(This is a article I wrote a few years back and it remains timely because circumstances surrounding the support of preachers still need improvement)
Imagine yourself as an evangelist who understands that he has permission from the Lord to sustain himself from the treasury of the church (1 Corinthians 9:7-11; 2 Cor. 11:8-9). Next imagine yourself writing to a church inquiring about money in their bank account for fellowship. Next, imagine those brethren reading your request and laying the letter aside as “unimportant” or throwing the letter in the trash. Now, what do you think about brethren who would do such a thing? But before we cry how bad it was for a church to treat a preacher like that. Let us make sure that our protest doesn’t point back at us (2 Samuel 12:5-7). If we are apathetic toward preachers’ requests, feeling that such letters are “burdens” or “junk mail,” then, “we are the man!” (2 Sam. 12: 5-7).
Nothing that God expects the church to do is to be considered junk or a burden. Because that is why the Lord has a treasury, so it can get things done. The Lord has money in His bank account, and He expects faithful men to receive some of the money. I’ll take it further and say that God expects brethren to have an interest in the preachers’ appeal and pay the man a decent wage. God certainly doesn’t want preacher requests to be looked upon as “another man asking for money.” Or brethren complaining “I’m sick and tired of these preachers writing!” To avoid being “the man” we need to start considering preacher support requests a priority.
Brethren, listen to me, it is no picnic or day at the beach for any man who is seeking to raise support. I promise you, every man who has to do such would much rather be doing something else. It isn’t a pleasant experience because of the way some churches treat preachers appeals for support. We in Philadelphia, like so many other churches on the northeastern coast, are a small group. Even we get appeals from preachers seeking support, and we answer them back letting them know that we aren’t able. If more churches would do so, that would make sleeping a little better for the preacher, because he will know that no support is coming and that he will then have to move forward with his next step.
I’m aware that some requests will come from unworthy men or those who may not even be preachers. But still we don’t know for sure, and we need to be courteous and reply to them in some manner. One thing a church could do in order to make it easy to reply is, print up a standard letter and have it ready to send to any man writing for support. The letter will explain why help can or cannot be given. That way, the preacher will at least get a reply and not be sitting around waiting for a phone call or letter that isn’t coming.
It is said that the soldiers of the Alamo, sat for days waiting for help that never came. And even closer to home, we saw the citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast waiting and hoping for government help that also never came (until long after the fact). Why should brethren be guilty of causing the same stress upon a preacher? Simply because they aren’t interested in answering his request? The man is writing because it is urgent—it is not an exercise for his fingers. Come on brethren, we are the Kingdom of Christ, and we are better than that! (1 Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:12).
We must start doing a better job replying to men who write, and we must also take more interest in using the Lord’s money to support our brethren (Philippians 4:14-19). Now, I understand the parking lot needs paving, the roof needs fixing, etc. Those things will always plague us, but still I wonder how pleased the Lord is, when He sees the parking lot win over the man who needs money in order to preach? But we live in an imperfect world where the things of God aren’t always done. So what is a preacher to do if brethren refuse to support him? He shouldn’t start selling the items in his house in order to feed his family. And he shouldn’t sit around waiting for a check that is not gonna come. Instead the preacher should go find secular work and do that until he can get support (1 Thessalonians 4:11). For even Paul worked secularly at times, so there is no reason for men today not to do the same, unless they are not physically able (Acts 18:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). And if one is not physically able to work secularly that makes the plea of this article more valid. Some preachers may be in a wheelchair or suffering from other ailments that make punching a time clock out of the question. These men must not be cast to the side like an old rag, but we must do all in our power to make support to preachers our top priory.
There are probably churches who have a nice sum of money and aren’t really doing anything with it. That money needs to be spent, and we best quit sitting on it. Whenever a preacher has to leave the work of God and do secular work because apathetic brethren refuse to support him, we create shame. No preacher should ever have to work secularly, but it is very possible he may have too. Many men are doing so already, and their work in the secular world doesn’t make them any less of a preacher. God may be displeased with brethren who put the preachers in such situations, but He is very pleased with faithful men who labor in His vineyard and punch the time clock as well.