15 January 2015

Should Preachers Work?

All my life, I’ve heard people talk about preachers and their work habits; in fact, I’m sure we all have. But what does the Bible say about the subject? Here’s a biblical perspective on this subject.
  1. The first question is whether or not preaching is working.
    • In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23)  I confess that I have heard a few sermons which I would classify as “idle chatter,” but those were the exception to the rule.  Preaching is an oratory skill, and ministers rely on communication skills just like any other public speaker, except the preacher has the added burden of being a moral voice representing God.  The clergyman is supposed to be God’s voice to the people, and any preacher who doesn’t work hard at preparing his message is a disgrace to the ministry.  It’s shameful when those who purport to represent God dare to approach the sacred desk unprepared to speak.
  2. Secondly, is it acceptable (or even, expected) for preachers work secular jobs outside the pulpit?
    • All preachers should labor as stated in point one, but there’s no disgrace for ministers working secular work if the wages are needed to supplement their ministry income.  The apostle Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself while he started the church in Corinth.  (Acts 18:3)  However, as ministry responsibilities increase, a point is reached where there isn’t enough time for both secular and spiritual work.  At this point, a decision must be made: Should I continue my secular work or focus solely on God’s call upon my life?  If you’re called by God, there’s only one good answer—fulfilling God’s call is always the right thing to do.  Remember, there is a difference in a “call” of God and a business “profession.”
  3.  Does the church have a responsibility to support its ministers?
    •  We have examples from Scripture for full-time, vocational ministry.  Jesus left His profession as a carpenter and received financial provision from His followers to fulfill His call as an intenerate minister. (Luke 8:3)  The apostle Paul spoke of his right to expect financial support for his ministry to the churches.  (I Corinthians 9:11)  Paul also stated the responsibility of churches to provide for “elders who rule well.”  (I Timothy 5:17-18)  The principle is clear: Those who work hard should be rewarded for their labor, and spiritual work is as much labor as physical work.
  4.  What about preachers at small churches with much smaller incomes?
    • All congregations, large or small experience financial challenges in providing proper ministry to their communities. This isn’t just a problem for the time in which we live; it’s always been a challenge.  It’s caused by a spiritual principle; “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17)  Faith is always required to obey God.  Every man or woman who has heard God’s voice trembles at the thought of doing what God said.  God asks our obedience in attempting tasks bigger than us; that always requires faith.  Look at every person called by God in the Bible, and you find this principle every time.
    • Small churches think large churches have a lot of money and don’t experience financial challenges, but that simply isn’t true.  It takes faith to hire additional staff ministers and maintain large auditoriums.  Many times, the money isn’t easy to find and sacrifices must be made to bring another person onto the pastoral staff.  But small churches can do anything large churches do if they’ll follow two simple rules.
      • First, they must plan.  For example, a small church might put twenty dollars a week into an outreach/missions fund; then, at the end of six months, they’ll have accumulated $520 toward evangelism.  The key is planning.   To fail to plan, is to plan to fail.
      • Secondly, they must co-operate with other churches.  By themselves they’re limited in what they can accomplish, but every one of us can accomplish more if we learn to work in harmony with others. 
      • A good example of this is the story of several small rural churches in southern Oklahoma whose congregations were each too small to support a pastor.  They came together and came up with the idea of using the Internet to provide a “teaching pastor,” (they chose a highly respected pastor from another small Oklahoma town,) to provide an excellent Word from God each Sunday and using a local “lay pastor” (who is bi-vocational but lives locally,) to provide the pastoral care for the members of the congregation.  In this way, the small, rural churches received quality messages from God’s Word each week and the personal needs of their members are met.  These churches are working together to provide the quality ministry they couldn’t have accomplished by themselves.
  5.  Does the same rule apply to every preacher?
    •  Each ministry is different.  God calls some people into special ministries.  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”  (Ephesians 4:11)
    • My personal experience of preaching for fifty-seven years gives me much experience on this subject.  Of those fifty-seven years, the last forty-nine years have been in what’s called full-time ministry.  There’s nothing magical about the term; it simply defines how God has chosen to meet my family’s personal needs.  I’m extremely grateful for the hundreds of people who believe in the call of God upon our lives with such confidence that they’re willing to share their natural possessions to help us do what God called us to do.  This has enabled us to accomplish things we couldn’t have done alone.  The time I’ve invested in studying the Bible and seeking God wouldn’t have been possible if I had needed to support my family with secular work.  (Acts 6:2-4)  It’s not that secular work is unspiritual or insignificant; there simply wouldn’t have been enough time for me to travel the world, teaching pastors in over thirty nations.
    • I’m a debtor to those valiant men and women who’ve sacrificially given their time and resources enabling me to fulfill the call of God.  One day we’ll all stand before the throne of God to give account of our lives and these people will stand with me to share in any rewards received for the work that’s been accomplished.  I couldn’t have done much of anything without their help. 
Should preachers work?  You’d better believe it!  And if they’re faithful to fulfilling the call of God upon their lives, they’ll work harder for God than they would for anyone else.