Gospel Meetings (VI) - Supporting the Preacher

Connie W. Adams
Akron, Ohio

Not enough has been said concerning the financial support of preachers in gospel meetings. Some of the brethren don't like to hear it, and some of the preachers are to timid to say what ought to be said. There is a great deal of misinformation on the subject. Much of this is due to the failure on the part of preachers to teach brethren on the subject with the same force and clarity with which they would teach any other Bible subject. I used to fear that brethren would think me mercenary if I said much about supporting preachers as they should be supported. I have repented of that foolish notion and asked God's forgiveness and resolved to teach on the subject with sufficient plainness of speech to be understood.

It Is Right to Support Preachers

When Jesus sent the twelve on the limited commission, he told them not to take provisions with them, "for the workman is worthy of his meat" (Matt. 10:10). I Cor. 9:1-16 clearly teaches that "they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." It is right for brethren to supply his physical needs so he may devote his life to the work of the Lord. This should be on the basis of what is needed. Philippi sent to Paul's necessity (Phil. 4:15-16). In Corinth, Paul received "wages" in return for his "service" (2 Cor. 11:8).

When a man goes to conduct a gospel meeting he performs a service and deserves to be sustained in the effort. A man should be willing to preach at a sacrifice and most of the preachers I know are of that kind. But there is a duty which other brethren have as well, and I fear that some brethren may be called to account for their lack of consideration.

A Common Misconception

I have found any number of brethren who have the idea that preachers who hold a number of meetings each year are really making money. I have been at it for over twenty years and ff I had found it necessary to rely just on what I was paid in the meetings I have conducted, my family would have suffered most of the time. In checking back over my records, of the sixty meetings that I have conducted in the last four years, I would have lost money on forty of them had the Brown Street church not made up the difference to keep me from losing and my family from suffering. Some of the meetings were with congregations that were unable to support a man for a meeting. Some were able to provide a small amount of support and some did not provide any part of the support. This good congregation has been willing to send a preacher and support him where he is needed and has never complained about it. I am not complaining either. They have kept me from suffering and I am thankful for it. But some of the meetings where I would have lost were with congregations of considerable size and ability.

What Ought to be Covered?

(1) Most preachers are paid on the basis of the number of Sundays they are at home. If he is gone over a Sunday, that is a week's pay. If he is in a two Sunday meeting, normally that is two pays at home. If you have a man for a two Sunday meeting and pay him $300 for the meeting, and he should be paid $150 a week at home, then you have not really covered him.

(2) The reason you have not covered him is that it costs him something to get there, and this expense he will have to pay. The farther he has to come, the more his expense will be.

(3)What is traveling expense? I have never found any way to travel without spending money. If a man drives his car, his expenses involve more than just the cost of gas and oil. He has to buy tires when they wear out; keep the car up in order to be able to drive it long distances, and must eat while in transit. He will have extra expense that he would not have at home to keep his clothes pressed and cleaned. He may have to spend a couple of nights in motels on the trip. If there is a time element involved, he may have to fly and I have never found any airline that wanted to give me a ticket!

I know a preacher who conducted a two Sunday meeting not long ago, several hundred miles from his home. They insisted on a two Sunday meeting. Because of the distance and the time, it was necessary to fly. The brethren kept him in a motel. He was paid $350 for the meeting. From what he was paid he had to pay the motel expense, food expense and plane fare. When all of this was deducted he wound up making $75 a week, based on the number of pay days involved. I wonder how many of the brethren in that congregation made only $75 those two pay days.

If a man does not make in a meeting what he would make at home for the number of pay days involved, plus his expenses, realistically considered, then a meeting costs him. I raise the question: Is it right for a self-supporting congregation to expect a gospel preacher to lose money to perform a service for them which they are abundantly able to cover?

What Churches Can Do to Help the Problem

(1) Brethren can practice the golden rule. They can treat a man as they would like to be treated if they were in his place. A meeting means extra work for a preacher. It is hard work. Sometimes, before he can leave home to go and preach a week for you, he may have to do much extra work ahead of time for a bulletin, radio program, or other regular duties to which he must attend. It is not wrong for a man to actually make a little extra once in awhile in a meeting. If he worked in a factory, he would get overtime for all over forty hours. Once I drove 720 miles to preach in a meeting supported by a congregation which was able to do its own work, and was paid $35.

(2) When brethren invite a man to schedule a meeting with them, if they know they will not be able to fully support him, they could tell him so in order that he might make arrangements at home to be sure he is protected. If a man is what he ought to be, he will go and preach where time and opportunity permits whether brethren can or will pay him or not. I have never booked a meeting anywhere on the basis of how much or even if they could pay me. It is the practice of faithful men to book meetings on a first come--first served basis, according to the amount of time in a year that they can devote to such work. I don't know of any other honorable way to do it.

(3) Congregations which are in good financial condition could take this into account in deciding how much to pay a man for a meeting. A little generosity on their part might help to make up a deficit caused at some other place. One of the reasons for the two preacher program we had at Brown Street for several years was so that we might be able to assist the work in struggling places by sending and sustaining a man to help them in meetings. I have been protected by them in cases where I would have lacked otherwise. But all men have not been so blessed. I have not always been either. But it is not right for a large congregation to expect some other congregation to have to subsidize a preacher so they can have a meeting.

(4) Brethren can recognize that what was adequate support for a meeting ten or fifteen years ago is not now. Most preachers are paid a good bit more now than they were that long ago. If they are not, then they are in trouble. Let elders ask themselves if they have considered that in making their decisions in these matters.

Not Preaching For Money

Nearly anytime this subject is discussed; there are some brethren who are going to say "Well, the preachers are just after money." I don't know any better way to cure a fellow of that malady than for him to go into some heavy meeting work for awhile! I resolved when I started preaching and getting invitations for meetings that I would go where I was called, regardless of where it was, or what size congregation called, and regardless of what they could pay me. This is still my practice and that of every faithful preacher I know. None of us has it as hard as the pioneer preachers did. Yet it needs to be remembered that while a preacher can be lost for being greedy of filthy lucre, they alone do not have a corner on this sin, and other brethren can be lost for their stinginess and dishonorable treatment of faithful servants of Christ.

I have written these things because I verily believe they need to be said. I have no axe to grind with brethren anyplace I have ever been for meetings, whether they paid me well or not at all. God grant preachers the courage and fidelity to Christ and his word, to preach "the laborer is worthy of his hire" with the same forthrightness that we expound on "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." If all of us had been doing this all along, many of the abuses which exist would have been cured long ago.


January 22, 1970