or area, and will continue to be content to be preached to but not to preach to others who have not heard the truth. Selfishness with the gospel and with money is generally widespread among the brethren.
Many elders and churches are afraid to “launch out” and let down the gospel nets for a drought of souls (Luke 5:1-11). They want to “play it safe and not over-commit ourselves with the Lord’s money,” lest a depression comes or the meetinghouse burns down, and “we are not able to pay our bills.” Many elders and brethren sit on the Lord’s treasury in the congregation as if it were a bank account to be saved “for a rainy day and hard times. ” Such brethren have little faith, not believing God’s great truth and principle of sowing and reaping: “But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully . . . . And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work . . .” (2 Cor. 9:6-11).
I would offer some suggestions to brethren, especially to elders and preachers, regarding the support of preachers and the amount of wages paid to them. Perhaps these thoughts will help you to do some thinking in these matters and result in increased awareness of God’s will and our duties to God and to those who preach the gospel.
1. Preachers should not hesitate to preach the truth (and practice it) of the New Testament regarding the use of money and material possessions, giving, generosity, unselfishness, and supporting of preachers. There will always be brethren who will say, “All he talks about is money . . . . Every sermon is about money . . . . The preacher is wanting a raise . . . . He makes too much already . . . . He ought not to make any more than the average member of the congregation,” etc. These, and other statements by sometimes unconcerned and even covetous brethren, should not deter us from teaching the truth on this part of God’s will and encouraging our brethren in liberality, generosity and sacrifices for the gospel’s sake. While some will scoff and mock, and close their ears and hearts, some others will hear, listen, learn, purpose, and obey the truth in these matters. Especially will there often be young, sincere people, married couples and families, who will become generous and liberal givers all their lives because they were taught by word and deed from faithful preachers, elders, and brethren who are thoughtful, purposeful givers of their money to Christ.
2. Elders should be men of vision, far-sightedness and understanding, planning the work of Christ and of supporting preachers at home and abroad, and urging and insisting that these plans be carried out by the church. If the elders are not out in front, leading and inspiring the church to do more and to do better in our Lord’s work, little progress will be made. No church rises above nor excels its leadership. If elders and preachers and deacons are not men of generous, sacrificial dispositions, then they will be poor examples to the flock of God. Elders should take the leadership in inspiring and urging a congregation to greater levels of activity, interest, and giving. They should keep before the people the need for preaching the gospel in all the world and the needs of various faithful gospel preachers who work in barren, hard, difficult areas throughout the world. Elders should not leave it up to the preacher to do all the urging, exhorting, and teaching of the church in the matters of giving and supporting faithful preachers. They should be before the church, leading and guiding into greater areas of work and giving of our prosperity to spread the gospel. So often elders will not do this. They leave it to the preacher(s) to do this, and then allow him to be subjected to unjust criticism from brethren who, in many cases, care little about the souls of the lost in all the world and who have never learned to truly give as they are prospered.
3. Brethren should be taught by elders, preachers and all Bible teachers that it is necessary to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We will never convert everyone “right around home,” and “right around here in our own community and state.” The Bible examples in Acts of Apostles, in which the gospel was preached in many cities and nations, then resulting in the gradual spread of truth throughout those areas, are still the best ways. We need to preach in all areas of the world. Then those Christians in those areas will, in turn, evangelize those places further. We cannot expect nor see people “believe and be baptized to be saved” (Mark 16:16), if we who know the truth and have an abundance of God’s material blessings do not with vigor obey Mark 16:15.
4. As much as possible, every member of the church should be informed about the Lord’s work in our own country and throughout the world. We can get people to see and support gospel preaching the more they are informed about it. They will not be enthusiastic about nor give their money generously to preachers, nor to good works needing support, if they are not informed and interested. Reports from preachers supported by a church should be read publicly, reprinted in church newsletters and bulletins, and posted on bulletin boards for members to read. Every member of a congregation should be aware of the work being done by preachers supported by the congregation. This will beget even more enthusiasm and concern, causing brethren to feel more partnership with those who are out preaching the gospel to the lost.
5. Preachers should be given wage increases regularly. Living costs and the extra expenses preachers have make this imperative. Many men do not preach because they cannot support themselves and their families in doing the greatest, most needful work in the world. Others of experience and ability have quit because of lack of wages and income. Some churches never increase a preacher’s wages. He has to move if he gets an increase, or go into secular work. Many churches want to know and try to figure out how little they can pay a man to get him to work with them. Yet churches will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to move a man but will not pay him well after he gets there. Some brethren work night and day to make all the money possible, their wives work, and all the income they can have is wonderful to them. But a preacher must sometimes beg or almost beg for even livable wages. Workers in businesses, professions and industry have life-long benefits from excellent wages, job security, pensions, social security, life insurance, hospitalization insurance, vacations (up to 5-7 weeks a year in some cases) fully paid, 40 hours per week work with overtime pay for over 40 hours and double time for holidays, and other emoluments. A preacher has very few or none of these benefits unless he provides them for himself and few preachers are paid enough to do that, nor do they work with brethren who are deeply concerned about his welfare and want to help him to have the best “pay-package” and benefits possible. Oftentimes the preacher’s wife must work to help provide income and insurance when she is really needed by her husband at home to help him and to be with their children. Often she does much work with him and in behalf of the church, yet she is rarely ever compensated. Brethren, in many cases, want to “hire” the preacher’s wife along with him, getting two for the price of one. It is little wonder that young men of good minds and good educations want to do something besides preach. (I am not arguing that this is the way it should be with young men; I am just saying this is the way it is.) Yet the work of preaching the gospel and saving souls is the only absolutely essential and necessary work in the world. Many brethren do not realize or believe that!
6. Brethren need to establish (and in some cases, rearrange) their priorities in the Lord’s work. Instead of so much emphasis on buildings, comfort in the buildings, steeples, eating and recreational facilities (unscriptural and unauthorized by Christ), keeping the grounds, investing in property, etc., the first emphasis should be upon preaching the gospel at home and abroad. (What property a church owns should be kept neat, presentable, in good repair and conducive to study, worship and good influence in the community. But brethren sometimes get worldly and gaudy in their excessive and unreasonable expenditures upon meetinghouses.) I know of churches who get involved in building and then terminate all gospel preaching except to themselves at home. I know of churches who pay for buildings, doubling and tripling the payments, “to save interest, ” and support no preachers. I know of churches which keep surplus funds, large bank accounts, and certificates of deposit on hand to pay the building payments “in case of a slump,” and ignore the pleas of faithful men who need wages badly so they can preach the gospel and support their families. These things ought not so to be! No church ought to cease support of gospel preachers to engage in building programs. Meetinghouses, brick and mortar, wood and glass, have never converted one soul in all. the history of the world. People, preachers, and preaching the gospel have and will. Preaching and saving souls is the heart and soul, the life-blood of the kingdom of God. All meetinghouses will perish when Jesus comes and the world ends. Saved souls will not.
If you have read this far in this rambling article, my dear brethren, I thank you. I trust you are thinking with me. I know of many brethren and churches who could greatly increase their contributions personally to the Lord’s work, and the churches could increase their support of gospel preachers at home and abroad – if they would. I urge all to take inventory in this matter to see if we are doing what we should in the matter of giving as we are prospered and supporting gospel preachers as we ought to do.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 5, pp. 133-134, 153
March 7, 1985