"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.VIII Pg.12-13
March 1944

The Preacher - His Work - His Pay - His Wife

Allen E. Johnson

I. His Work

The preacher's work is preaching; or as W. E. Brightwell put it a few years ago, "some Christians preach." Some ways of doing things become crystallized in the minds of some brethren, and so becomes an "unwritten law." To show you what I mean, I saw an advertisement in one of our religious papers from a large church for a preacher to do mission work. It mentioned nothing about whether he should be a good preacher, nothing concerning his soundness or success in proclaiming the word, but emphasized that he must not be one who "merely held services, but who was unafraid to go from house to house." I came to the conclusion that they didn't want me, but it made me picture the kind of man they had in mind. They didn't want a preacher, they wanted a "door bell ringer" or, as the case would be in my country, a "door knocker." I would denominate him a "peddler." Is this the way to do mission work? Going up one side of the street and down the other, "knocking doors" and "sticking your foot in the door" when the occupant is about to close it in your face? Well, that seems to be about the idea conveyed in that ad, and the idea that a lot of brethren have about it.

The Jehovah's Witness sect, the Mormons, the Adventists, and others have made themselves and their religious beliefs obnoxious to the majority of citizens in my part of the country by such methods. No preacher is averse to doing house to house work if the people in those houses where he goes is interested in learning the truth; and the great preacher Paul did some house to house work in Ephesus, as he reminded the elders in Acts 20:20; but I am also certain that he did not make himself obnoxious as the above mentioned sects have done, and which some of the brethren insist on doing.

Spreading the gospel is a dignified work. You must obtain and hold the respect of the people you are endeavoring to teach or you fail. The preacher who goes into a new field must gain the confidence and respect of the people by conducting himself in a manner befitting the gospel of Christ, and he cannot do it by the "peddler" method, at least, not in my country. The representative of Jesus Christ who brings to a community the force that is "God's power unto salvation," and that has changed the course of powerful nations, must not lessen the force of that power by appearing as a common house-to-house peddler.

Ii. His Pay

The preacher of days gone by did not preach much on giving lest someone misunderstand his motive and say he was preaching for money. This attitude toward the money question in the church, and particularly as it applies to paying the preacher, still largely influences churches. It has become an "unwritten law" with many that paying the preacher is a subject not to be mentioned out loud until the very last thing, and then the first suggestion made by some of the leaders is the one acted upon. It is not my intention to wax eloquent nor dogmatic on the proposition, but I believe the subject needs an occasional "airing."

What is the basis for paying a preacher? Some brother says: "Pay him all we can." Another says: "I think he should be paid about the average salary received by the members of the congregation employing him." Still another says: "Pay him a living wage." There are possibly others, but that will suffice. Since the preacher has no "bargaining agent" and he is expected to "keep silent in the church" on that matter, then who decides the matter and how? That the present system is haphazard and unbusinesslike, and many times, unjust, most preachers can verify. It is not a question of making money, for no conscientious man enters the ministry with that in mind. One sister told me one time, "I don't care especially how I look, but I want my preacher to always look nice." Perhaps not too many would express themselves that way, but the sentiment is universal. But can a preacher "look nice," pay his debts (which is a hard and fast requirement) and generally be a "credit to the church" on the general salary scale now prevailing?

Then, there is another thing which is a direct result of this haphazard system: many times churches that I know have received requests from preachers who have given their lives to the ministry of the word, but who are old, no longer able to preach, the churches do not want them; they have no way of making a living, but they need some money for their remaining needs. Did it ever occur to you why these men are in that condition? In their active years they were paid according to our present method. But some brother comes forward and says, "Why, the Lord will take care of those things. What are you worrying about?" The Lord takes care of our daily needs--I believe the Bible teaches that--but the Lord has also said, "If any will not work, neither let him eat." (2 Thess. 3:10) And, "The laborer is worthy of his hire."

The apostle Paul has something to say on this question in connection with his work at Corinth: "My defense to them that examine me is this, Have we no right to eat and drink, Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have we not a right to forbear working? What soldier over serveth at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Do I speak these things after the manner of men? Or saith not the law also the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God careth, or saith he it assuredly for our sake? Yea, for our sake it is written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking. If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things? If others partake of this right over you, do not we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right; but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Know ye not that they that minister about sacred things eat of the things of the temple, and they that wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel." (I Cor. 9:3-14).

That Paul did not use the right "to live of the gospel" at Corinth, does not mean that he didn't have it. He had a special reason for not using it at that time, as the following language from his second letter shows: "Or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I preached to you the gospel of God for naught? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you; and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want; and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself." (2 Cor. 11:7-9).

