Interact Magazine 1992
Volume 3 Number 1
I checked the bank balance – there was just enough money for the petrol to go the 500km west and back to Sydney again, plus a hamburger for lunch in each direction (godliness with contentment is great gain I always say) and I was really looking forward to taking part in this Christian dinner giving my testimony and sharing the Gospel.
As I sat down to the special dinner that night among the Christian men and their invited friends, all seemed set for a good evening. that was when I noticed this bloke sidling between the chairs towards me. He leaned over looked around conspiratorially, then whispered hoarsely in my ear, ‘Are you in the habit of taking money for doing this?’ A Brussels sprout plus a few assorted peas (I’m a tidy eater) hung poised on my fork, mid-way between plate and taste buds. My mental cogs whirred as I tried to sort out the meaning of this cryptic message. Then, in a flash (I’m fairly quick as well), I had it! I knew who was speaking to me! This was the Treasurer, the handler of monies, the generous, open-handed dispenser of largess and travelling expenses.
Well I have to confess it was a masterly opening move – I had never come across an approach like this before. Suddenly I felt disgustingly covetous and sordid at the mere thought of letting even the smallest coin cross my palm to recompense me for my travelling costs, my preparation and my (riveting) evangelistic address. Oh my! Perish the thought!
But then Bible bells began to ring in my head and some of my most cherished memory verses leaped into my mind like ‘The labourer is worthy a fair go’ and ‘Ruminating tramplers deserve a taste of the crushed proceeds’ etc, etc., – you know the ones I mean. And I recognised his tactic for what it was: he wasn’t being diabolically manipulative at all – he was just being what so many Christian organisations (including churches) are to so many Christian workers – namely, penny-pinching, niggardly, rotten mean! And I want to tell you friends, that God is not happy with that attitude at all (2 Cor.9 et al).
Listen, I’ll go almost anywhere and do almost anything for pretty well, or even actually, nothing when I know the recipients are light on their bank balance. But I have some critical thoughts and definite opinions about Christian tight-wads, especially when they short-change the itinerant faith worker, the slim-budget mission and the college student who’s skint!
Now I know that every Interact reader comes from a Cornucopian church which just lavishes good will and generous cash re-imbursements on its visiting speakers and teachers – but friends, not all are like us! And we have to get a message across to those who are less generous in these matters. Every church and Christian organisation should have a thought-out and spelled out policy about this, a policy that takes into account the needs of the individual visitor, his work involved in preparation, the real expenses he has incurred in getting to minister to you. Facts such as the average weekly wage and the proper rate per kilometre for car travel or full provision for train or air fares should come into the equation. A one hour teaching presentation may have taken 15 hours or more to prepare, so there’s 2 days work before he even gets to you. Let’s pay him for it. Let’s be fair! Let’s be honest!
I remember hearing of one church treasurer who kept his student pastor on the leanest of pittances in order to’keep him humble’. Mate, that’s God’s responsibility not the treasurer’s! If you are in a ministry or church where the folk look after you well then give thanks to God, because not every brother minister is as fortunate. But if you come across the ‘meanies’ in our midst, then join me in my crusade for hilarious giving (why not even extravagant giving,just like God’s grace to us) to recompense God’s good and faithful servants. It’s a joy to do and in the end you really don’t lose a bean – if you know what I mean.
PS – I guess you’re wondering what I did about my ‘out-west’ situation, so I’ll tell you. I wrote a letter in which I returned the $20 I had received and outlined my understanding of our biblical responsibilities for visiting Christian workers. I thought it was a nice letter, but no-one wrote back – not even a Christmas card – and definitely not the $20 …!
Rev Tony Prestoe is a minister of Heathcote/Engadine Baptist Church, NSW.
© Tony Prestoe (1 March 1992)