The religious world as a whole treats church work as a business. Money
is solicited; pledges are taken and budgets are made up. Church workers
are hired and may be fired. Polls and surveys are taken to discover what
the public wants in a church service. Religion is a product to be sold.
Success is then measured by how rapidly both building and congregation
grow. A megachurch is viewed as the pinnacle of success.
It is all a far cry from the simplicity of the New Testament. Jesus
Himself modeled a life of simple faith in His Father. He never asked for
money and lived a frugal life of dependence upon His God.. No one could
accuse Jesus of greed or covetousness. “For you know the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became
poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9 NKJ).
Those who believed in Him and His message opened their hearts and homes
to Him and met His needs. What a beautiful life of faith it was!
His disciples drank deep of His spirit and emulated His life. When the
Lord sent His disciples out to preach He commanded them: “Freely you have
received,: freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in
your money belts...for a worker is worthy of his food” (Matt. 10:9-10).
He also said, “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher
and a servant like his master” (Matt. 10:25). They too were called on to
live a life of simple faith in the living God. Later Jesus asked them,
“‘When I sent you without money, money bag, knapsack and sandals, did you
lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’” (Luke 22:35). Their every
need had been met by a loving God.
After the Lord ascended the disciples were left with the commission to
evangelize the world, an awesome task (Matt. 28;18-20). The Holy Spirit
was given to empower them (Acts 1:8). At first their ministry was in
Jerusalem but then persecution scattered them throughout the Roman world
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word”
(Acts 8:4). The task of world evangelism had begun.
All believers were expected to be witnesses to their Lord. It was a
dynamic, witnessing Church. Some like the apostles felt the special call
of God to devote their full time to preaching the Word (Acts 6:2) and
would go out with the commendation of their local churches (Acts 13:1-4).
Paul and Barnabas left Antioch with the blessing of the church but with
no financial guarantees or pledges. No doubt an offering was taken to
send them on their way but then they were expected to trust God for their
needs. At times Paul might work at his trade as a tentmaker to supply
his needs (Acts 20:34). But often his needs were met by the gifts of the
Lord’s people (Phil. 4:16). This would free him to spend more time
preaching the Word .
Elders were appointed in every church to give local leadership (Acts
14:23). These were expected to make their own living while serving the
church together (Acts 20:35). Peter warned elders not to serve the Lord
for money (I Peter 5:2). All believers were expected to develop and to
use the spiritual gifts which had been given them (Rom. 12:6). No
professional clergy class was established under the apostles. Had not
the Lord warned them against such a thing? (Matt. 23:8-12).
Churches down through the centuries have always tended to drift toward
having a “priest” or “pastor.” Israel under Samuel’s leadership cried
out for a king like all the nations around them. Today NT assemblies may
look with longing at some of the large churches around them and feel that
perhaps they should hire a gifted preacher to be their pastor. Years ago
an elder in an assembly in California left that flock and told me, “I am
convinced we have been wrong in having elders. We need to hire a gifted
preacher and function like the Crystal Cathedral does.” Such an attitude
is questioning the wisdom and authority of God’s Word.
What are some of the benefits of the pathway of faith? God can control
His servant by drying up the funds and preventing some project he is
attempting. The brook dried up for Elijah and God directed him to a
different place (I Kings 17:7). Once when we were considering a move the
Lord hindered the sale of our home. He wanted us to stay longer in the
city where we were and we recognized His hand in the circumstances.
George Mueller was very conscious of the Lord’s control over his
orphanages in God’s financial provision.
Secondly, this pathway of faith and dependence upon God builds faith and
character. Trees in the high mountains are battered by fierce winter
winds and bitter cold. Their roots go deep and their branches are
strong. Paul affirms that “we also glory in tribulation, knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and
character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). Do not rob the Lord’s servants of this
opportunity to grow by guaranteeing to them financial security.
Thirdly, this dependence upon God for his finances preserves the
worker’s independence of human control. The employer controls the
employee. It is vital that the preacher is free to speak the word
without compromise. Preachers who are salaried feel the pressure to
please the congregation. Job security is important. A Baptist preacher
we knew said that he was concerned to leave his church and meet along NT
lines but he would look at his little children asleep in their beds. How
would he support them? He did finally step out and realized that God
could meet his needs. A Presbyterian minister said, when given a gospel
tract, “I know that message but I can’t preach it here.” He was the
slave of men, not of God.
The prophet (preacher) must be free of human control so he can give
God’s message fearlessly. Amos was threatened by the religious authority
in Bethel and told to quit preaching. He replied with great boldness
that God had called him and given him this message. He refused to be
intimidated. “Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord” (Amos 7:16).
Paul could speak boldly to the Galatians, rebuking them for listening to
false teaching. “For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to
please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be the bondservant
(slave) of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). Slaves are not for hire; they are owned.
A servant of the Lord was threatened twice by elders that they would cut
off their financial support. He was thankful that he was depending on
the Lord and was not their salaried servant. The preacher must be free
to preach the Word of God without fear of men.
Finally, the life of faith is a powerful witness to the existence and
providential care of the living God. George Mueller stated that one of
the reasons for his great orphanage work was to be a testimony to the
power of prayer and the existence of God. Could God provide for the
thousands of orphans without solicitation of funds or even hints of need?
Indeed God could and did, in amazing wonderful ways. God does answer
Earlier Anthony Norris Groves left his dental practice and went out as a
missionary to Bagdad and then to India, serving the Lord on a faith
basis. His example has inspired thousands of men and women to step out in
faith to serve God. The faith principle for serving the Lord is a vital
principle in Scripture. Let us beware of settling for less.
Donald L. Norbie
July 29, 2005