What About A Sponsor?
(Editor's note: We commend this fine statement to the careful reading of all. Brother Williams and his family hope to sail shortly for South Africa. He is determined to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible; consequently has steadfastly refused to let any one church become the centralized "sponsor" of his work to receive and disburse funds from other churches. This is the kind of spirit we rejoice to see. In this attitude, and in such faithful, humble servants of Christ lies the future hope of the church. We pray that conscientious Christians everywhere may rally to the support of Brother Williams and others (there are an increasing number lately) who are seeking to go into mission fields in strict adherence to the New Testament pattern for such work.)
For the past several years there has been increasing debate over the scriptural way or ways of sending and supporting evangelists. Realizing that this problem would directly affect me, I have given a great deal of prayerful study to the scriptures involved. I want nothing more than to do God's will in God's way. Further, I have no desire to indulge in questionable methods when there are ways to do the same thing which involve no question.
I believe, also, that I owe to every one of you a careful explanation of the plan by which I am to be supported and will do my work. All who contemplate helping us should know how this work is to be carried on.
First of all, we know that it is possible for many congregations and individuals to cooperate in the spreading of the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you." (2 Cor. 11:8). He commended the Philippian church for sending to him (Phil. 4:15-16). John commanded Gaius, an individual, to "set forward on their journey" "them that are brethren and strangers" (III John 5-8). Titus was commanded to "set forward Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them." (Titus 3:13). Thus we see that churches and individuals helped in the support of evangelists. I, therefore, feel free to ask the help of both churches and individual Christians in supporting me in preaching the gospel in South Africa.
Again refer back to 2 Cor. 11:8 and you will see that Paul accepted wages from "churches" while he was at Corinth. These wages were sent to him at Corinth. Although he was sent out from the church at Antioch of Syria, these churches were free to help him independent of this church. This example establishes that it is scriptural and right for churches to send wages to an evangelist direct rather than through another church. Therefore, we feel we are on absolutely safe ground in asking that our funds be sent to us directly. No one can charge that this is unscriptural.
What will my relationship be to the churches who support me? Exactly the same to each one. I will have a responsibility to each one of these churches to keep it informed of all that I am doing, of the problems that come up, and of the income I receive. On the other hand, I believe every church has the obligation to determine, in so far as is possible, the faithfulness of me and to keep itself informed concerning the way I conduct myself while being supported by it. The latter will be almost impossible to do personally but can be accomplished by inquiries of other evangelists in the same area as I. I will feel it an indication of real interest for a congregation to make such inquiries. I feel very strongly that every church should do all in its power to know how any evangelist supported by it is conducting himself. Should that evangelist be teaching false doctrine or conducting himself in any way unbecoming to a Christian, then the church has the obligation of attempting to correct him. If this fails, then the congregation should withdraw their support of him and mark him as a false teacher (Rom. 16:17). Every church supporting me has this right and obligation. I pray that every one will feel this responsibility very strongly.
Will I be a "free-lancer?" It depends upon how you define the term. I will, of course, be a member of the congregation in the United States where my membership is from the time of my departure until a congregation is established in Durban. However, since the elders are restricted to the oversight of "the flock of God which is among you" (1 Pet. 5:2), it is not possible for them to exercise oversight over one who is a member of another congregation, regardless of whether or not this congregation has elders. At the same time, I feel keenly the need of being able to counsel with godly elders from time to time. I believe every church supporting me will have such an interest in our work that it will be glad to advise me whenever called upon. I do not want to cut myself off from the wisdom that fine elders can give. I have profited much from the advice of the elders her in The Dalles, and I value such help very highly. I pray that the elders of the churches supporting me will help me in this way.
No one to whom I have spoken has questioned the scripturalness of this plan of support and work. Some have suggested that other ways would be more expedient, but none has said that this is wrong. I am attempting to be honest with myself and with others in this matter. I feel that this method is both scriptural and expedient and that all can cooperate on this basis in good conscience. I believe that every "safeguard" of a preacher's loyalty and honesty that is found in the "sponsoring church" plan is found in this.
I want to spread the gospel in South Africa. I want to do it in the right way. If you know of any reason why the foregoing is unscriptural in any way, do not let a day pass until you let me know about it. May I preach the gospel with every ounce of my strength in the way that is right is my prayer.