there are peculiar dangers connected with it for those who minister the
Word of God.
Doubtless it is for that reason that the idea of a salaried ministry is
foreign to the New Testament. While the Lord Jesus taught quite
definitely that “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7) and Paul confirmed that “those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14), there is no suggestion that these men should receive a stipulated amount each month.
One of the potential problems is that those who control the salary can
often control the preaching. It does not always happen that those
who pay the piper insist on calling the tune, but it has happened and
can happen. Those who hold the purse-strings may be very carnal,
yet they can insist on suppressing any preaching that does not suit
It is also true that those who pay the salary can require certain
standards of achievement. For example, they might require an
increase in church membership, either through conversions or transfers
from other churches. This might put a subtle pressure on the
Lord’s servant to lower standards in order to increase numbers.
It is not in his power to produce true conversions: it is God who gives
the increase. But he can produce shallow professions that look good in
an annual report. Also he can speak softly on matters of
discipline so as not to lose anyone.
Even apart from pressure from others, there is a temptation for the
teacher to soft-pedal truths that might offend his congregation.
If the people are wealthy, he might not think it expedient to speak on
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19),
or “Command those that are rich in this present age not to be haughty,
nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us
richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17).
The preacher must be the Lord’s free man, free to declare the full
counsels of God, free to be a mouthpiece of God, free to speak as the
oracles of God. Anything that hinders this is a great tragedy in
the work of the Lord.
In times of declension and apostasy, there is often a tendency for
preachers to side with those who control his finances rather than to
stand true to the great fundamental doctrines of the faith.
Concerning a denomination that is now riddled with liberalism and
apostasy, David O. Beale writes, “There is a perennial ‘joke’
which pastors tell at each annual meeting: ‘If the Convention splits,
I’m going with the Annuity Board!’ The Board does appear to be
the ‘cement’ of the empire.” Financial considerations have a
powerful way of taking priority over faithfulness to the Word of God.
A fixed salary could very possibly weaken the life of faith. The
servant of the Lord should be an example to others of one who walks by
faith and not by sight. His life should be a perpetual crisis of
dependence on the Lord. G. H. Lang gave his testimony: “I have
lived and worked in happy fellowship with workers in the gospel in many
lands through fifty years and am satisfied that a guaranteed or regular
income, because it dispenses with direct and constant faith in God as
to temporal supplies, is certainly a spiritual loss, not by any means a
In the ecclesiastical world, it is not uncommon for men to shop around
for bigger salaries. They mistake material advancement for the
guidance of God. It is all too easy to conclude that the offer of an
attractive salary is an indication of God’s call.
In the Old Testament economy, a bondservant was worth twice as much as a hired servant (Deut. 15:18).
In other words, one who served because he belonged to his master was
more valuable than one who worked for what he got out of it. Does
this have a message for us today?
Of course, the question arises, “If not by a salary, how is a servant of the Lord to be supported?”
First of all, the believer must have absolute confidence that the Lord
has called him to serve on a full time basis. This cannot be
overemphasized. And he must not only be sure himself, but must
have the confidence of his spiritual guides that he has received the
divine tap on the shoulder. After all, no man is an adequate
judge of his own gift.
Second, he must be thoroughly assured that, as Hudson Taylor said, “the
Lord pays for what he orders.” He can then step forth without any
visible means of support, but with unwavering trust that the Lord will
provide for his needs according to His riches in glory by Christ
Jesus. That should certainly be sufficient.
But how will God do this? He will do it through His people. Someone has
described the process as follows: “God can place an idea in a person’s
mind. He can cause someone to feel a strong ‘urge’ or ‘conviction’ to
do something. So when we pray for a certain amount of money, God
can cause one person to reach for his check book and send that amount,
or he can cause a dozen people to send odd fractions of that amount,
causing the total to be exact. You may not believe that He does
this, but I am simply saying that when I talk about praying for money,
this is what I mean.”
This is the thrilling part of the life of faith - to see income
increase as needs increase, and conversely to see income decline when
it is not needed. And it serves as a valuable system of checks
and balances: As long as I am doing the work of God, I know that He
will supply, quite apart from any publicizing of needs on my
part. If I am serving according to my own wisdom, I cannot expect
Him to pay for what He has not ordered. Wrote Ray Williams in
Echoes magazine, “I believe this is the way. If not, how could we rely
on His guidance? If I say to myself, ‘I want to do this’ and say to my
friends, ‘Can you provide the money to help me to do this job?’, I
might want to do it and my friends might want to help me, but I would
not know if it was the Lord’s will. If I only tell the Lord that
I want to do this thing, and the finances to do it appears without
anyone but the Lord knowing about it, then I know that this is the
Lord’s will for me.”
Hear the testimony of Silas Fox: “In 1926, feeling that it would be
better for me to look directly to the Lord for support, and be more
free to take the calls that would come in for special meetings, I
launched out, with a wife, and five children, and to the glory of God,
after a quarter of a century, can give testimony that without a mission
to support me, and without a deputation secretary to make known our
needs at home, and without appeals, or on my part taking up
collections...and without having my name on any ‘list,’ yet the Lord
has graciously, wonderfully, faithfully met all the needs for these
twenty five years, and we praise Him, and in this give testimony in
Finally, Dan Crawford adds his spiritual insight: “A society missionary
friend expostulated with me as a married man not claiming a fixed
salary - something sure was his idea. It was then that God spoke
to me out of His Word. What settled the matter as to faith being
the only definite thing was the following truth of God: ‘The promise
was by faith that it might be sure!’ The only sure thing is faith!”
1. Anthony Norris Groves, p. 66.
2. Echoes Magazine, February 1984, p. 75.
3. The White Fox of Andhra, Donald S. Fox, p. 153.
4. Assembly Annals Magazine, June 1959.