Also bearing on the same subject of his support while at Corinth he said: "For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the churches, except it be that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong," (2 Cor. 12:13).

This is sufficient from God's word to all who believe and sincerely strive to practice it. Paul had the "right" to expect a support from the Corinthians; Barnabas had the same "right." His even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" is final on the proposition. And it should not be a makeshift or a "get by" sort of measure, as so often happens. I notice many preachers are "muzzled" in the preaching, for they are obliged to try to make an inadequate salary stretch out in an endeavor to cover all expenses.

Another thing connected with the question is this: when the time comes to pay the preacher, the treasurer will apologize for the smallness of the check by some thing like this, "we had to put a new roof on the building this year," or, "we had to redecorate the building--it was so run down people were ashamed to come;" or, "the plumbing froze up and burst last winter and we had a big plumbing bill;" or, "we are not raising your salary this year, because we talked it over in business meeting and decided that you would have to pay it out in income tax anyway." Perhaps there are other excuses--you've heard them. The preachers are many who have paid for the meeting, built, or helped build church buildings and redecorated them; and as respects the brethren withholding my income tax, just pay me and I'll pay my own income tax and get the credit for it! Also give me a chance to redecorate church buildings, and do mission work of my own accord. Who likes to make forced donations anyway?

I have nothing personally to complain of but I speak in behalf of those who are underpaid, and because churches need to have "fruit that may abound to your account." (Phil. 4:17). The churches need to restudy the situation and pay the preacher commensurate with his needs.

Iii. His Wife

The services of the preacher's wife is considered by many congregations as a sort of bargain thrown in when they employ the preacher. An example of how a good many brethren look at it was expressed by an elder to me a few years ago: "We want to get a preacher with a wife who is good at doing personal work." I asked him if they were figuring on employing her. He gave me a grieved look and said nothing. Several years ago I was talking the matter of employing me over with a group of elders in a certain church in the West. Among other questions they asked me was this: "Can your wife do personal work?" I asked them in return, "Do you want to hire her, too?" Naturally they didn't want me--and I didn't want them to have me.

Now I just wonder if a preacher has the right "to lead about a wife that is a believer" only on condition that she is a good personal worker or that her services are valuable to the church employing him? The younger preachers ought to be informed of this so they can include the question in their marriage proposals. The fact of the matter is that brethren have imposed a condition where the Scriptures have not. It is "chimney corner scripture" that a preacher's children are meaner than other children. Of course, they get most of their "meanness" from running with the children of the brethren. Granting it to be true, wouldn't it be the fault of the brethren to a large extent, for expecting the preacher's wife, the mother of his children and the keeper of his home, to give the greater portion of her time to public work to the neglect of her home and children?

Is the preacher's wife obligated to do more personal work than any other sister just because she is a preacher's wife? Evidently not, for I read of no such requirement in the Bible. Then why bind where the Bible has not bound? Another thing-the preacher's wife has less time, as a rule, than the other women in the church. A lot of preachers coming through town stop at her house to be fed and housed; and sometimes he brings his family along: all of the "wandering minstrels" wind up at her house for the same free meals and beds. Then there are nearly always several thoughtless sisters in the congregation who seem to think they are at "mama's" house when they visit her, for they turn their youngsters loose on the house while they talk. When they leave the house is a wreck and must be cleaned again. In many places her house is used by the sisters as a "powder room," especially if it happens to be the "parsonage." All of which adds up to the fact that she has more work to do in her house than most women in the church. Couple that up with answering the telephone all-day and keeping down discord among the women by keeping them busy, and she has more than one woman can do.

The truth of the matter is that the place of the preacher's wife is in her home, taking care of it and her children just like any other woman in the church: neither should she be expected to do more than her individual part of the visiting.

Another angle to the case comes in just here--the "Mrs. Preacher" who seems to think that she should have a hand in all the affairs of the congregation. She wants to teach, on Lord's day and through the week--the Ladies Bible class, and as many other classes as she can. Now it is all right for "Mrs. Preacher" to teach, with scriptural restrictions, if she is qualified and the elders of the church want her to. But there are instances where she has been known to want to teach regardless of the wishes of the elders and the fitness of things. Perhaps, she wouldn't be so hard to control, if she were not pushed by her husband who features her as a great "asset" to his ministry. There is nothing wrong with a preacher's wife assisting him in his work, but when she decides to run the preacher and the church by "remote control," and sometimes by control not so remote, the elders should take a hand. They usually do.