Editor's Note: I received this from Travis Everett, Jim Everett's son: "Here's the article I had talked to you about that my father had been working on prior to us finding out about his cancer. After his last trip to Zimbabwe, he determined that it might be helpful to brethren to discuss some of the issues that can come up when supporting preachers in foreign countries and those were the thoughts that provoked the article. He asked me to make sure and do a quick review for him and get it sent to you so that it could be published in the Preceptor. He felt very strongly about the work over there, and as such I assured him that I would take care of sending it in. Thanks for your help."
Since I have made two trips each to the Philippines and Zimbabwe, as well as the fact that the congregation here at Cedar Park supports ten men from these two countries and three in other foreign countries, I think there is some needed advice to those who might receive appeals from preachers and in turn support them. With foreign evangelists language can present a difficulty, but not one that is insurmountable if communication lines stay open. I genuinely believe that hearts of Christians in America are touched by the needs of evangelists and they have a deep love for lost souls. This can make all of us very vulnerable to appeals from preachers and Christians in poor places. There is a very common perception that people in poor countries have - they think all Americans are rich and some of them think that because we have so much, we are obligated to share with them in such a way that will raise their standard of living.
Perhaps there are some things I can share with you, based upon my experiences, which will enable us to increase our efficiency in preaching the gospel in foreign fields.
Never send support to someone you do not know personally or who is not recommended by someone who knows them. There are some preachers who get hold of addresses or email addresses and send out multiple requests knowing that "if you cast out enough bait, you'll catch some fish." It is known that some get help for the same "emergency" from several different sources but never report the total amount they receive nor refund money that is more than enough to pay the costs. Some ask for "traveling expenses" but do not report that with their monthly income.
Request and expect transparency from the men with whom you have fellowship in the gospel. Some evangelists do not want those who support them to know the total amount they are receiving. The congregation at Cedar Park has always requested that the men we help fill out a simple "support report" form and send it to us before we send the monthly support. These are available for anyone to see, if you want to see how we do it here.
It is true that we cannot sympathize completely with the poverty of some cultures, because we do not experience what they have to endure. When limiting support to foreign evangelists it is never the desire of any Americans that I know to keep people poor. However, the poverty of brethren in foreign countries sometimes inherently tests their honesty in regards to their personal finances. Also, the temptation to make their lives easier will cause some of them not to report all their finances.
There needs to be some communication between supporters with reference to the men being supported and the total amounts being sent. That is the reason that each congregation and/or individual should expect that the preachers inform them about the total amount of their support and the sources of that support.
Seek to maintain an equality of support among the preachers. Because preachers live in different areas, some have more expenses than others do. For instance, a preacher working in a larger city will have a higher cost of living expenses than one working in a more remote, rural area. Also, a man who may travel a lot and works beyond the local church where he lives will, obviously, need more support. You should have some awareness of the costs of living and a general idea about what preachers are getting in each country so as not to create an inequity.
Seek to maintain a balance between the standard of living of the preacher and the people with whom he labors. Once some preachers begin to get American support, it is easy for them to raise their standard of living above the members and this imbalance will hinder their effectiveness in preaching.
Be prompt with the funds sent. It is right that the supporting churches/individuals expect prompt disclosure of funds received and report of the work being done, but it is also right for the evangelist to promptly receive the necessary support in order to live. Some preachers who have been promised support go for months without receiving anything or their checks may regularly be late. It is wrong to treat a man like that. Churches and individuals need to be faithful to their commitment. They also need to understand that if men in very poor countries do not receive their support on time, they will have to do without some necessities or borrow money to take of bare essentials.
Be aware that some preachers receive support and then, in turn, support other evangelists. This is unscriptural and not fair to the supporting congregations/individuals. Congregations/individuals are to support the preacher in his labors but preachers receiving support do not have the right to receive the funds and then decide to support other preachers. This practice is not the same as a congregation using a preacher or someone else as a messenger through whom support may be sent. Obviously, when a man receives support he has choices about how he will spend his support to care for his family, do his work and practice benevolence - this is not what I am addressing.
What I am addressing is that the decision to support preachers must always reside in the supporters and not in the one receiving funds. The scriptural relationship is always between the supporting congregation/individual and the one receiving support and cannot, by the decision of the one receiving support, be extended to someone else.
However noble a preacher's intentions may be, if he takes it on himself to receive support and then become a supporter to someone else, he has put himself in a position of making decisions for those who have fellowship with him in the gospel that he does not have the right to do.
NOTE FROM PAUL WILLIAMS: I am not sure what point Bro. Everett is making here. However, there is nothing in the scriptures to limit what a preacher may do with his wages. Just as any other Christian may send money to a preacher, so a preacher may do the same. There have been cases where an American evangelist has solicited money so he can support preachers of his choice--which would make him a one-man missionary society. Of course, this is not according to the scriptures. And there have been instances where money for several preachers was sent to one man to distribute. I see nothing unscriptural in this if the man simply functions as a messenger, but I know that the practice has been abused. In at least one case the distributing preacher was taking a kick-back from the other preachers.