The Door Is Open: Proceed With Caution!
by Tim Haile
As in Paul's day (Acts 14:27), a "door of faith has been opened" in many places throughout the world. Opportunities abound for the gospel to be preached, both saving sinners and edifying saints. This is great news, for God has decreed that men will be saved as a result of "the preaching of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:21). It is thus, the constant prayer of the faithful that God's word "may have free course throughout the world" (2 Thess. 3:1). We rejoice when honest, truth-seeking hearts are given the opportunity to hear, believe, and obey the gospel (Luke 8:15; Acts 2:37-41). Certainly, we must do everything possible to supply these needs, but we must do so while maintaining a healthy respect for God's revealed pattern.
Another "Door" To Consider
I am hopeful that my thoughts will not hinder the good works of scriptural benevolence and evangelism that are presently being conducted, but I feel compelled to urge some caution in these areas. It is quite common for people to allow their zeal and emotion to replace their committment to scriptural authority. Besides the "door" of evangelistic opportunity, there is another door - Jesus Christ! He said, "I am the door" and one enters salvation only through Him (John 10:9). Unauthorized works, programs and activities will not fit through that door regardless of how good and profitable they may appear to be! Book, chapter and verse authority must be had for all matters "pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:11).
The preaching of the gospel is important, but no more important than the means and methods used to accomplish that preaching. The old argument that would have us believe that "the end justifies the means" does not pass the test of divine approval (Rom. 3:8; Prov. 14:12). We must preach the gospel and help needy saints, at home and abroad, but we must not rely upon unauthorized means of doing so. Brotherhood benevolent societies and one-man missionary societies are not God's way of accomplishing these works. When doing the work of evangelism, New Testament churches retained their control over their funds by directly supporting competent preachers in the field (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 1:7; 4:14-16). The pattern does not support the practice of one man both receiving and dispersing those funds as is done in the one-man missionary society arrangement.
The church where I preach is receiving an increasing number of support requests in which the preacher is asking for a sufficient amount of funds to both pay himself, and to be able to assist and train other preachers. Such an arrangement is simply unscriptural. This work belongs to the local church, under its overseers. Churches have no business sub-contracting this work to preachers who will then spend the money as the preacher deems appropriate. The only difference between this arrangement and the traditional missionary society arrangement is in the number of people making the decisions about how to spend the churches' money! That's not enough of a difference!
If this short article has peaked your interest, I strongly encourage you to read the articles by Gene Frost on this subject. They originally appeared in the June, July and September issues of the Gospel Anchor in 1983. Brother Frost deals extensively with the arguments that are generally offered in defense of the one-man missionary concept. I commend his articles to you.
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Bowling Green, KY 42101
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