This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
Many pastors pursue a ruinous policy. They think that all contributions for benevolent work at home, or the spread of the gospel abroad, should be merged into the fund for local support. The heathen must care for themselves, and every noble charity must be forsaken to make provision for current expenses, and to "get ready to pay the debt." It is a great mistake! You might as well stop the throbbing of the heart in order to increase the strength of the physical man. In stopping the benevolent contributions and work of the church, you will be killing every generous impulse, and destroying the very motives which should only be quickened and strengthened if the debt is ever to be paid at all.
A certain congregation in a small village had a debt of nearly $25,000. The pastor advocated giving to every worthy object which appealed for aid. In three years $19,000 of the great debt was cancelled, no worthy suppliant was turned away empty, the church had risen in the amount of its contributions for missions, and the various agencies of the church, until it occupied the second place in the Synod with which it stood connected. The succeeding pastor, with a debt of $7,000, pursued a policy directly the reverse, and at the end of his second year had the effrontery to stand upon the floors of Synod, and offer as an excuse for not having raised a single dollar for missions, nor any of the agencies of the church, "that he had told his people from the pulpit that they should contribute nothing for these objects, as they needed all their money at home to pay the debt." What was the result of such a policy? As might naturally be expected, the congregation had not paid current expenses, they had not paid a single dollar on the debt, nor had they even paid the interest of the debt. "We may learn a better wisdom from the example of one of the wisest pastors in New York City. When his church was being built, the question of establishing a mission school came before his people. After much debate, the pastor rose to speak on the subject. He detailed the account of their circumstances, showed that they were building a costly church, that they had a heavy burden of debt coming upon them, and, in short, as much as they could bear. 'Therefore,' said he - and every person thought his conclusion was easy to see, supposing he would add at once - 'therefore we cannot afford a mission school;' but his wisdom rose an octave above that commonplace reasoning of men, and with an inspiration of the truth as to God's laws in the church, he added: 'Therefore we cannot afford to be without a mission school. The great church built to-day, the mission school established, and both prosperous, show the blessing on that deep insight into the facts of God's government in the world."* pastor's part in the work. Every pastor of a debt-burdened people has often asked himself the question, What part shall I take in this work? Shall I carry the subscription, or shall I intrust it to a committee? Is the minister to be like the general who in the day of battle neglects the more responsible duties of commander for the sake of rendering service as a private? Will not the pastor render more valuable service in the capacity of a supervisor, or director, making efficient the labors of many, rather than by enteiing the field as an individual laborer? Is it not a wicked perversion of the ordinance of God to take ministers from the sacred work of their pulpits and pastorates to do the work of gathering, and ofttimes of begging funds from the very ones who should come of themselves and pay the debt which they have contracted and promised to pay? Are they not Christ's embassadors rather than the people's beggars? Are they not sent to preach the everlasting gospel, to reclaim the lost, to perfect the saints, to edify the body of Christ? And is it right that they should be turned from this high and holy work to that of circulating a subscription, or soliciting funds?
*Rev. John Abbott French, in "Giving in Hard Times." pastor's part in the work. 57
But there are other questions also which enter into the consideration. If there is no one else to cany the subscription and act the part of solicitor, shall the pastor refuse to perform the duty and allow the cause to fail? Is not the minister as much responsible for the success of the financial as the spiritual interests of the church? If the ranks are breaking, and men are scattering, may not the situation require the commander to vide to the very front, and assuming the duties of the rank and file, become an inspiration to his host? If the people have failed to discharge their duty to God, may it not be because their duty has not been fully and forcibly presented? If the church has falen into the pit, who could more appropriately help it out, than the minister? Was not Peter, when he went fishing to secure money to pay taxes, as truly and fully in Christ's service, as when he "lifted up his voice" on the day of Pentecost?
These and many other questions present themselves upon either side. Our own course has been, never to allow the cause to fail for want of some one to go ahead and do this arduous and unpleasant work. The question is a difficult one, and no definite rule can be prescribed. In earnest prayer, relying upon God to determine the question of duty, each one must seek divine direction.