Jack Carroll - The New Testament Ministry, Four Questions

Many of you have been asked questions the past year about your preachers.  A number have found it difficult to give satisfactory answers to these questions.  Some have conveyed the impression there are things about the ministry they are not prepared to tell others, and possibly have left the impression in the minds of their friends that this is some kind of a secret or semi-secret fellowship that they have been brought into.  I would like to dispel once and for all any such impressions, so that you will feel absolutely free to answer any questions your friends might ask about God's people or about His servants; for we hold nothing in secret that we are not prepared to tell you, for everything that we teach is to be found within the pages of God's own Word, which are open to all.

I want to talk to you very frankly and freely so that you will know we are anxious to take you into our fullest confidence and tell you all that is in our hearts; for as I grow older I recognize more clearly and fully that our fellowship with, and confidence in each other, depends to a very large extent upon us being absolutely frank and open, so that there is no room for misunderstanding.


I propose to answer four questions that have been asked at different times during the year.  These questions may or may not have occurred to you, but I am anticipating this possibility, and will attempt to answer these four questions.  They are perhaps more practical than spiritual, but it is important that we are clear in our minds with regard to each and all of them.

 

1)  What is the fundamental difference between the New Testament ministry and all other kinds of ministry?

2)  Why do New Testament ministers travel so much?

3)  Why is it necessary for these New Testament ministers who have gone to foreign countries to return on furlough to their home countries?

4)  Where does the money come from which enables the workers to live, to travel to foreign countries, and to return home again on furloughs?

 

You can see that these four questions are very practical, and I will try to answer all of them just as simply and clearly as I can.


First:  "What is the fundamental difference between the New Testament ministry and all other kinds of ministry?"  During the year some of you have received a questionnaire dealing with the New Testament ministry.  A number sent in answers (many which indicated that there were a good many things in connection with the ministry that you were not exactly clear about.)  Therefore, when questioned by your friends you were embarrassed and instead of clearing their minds and satisfying them, your answers tended rather toward irritating them and causing them to feel, "I don't want anything to do with your ministers or with the fellowship into which you have been brought."  The impression given, to a large extent, was that there were certain little secrets connected with the ministry that we wanted to keep to ourselves.  There is nothing so irritating to the average man or woman as to feel they are being deliberately left out of the matter.  If they feel there are things in connection with your religion which you are afraid to talk about, they don't want to have anything to do with it at all.  What I wish to say is intended to encourage you to be absolutely frank and open in speaking to your friends and answering their questions, and to encourage you to do so more helpfully and more scripturally than in the past.


The physical needs of the true ministry and the false are exactly the same.  True ministers need food, clothing, shelter and money.  When the question is asked, "What is the difference between your ministers and ours?" the reply that is usually given is:  "Their needs are the same we admit, but the difference is how their needs are met.  Your preachers take collections; ours don't.  Your preachers preach for a salary; ours don't.  Your preachers appeal for money; ours don't.  Your preachers have homes of their own; ours don't."  While these are differences and are true, and do help to distinguish the false from the true ministry, yet none of them (nor all of them together) give us the actual fundamental difference between the true ministry and the false ministry.


When some of you are asked the question by your friends, "How then do your preachers live?"  the answer you give is, "Our preachers live by faith."  While the answer is true, it still needs a lot of explaining to some people.  Or some of you might say, "The Lord takes care of them."  Both answers are true but they do not give any light to those who are questioning you.  You leave them just as much in the dark as before they asked.  Some have even answered this question with, "I don't know."  I heard of one of our brothers having a discussion with the preacher with whom he had previously been in fellowship, and trying to tell him of the wrongness of his taking up a collection and having a salary of his own.  The preacher turned to his brother and said, "How then do your preachers live?"  This brother answered, "I really don't know."  That wasn't exactly true.  He did know but he did not know exactly how to answer that question.


I was discussing this subject last year before a company of people and asking questions dealing with the New Testament ministry, such as, "How do New Testament ministers live?" etc., when a brother sitting in front of me said, "I have been in this way for seven years and I haven't found out yet."  I was back east a few weeks ago and was told there of a man who approached one of the workers and asked him this question, "I would like to know just how the workers get their clothes and money to travel with."  That man had been professing for fifteen years.


I have been glad to hear of people asking these questions.  It proves that the workers everywhere are slow to discuss this subject.  They would rather leave people absolutely in the dark than to convey the impression that they were selfish in their motives or in their ministry, or that by discussing these things they wanted anything for themselves.


