Yes, preachers are to be supported in their work. Preaching the Gospel is their
primary and principal function. Heaven's directive is to "Preach the word;
be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering
and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). First century brethen did that. "Paul...and
Barnabas continued...teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many
others also" (Acts 15:35). So many other things (besides preaching) have
been added on their shoulders that is not really the work of an evangelist.
Gospel preachers are to be supported in many ways. Here are four.
Gospel preachers should be supported by ENCOURAGEMENT. Many suppose preaching is an easy task and many jokes have been made about it. Any who do so ought to walk a mile in a preacher's shoes. Follow him for a day. See the hundreds of large and small tasks he takes care of that often no one knows about and take for granted.
Many preachers receive very little encouragement in their work and are often not appreciated for their love of the Truth and devotion in proclaiming it. It's a lonely life in so many ways because preachers are viewed as being from "another planet." Though it's rarely said, but who wants to hang around with a preacher or be his friend? That means you'd have to be on your best behavior all the time. You'd have to watch your tongue and dress. But, isn't that what Christians do anyway? Some have said "excuse me" when they learned I was a preacher. My reply usually is, "I'm just a man. God's the judge. You'll have to answer to Him. He knows how you live every day."
I was told once, "you chose to be a preacher, you could have done something else." By that they meant, you knew the sacrifices and hardships that go with preaching. If you wanted a higher income, health insurance, fringe/retirement benefits, job promotions, a house of your own, then you could have chosen to do that. Brethren, that's slapping a preacher in the face. He is not to be penalized for loving the Truth and devoting his life in proclaiming it. Preachers should and must be encouraged (Rom. 14:19; Acts 18:27; Phil. 2:1-4), not discouraged. We have far too few good preachers already.
How many young men are preparing themselves to preach the blessed Gospel? How many parents are encouraging their sons to do so. Talk to most any teenage boy and ask him if he has a desire to preach. They will tell you in a heartbeat, no way! Why is that? Is it because they see the way preachers are treated and talked about in the home and community? Is it because they realize the difficult and thankless work they do? Is it because they see the life of devotion and dedication required? Is it because they see how preachers are "used" and when the first sign of trouble in the congregation comes along they are blamed for it and sent packing? Far too often, preachers are treated like papertowels, use them and throw them away. Some say, why, he's just a preacher. That goes with the job. He can easily uproot his children from school and move on. Who cares anyway? He can leave tomorrow, but the rest of us have to live in this community! Very, very often, he and his family is never really accepted by either the church or the community. Why, who in the world would want to get into that!?
In spite of all these things, and a million more, I am thankful there are many sound, faithful Gospel preachers who are willing to spend and be spent in the work of the Lord. They endure the suffering and insults and "press (on) toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). They feel as Paul when he said, "woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16). While most Gospel preachers have no retirement in this world (since none is provided by the church), they do have one in the world to come. Paul said, "there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim 4:8).
I also realize that when I speak of these things it will be viewed by some as whining and complaining. I guess that's the risk I'll have to take. It will just further illustrate my point. I don't know of a single preacher "worth his salt" that will complain about it. However, folks need to be educated, because when they know better, hopefully they will do better.
Gospel preachers are to be supported by being DEFENDED when they preach the Truth. Many stop their ears, refuse to listen and even sometimes persecute the very ones who tell them words whereby they may be saved (cf. Acts 11:14). Peter rebuked Simon in Acts 8:20-23 even as Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11. In both instances, Peter and Paul were doing their job as evangelists, though unpleasant as it may be. Faithful brethren will defend the godly actions of faithful preachers and hold up their hands when they preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,26,27). It is a tremendous help to not only the preacher, but the whole congregation, when the elders back the preacher by getting into the pulpit and announcing to all that "the Truth has been preached today. We support it. This is where we stand. If any have questions about it, come see the elders and we'll study with you." This occurs very little. So little in fact that some preachers have never seen it done. It would be such a shock that some preachers may faint! What many are used to is being "called on the carpet" and told to tone it down, back off, don't preach that again, you've upset a lot of people today, etc. Brethren, such ought not to be!
If what has been preached is the Truth, then obey it, support it, hold up the man's hands that is willing to proclaim it. Only the Truth can make men free from sin (John 8:32). Love it, even when it hurts because you are guilty. Instead of lambasting the preacher, repent and trun to God (Luke 13:3). Defend him, thank him for being your friend. Paul told those of Galatia, "am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth" (Gal. 4:16)? Words of Truth and soberness should cause one to tremble as it did Felix (Acts 24:25). Don't be guilty of causing the preacher to tremble for preaching the Truth. Defend him! Thank him! Encourage him to preach even more and harder.
Gospel preachers are to be supported through PRAYER. Paul wrote the brethren of Thessalonica, saying, "Brethren, pray for us" (1 Thess. 5:25; cf. Heb. 13:18).
Paul's request for the prayers of the saints was not selfish, but for the furtherance of the Gospel through his preaching. "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints..." (Rom. 15:30-33). He wanted and needed the prayers of brethren concerning the persecution he faced. "For we... despaired even of life:...we had the sentence of death in ourselves,...but...God...delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf" (2 Cor. 1:8-11). "Praying always with all prayer and supplication ...and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, ...that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6:18-20). "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19). "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,...That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Col. 4:2-4). "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith" (2 Thess. 3:1-2). "...For I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you" (Philemon 1:22). "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Pray for him in both private and public. He wants and needs your prayers.
Gospel preachers are to be supported FINANCIALLY (Gal. 6:6). "...The Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14). This has been the principle throughout the Old and New Testaments alike. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn" (Deut. 25:4). "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Tim. 5:18). The Levites who served at the tabernacle received the tithes of the children of Israel (Num. 18:23-24). Paul said, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service" (2 Cor. 11:8). "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" (Gal. 6:6).
Some have said that a preacher must be poor and humble to be effective. These same brethren have said, "Lord, you keep him humble and we'll keep him poor!" The preacher is not to beg his bread and live as a benevolent case waiting on a hand out from brethren. He must be financially supported so that he can devote his time to preaching and teaching the blessed Gospel. However, when need be, he can and will work to support himself that he may continue to preach (1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8; Acts 18:3).
He has spent years in training himself in the Word and is thus equipped to preach it and teach it -- more so than the average church member. Why not give him the opportunity to do what he is able to do (cf. 1 Cor. 12:14-31)? Far too often he is saddled with running errands and doing tasks that most anyone in the congregation can do if they would. It's easy to "let the preacher do it, he doesn't work." He has become the church secretary, custodian, repair man and general all around errand boy. Brethren, be more considerate of him than that. His task is more important than the president of the United States! Assign brethren or acquire the services of one to handle the day to day things that need to be done and free him to spend his time in teaching and preaching the Word.
By Garland M. RobinsonReturn to the General Articles page