Could We Be Muzzling The Ox
By Gary Erickson
A muzzle is a device that holds the mouth shut. It has been used for generations to prevent an animal from biting or eating. Under the law of Moses muzzling an ox while he worked treading the grain was forbidden. “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn” (Deuteronomy 25:4). To do so would show cruelty and disrespect toward the ox that worked so faithfully for the farmer. Paul referred to this Old Testament law when teaching the church about supporting the ministry (I Corinthians 9:9). He makes it clear that a minister can be supported full time by benevolent believers who care about the minister’s well being.
Proper support for the ministry was brought fresh to my attention recently. The phone rang and a children’s evangelist was on the other end of the line. “I won’t be able to come in today for the appointment,” she said. “I’m stuck in a traffic jam and my van has over-heated. 1’11 have to get help.” Thinking I might be able to diagnose the problem I asked, “How old is the van?” She explained that the van was about seven years old and had been driven 285,000 miles. She continued to explain how they had attempted to purchase another one, but the bank was reluctant to loan them money since their income was so low and inconsistent.
A few days later I spoke with her husband and asked him some personal questions about their travels around the country. He told me that during the previous year his gross income for he and his wife was $4.80 per hour each (based on a forty hour work week). From that income they had to pay all of their ministry related expenses—gas, oil, insurance, maintenance, license, motels, food on the road, and all of their ministry aids such as puppets, costumes, balloons, visual aids, and so forth.
These people are not upstart children’s evangelists. They are one of the most widely used children’s evangelistic teams in our fellowship and have been on the field for several years. Both resigned good paying jobs with great benefits, sold their home (in order to be debt free), and entered full-time evangelistic ministry. They did it because they have a burden for our children.
We have no formal guidelines concerning the financing of revivals and evangelists. Pastors do not make con-tracts with their evangelists. When an evangelist is invited to a church, he simply comes without a question of remuneration. This is the arrangement we have always used. The evangelist comes to a church with the hope he will be taken care of. It breaks my heart to hear the unfortunate stories of poverty among our friends in ministry.
The following tips might help pastors do a better job of supporting the children’s evangelist.
The evangelist will have times when he cannot work—General Conference, camp meetings, holidays, as so forth. It is difficult to find temporary work; besides, they need to attend major meetings to get bookings. During these down times the expenses continue.
I had a pastor tell me when I was an evangelist, “I never pay an evangelist less than what I make.” Since he was a full time pastor with a comfortable income, that was a good policy. Nevertheless, in some situations even that is not adequate. Years ago, when I pastored a home mission church, I paid the evangelist more, much more, than I made. We planned ahead and raised money for the revival. We did not want to take advantage of the speaker just because we were small. His expenses did not change just because he was preaching for a small church.
Taking into account the distance the evangelist traveled to get to our churches is a considerate gesture. Each year the IRS approves a mileage allowance which provides a good rule of thumb. Certain evangelists have explained that some pastors will pay airfares but ignore the expenses of long drives. If the distance was great, they probably have a motel bill and food expenses also. These things are important for the pastor to consider.
We have many generous pastors and churches in our fellowship. I know of churches that have purchased their evangelist a new automobile, and others have made large down payments on the purchase of a travel trailer. For the churches that have that kind of financial strength, this is a wonderful gift to the kingdom of God. If you can, do something special for the struggling evangelist. You will make an enormous impact on the kingdom of God.
Children’s evangelism is a specialized ministry that requires extra paraphernalia—puppets, stages, costumes, balloons, tricks, musical instruments, and so forth. The evangelist has to make these purchases out of his own pocket. Some of these items are dispensable and have to be purchased repeatedly. Other items wear out from repeated use.
I have had children’s evangelist tell me that they rarely see some pastors during the children’s revival. I must say, it is commendable that a pastor would host a children’s revival. Nevertheless, it is obvious that some do not consider the children on the same level of importance as the adults. In such cases, the children’s evangelist is considered a small fish in the pond and does not garner the same respect as the “big time” evangelist. One evangelist told me that the assistant pastor took them to dinner and explained that the pastor took the “big time” evangelist and that he got to entertain the others. It seems some suffer from the same flaw as the disciples. They attempted to brush the children aside for more important matters for which they received a stunning rebuke from Jesus for their lack of concern for children.
This is an out-standing day for children’s ministry. We have a generation of parents who practically worship their children. Newsweek magazine says that approximately 80 percent of parents plan to put their children in Sunday school or some other type of moral training in the near future. Parents are looking for quality children’s ministry. We hear of churches across the nation that are seeing rapid growth in attendance and experiencing awesome revival due to an emphasis on children’s ministry. If we are to reap this harvest, we must support our children’s evangelists.
Due to this growing need, the General Sunday School Division has created a Children’s Ministry Association to assist this important ministry in our fellowship. Every four years a directory is published and provided to every pastor free of charge. It is our prayer that God will call many more children’s evangelists to this ripe harvest field. We desperately need this specialized ministry!
This article “Could We Be Muzzling The Ox” written by Gary D. Erickson is excerpted from Forward Magazine a July/August 2007 edition.