The Old Testament is very clear with regard to how in Old Testament days the priests and the Levites were cared for, and the New Testament is equally clear with regard to how God's servants are taken care of today.  I want to emphasize in answering this first question what to me is the actual and fundamental difference between the New Testament ministry and every other ministry.  Jesus taught that the labourer is worthy of his hire.  That is often quoted to us.  Paul, in I Corinthians 9:14 said, "The Lord hath ordained that they which preach the gospel would live by the gospel."  We make no secret of the fact that, as God's servants and handmaidens, we "live by the gospel."  We are justified in doing so because we have fulfilled the conditions that Jesus laid down in the gospel.  No man is justified in living "by the gospel" apart from fulfilling these conditions.


When your friends ask you the question, "How do your preachers live?" the proper answer is, "Our preachers live by the gospel."  "But," they say, "Our preachers do that too."  Then very gently and with grace you should go on to explain to them that the reason why our preachers "live by the gospel (and we love to make it possible for them to do so), is because they have fulfilled the conditions that Jesus laid down in the gospel for the New Testament ministry--and it is a pleasure to minister to them food, clothing, shelter, and (as a means of exchange) money in His name."  When you answer questions with regard to the New Testament ministry simply, frankly, and without unnecessary reflection upon those whom your friends support, in nine cases out of ten, instead of irritating, you will have enlightened and awakened in them a desire to hear a little of this for themselves.


Jesus labored as a carpenter, and lived by the work of his hands as a carpenter, for 18 years, but for three and one-half years He lived "by the gospel," and got His bread as a preacher of the gospel just as honorably as He did when He was a carpenter.  Jesus did not live on charity.  Those that live on charity give nothing in return.  Jesus always gave them more than He received.  If He accepted hospitality from Matthew, the publican, from Simon, the Pharisee, or from Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, He always gave more than He received.  In this He left for us an example, that we should follow in His steps.


We do not live on charity.  If any of God's professed people came to us and offered us food, clothing or shelter as an act of charity, we would refuse it--for we are not living on charity.  But if they came to us in His name and as an expression of their acceptance and belief in the conditions that justify us to live by the gospel, it is our duty to accept knowing that a cup of water given to one of the least of God's servants will in no wise lose its reward on that day.


Only those who have fulfilled the conditions laid down by Jesus for the New Testament ministry are justified in living by the gospel.  This is the fundamental difference between the ministers that God uses to bring you into the family and Kingdom of God and all other kinds of ministers that we know of in the world today.  What then are the conditions that Jesus laid down in the New Testament, which He expects those to fulfill who want to have a part in this ministry?  I would like to think we are very clear on what it costs our brothers and sisters to go forth into God's great harvest field.  There are no people who demand more sacrifice on the part of those who minister to them than the people of God, and this is scriptural and in line with God's plan.  An article appeared last year in an issue of "Good Housekeeping," written by a professor from Harvard University, entitled, "The Cruel Promises of Jesus."  It rather surprised me to find that this man of the world recognized that a large portion of the teaching of Jesus was applicable only to the ministry, and that it was very difficult to face, and because of the difficulty it had been more or less explained away or watered down until it became absolutely meaningless.


We do not wish to hide from anyone what Jesus taught with regard to the initial step into the ministry.  Not all are called to enter the ministry.  Not all are called to be "bond-servants or handmaidens" of the Lord, but no one can have a part in the ministry without fulfilling the conditions laid down by Jesus in the gospel.  What then are these conditions?  I will present them in the form of a question.  First, "Are you willing, as the very first condition, to have fellowship with Jesus in His poverty?"  In connection with the New Testament ministry there is very real equality.  No one of us makes a greater sacrifice than another.  We make equally the same sacrifice--we each sacrifice all.  It would be very dishonorable for any of us in after-years to suggest that our sacrifice was greater than the sacrifice of the other brother or sister laboring by our side.  In this matter of fulfilling the very first condition there is an absolute equality amongst us--we are all placed on the same level.  In order to illustrate this point, a few years ago three young men volunteered for the work.  All of them were young, and I well remember the scene as they came to us.  They were all sitting in a row and we were questioning them with regard to their purpose.  We asked them if they were willing to fulfill this first condition--to sell all and make themselves poor, and to have fellowship with Jesus in His poverty.  Of course they all said, "Yes."  The first boy said he didn't have very much to sell.  We asked, "What is it?"  He replied, "An old Model T Ford."  We asked him of its worth and he replied, "About $35.00."  We asked the next boy how he stood.  He said he had $150.00 in the bank.  It all had to be scattered so that they would have nothing to go back to.  The first condition laid down by Jesus had to be faced and fulfilled by all.


