Give Me Liberty Or A Secular J0B
In no way do I want to take away the force of what I shall say, but I think it expedient to clarify my present position with this congregation so that there will be no misunderstandings regarding my relations with it.
I therefore preface the things I shall say in this article by saying, that they in no way reflect the general sentiment or practice of the people with whom I labor. I have never worked with a group of brethren whom I thought understood the work of the preacher more than the brethren who compose this congregation. Nor have I enjoyed a better relationship.
I have always cooperated with elders in doing the Lord's work and have high regard for qualified leaders. What I shall have to say therefore is not the result of "sour grapes," or the words of a bitter, arrogant, undisciplined rebel. What I say, I. say, because I think they need to be said.
In the past several years, a great number of preachers have quit what is termed, "full time" work to support themselves in secular work. This comes at a time when more preachers are needed and more time devoted to building again a strong house for the Lord.
Why this drain of manpower? Many seem to think it is because preachers become obsessed with material things and become money hungry. However, based upon what I have heard from those who are no longer being supported by brethren, I have to disagree.
In my judgment preachers are leaving "full time" work in order to exercise their liberty as free men in Christ! In some places the preacher is so confined and limited by brethren that it is impossible to fulfill the work of an evangelist.
He is looked upon as a congregational manager, a Pastor, and an office boy. Generally he is accepted as a hired hand to work for the brethren. Elders tell him what he can and cannot do and outline his work for him, including the hours he shall spend in the "Office," the day of the week he can take off, the day to visit the hospitals, etc., as if the preacher didn't have the sense to plan and do the work he has qualified himself to do and has been doing for a number of years, and therefore must receive instructions from those who generally have never preached.
In order for a preacher to have the privilege of preaching to some groups, he must sign a written contract agreeing to such things as above. Before leaving town he must ask the elders if it is all right to do so, or to let someone know where he is at all times. Before preaching on any controversial subject he must submit it to the elders for approval. I know of one preacher who was told by the elders that he had to confine all his teaching and preaching to the immediate community in which he lived. In their words: "Not to get off this hill." He must not preach to others without first asking permission of the elders. (As if one had to ask permission of men to do what the Lord has authorized him to do.) This reminds me of a little boy and his daddy, or of the game we used to play as kids... Oh, you know - "Take two giant steps," and before taking the steps the question was asked, "May I." Now if the party didn't say "may I," he was rebuked by having to go back to the starting point. He would only succeed when he learned to say "may I" consistently. And the only way some preachers can succeed in getting along with elders is to learn to say "may I."
He becomes a possession to be used and abused and moved about as a pawn. He must get along and keep the brethren pampered. He must be a personal relations man; a backslapper; and have the ability to see everyone at the prescribed time. The home in which the preacher lives is referred to as "our" house, "our yard," etc. and is made a social center for the congregation. He becomes a puppet whose strings are manipulated by elders and others of the congregation. In practice, if not in theory, he is owned body and soul and is so confined and limited he cannot do what the Lord demands of him.
No man in Christ has the right to bind an opinion or judgment on another, or exercise dominion over the faith of another!
Preachers must not take too much upon themselves, but elders need to restudy their work and the relationship which should exist between elders and preachers. The idea that the preacher is working for the elders and those who compose the congregation, is a fallacy which must be removed. The work of the preacher and his relationship with elders cannot be compared with secular work and the relationship which exists between the employer and employee. All of us are working for the Lord. Brethren simply support the preacher in doing this work which enables him to give more time to it.
That they may enjoy individual freedom in Christ Jesus, many are earning their daily bread through secular work. When the time comes that I can no longer preach what I believe to be the truth and receive support from my brethren, or cannot exercise my liberty as a free man in Christ Jesus, I too, will go into secular work. I will not be brought under bondage to any man. To do less would make me a hireling.
"Give me liberty or a secular job!"