April 1, 1997 Issue
by Paul O. Nichols

The caption of this article is from Matt 5:37. Jesus said "Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay..." And the apostle Paul said, "Providing honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Cor 9:11). Again, Paul writes to brethren and says, "Lie not one to another..." (Col 3:9).

In years past "a man’s word was his bond." In those days many a deal was sealed with nothing more than a handshake. People trusted one another because they themselves were honest and trustworthy. Greed, covetousness, and plain dishonesty have changed this. But it should not be so among Christians, the children of God.

In the business world contracts are required for almost any financial transaction except cash. A handshake will not do because most people cannot be trusted when money is involved. ("The love of money is the root of all evil..." 2 Tim 6:10). Terms of contracts have been strengthened in an effort to close "loopholes" and to force people to fulfill their obligations. In spite of all these efforts, individuals and companies look for justification if they decide they don’t want to honor an agreement. And usually for a little money they can find an unscrupulous lawyer who can get them out of it "legally."

These are "perilous times" and we live in a chaotic world and even brethren cannot always be trusted to keep their word. I say this to our shame. What we as Christians must learn is that we are children of God and are required by the Lord to let our yea be yea and or nay, nay, and Jesus says, "for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." When we say "yes," we should mean yes. And when we say "no", we should mean no. People should be able to depend on us to tell the truth. After all, the Bible teaches us, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Col 3:9). Again, the apostle says, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another" (Eph 4:25). And we have the warning, "...all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone..."(Rev 21:8). When a Christian makes a promise people should know that he is going to do the very best he can to keep it. But sometimes brethren make promises to preachers, and preachers make promises to brethren and they do not live up to their word. This naturally creates distrust.

We now hear of contracts being made between brethren and preachers for a certain church work. And preachers sometimes ask each other, "What kind of package do you have?" Having to sign a contract to force someone to keep his word certainly smacks of distrust, and I believe brethren would be hard pressed to find scripture which would justify the practice. Is it because the preacher distrusts the brethren, or do the brethren distrust the preacher? Or on the other hand is it mutual distrust? For shame!

Several years ago brethren at a certain place signed a contract with a preacher. Before the end of the contract period there was such a sharp disagreement that the brethren wanted the preacher to leave, but he refused and demanded full pay according to the terms of the contract before he would go. The brethren were hooked! They had to pay.

A contract is of no value if it is unenforceable. It is a legal agreement. If it is a legal agreement, then it is enforceable by law. But Christians are forbidden to go to law against other Christians (1 Cor 6:1-8). Now, how can brethren enforce a contract with a preacher who fails to live up to his agreement? Or how can a preacher force brethren to do what they have agreed to do? Are they going to sue one or the other for breach of contract or seek punitive damages as is done in the secular world? Suppose a preacher under contract to a congregation falls under the condemnation of Romans 16:16,17 (causes division or offenses contrary to the doctrine of Christ), or Titus 3:10 (is guilty of heresy), but under the terms of the contract the church is legally bound or by moral obligation must continue to support him for a stipulated length of time. Or suppose the congregation discovers the preacher is covetous, or he becomes a railer, or is guilty of fornication (it has happened), but their contract binds them to support him for a certain time. How are the brethren going to justify using the Lord’s money to support such an individual when they cannot scripturally fellowship him nor even socialize with him (1 Cor 5:11 "with such an one no not to eat"). And if a preacher is so unscrupulous, what is to keep him from suing the brethren and forcing them to pay him?

Brethren, think about it! Why put the church in such a predicament? There is absolutely no scripture that teaches or justifies such a practice. If not, then it is an innovation and therefore wrong. If a congregation doesn’t know whether the preacher they are getting is trustworthy or dependable, they need to find out about his reputation from people who know him. Does not the Bible teach to "know them that labor among you?’ (1 Thes 5:12). Paul said he did not need letters of commendation to the church at Corinth, nor letters from them (2 Cor 3:1). Why? They knew him and his work as others did, too. His reputation spoke for itself. But it is implied that otherwise letters of commendation would be in order.

Sometimes brethren use the poorest judgment when seeking a preacher to work with them. They select a man they know nothing about. Someone may have heard a sermon or two that appealed to them, or perhaps they liked his delivery. They may not know what he stands for —whether he tends toward liberalism, or if he is fanatic about some issues or loose on others, or if he is sound and is satisfied with a thus saith the Lord. They may not know whether he has a good reputation for honesty, or if he is one who pays his debts and his word can be trusted; or whether he is lazy, and other things are more challenging to him than the Lord’s work; or whether he is a troublemaker. They may get a person who plays church politics and handles the word of God deceitfully (2 Cor 4:3), rather than one who will stand for the truth without showing respect to persons or being guilty of partiality (Jas 2:9:1 Tim 5:21). One brother told me one time the congregation he represented was getting a certain preacher to hold a meeting. He said, "He can’t preach, but he talks a lot, and that is what people like." And some brethren have been guilty of choosing a preacher because he can put on a good show in the pulpit, engaging in theatrics, complete with faces, flailing the air, reaching for the heavens, or telling funny jokes to make people laugh. Fun and games is the order of the day with some Christians. Why, if a man should conduct his own business like some brethren do the Lord’s business, it would not be long until he would be bankrupt. That may be one of the reasons so many places where there used to be churches which worshipped in a scriptural way no longer exist. What a shame and disgrace! Oh, what a need we have for strong, knowledgeable, and faithful leadership. The apostle Paul admonishes, "Not slothful in business, fervent inspirit, serving the Lord" (Rom 12:11).

Some brethren may not know it, but the church cannot legally sign a contract with a preacher and claim him as an employee without meeting certain legal requirements, so I have been told. Some of these requirements are that you have to pay half of his social security, pay unemployment insurance, and workman’s compensation, and possibly his health insurance. And if the congregation does not do these things it cannot legally specify any length of time he can have off for meetings or vacations, nor specify what he must do in working with the church because it has to do with legal status. On the other hand, if the preacher is not an employee of the church, but an independent contractor, the congregation cannot even pay his health insurance. Brethren, it might be wise to check into legal ramifications before blindly signing contracts with each other when it comes to the work of the Lord.

The best way to do the Lord’s work is in the Lord’s way. "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay" as we have always done in year’s gone by, and as the Bible teaches. We should trust one another to do what is right because we are Christians.

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