The second condition had to do with being homeless.  "Are you willing to be homeless for life?"  That is a very serious proposition.  Some of us have been preaching for a good many years, and we are still homeless.  On one occasion a man came to Jesus and said, "I will follow thee."  He volunteered for the work.  Jesus, looking at him, just applied this second condition.  He said, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."  We never hear of that young man going out into the work.  To be homeless for Jesus' sake is a very real thing.  It is just as well for those thinking about filling a place in the ministry to recognize this, for six months after you have left you might suffer from a very common disease--homesickness.  There are those who have been homesick this past year, but Jesus insisted that those who were to have part with Him in the ministry must be prepared to be as homeless as He was, and be able to say, as a minister of the gospel, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."


The third condition is:  "Are you willing to put the claims of the gospel before the claims of your own flesh and blood, living or dead?"  Sometimes when I think upon this, it seems to me to be the most stern of all the conditions Jesus put before candidates for the ministry.  When one man said to Jesus, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father,"  Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their dead."  What He meant to say was, that no man was fit to preach the gospel if the claims of his own flesh and blood, living or dead, were more important to him than bringing the message of Christ to those who were dead in trespasses and sins.  Another man said, "Lord, I'll go, but first suffer me to go home and say goodbye to my friends."  Jesus turned to him and said, "No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven."


Instead of Jesus bringing men and women into the ministry, it would almost seem as though He were trying to prevent them.  Instead of promising them a nice living, good prospects, and lots of time for reading and social fellowship with others, or encouraging them to believe that in the ministry they would climb up in the social scale, He did the exact opposite.  Instead of making it easy for them, He made it hard.  Instead of making it a pleasant thing, He made it the very opposite.  He wanted to test the depth and sincerity of the purpose of those who expressed a wish to have part in the ministry.  Do you appreciate that?


The fourth question is:  "Are you willing to go forth without having any individual, or group of individuals pledged to take care of you, and preach the gospel without money and without price, wherever you have opportunity?"  If we knew that any of us ever lifted a collection, or asked for money, we would immediately see to it that that one would be excluded from our fellowship as a preacher of the gospel.  We are glad to know that throughout the whole world God's servants have been glad and able to go forth in His Name, and are preaching the gospel in many different lands and making that gospel as it was in the New Testament days, without money and without price.  The men and women who are preaching the gospel would scorn the thought--would rather die in their tracks, than leave it open to anyone to suggest that they were selfish or mercenary in their motive or in their ministry.


The fifth question we would ask is in connection with that very verse dealing with the corn of wheat.  "Are you willing to be as the corn of wheat which falls into the ground and dies?"  Are you willing to let death work so that life may be brought to others?  Are you willing to be dead to what is honorable and legitimate for others?


The sixth question is:  "How far are you willing to go in preaching the gospel?"  It would be nice if we could remain in California forever--where the sun is always shining.  When Jesus called men into his harvest field He would accept none who would set any limits to their ministry.  Whenever we become settled or rooted in any field, sooner or later death begins to work.  There was no such thing as a fixed or settled ministry in New Testament days.  None of us are in any State for life.  There must be a willingness to accept and obey the commission Jesus gave to His disciples, "Go ye forth unto all the world teaching all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost."


There is another question we sometimes ask those who are desirous of going forth.  "Are you willing to go with any of your brethren?"  Those who have the responsibility for arranging this matter look upon it very seriously, and do not lightly undertake the arranging year after year of those who labor together.  When the Lord sent out the first twelve, He did not do it lightly.  When He sent the seventy out later, He did not do that lightly either.  When others later went out in His name this was not looked upon as a light matter, and we would like to say that it is the custom of those who have this responsibility to seek for the wisdom of God and His guidance, so that during the year the labor of God's servants may "turn out unto the furtherance of the gospel."


Only those who have fulfilled the conditions which I have enumerated are justified in living by the gospel.  But, those who, having fulfilled these conditions, are preaching the gospel earn their bread just as honorably as those who work with their hands at their different trades, for no servant of God lives on charity.  They are worthy of their hire, and it comes to them in God's appointed way.


We are not ashamed of the fact that Jesus lived by the gospel.  We are not ashamed to teach others to live by the gospel, and we are not ashamed to proclaim to the whole world that we live by the gospel, and the reason we are justified in living by the gospel is that we have fulfilled the conditions laid down in the gospel.  Some of us were having a little discussion some months ago, and the question was raised by one of the workers, "How much should we tell in gospel meetings about how we live as ministers of the gospel?"  Someone answered, "We shouldn't tell them everything."  I take the opposite view, and said, "I am prepared to tell them everything."  If a man asked me any question regarding the ministry and desired an answer, I am prepared to give him that answer, and to prove it from the scriptures that my answer is according to the teachings and example of Jesus.


Question No. 2:  "Why do the New Testament ministers travel so much?"  They seem to be always going somewhere.  When Jesus was preaching in a certain city in Galilee, the people of that city wanted Him to settle down and remain in their midst He said, "I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent."  The reason the workers travel so much is because they could not be New Testament ministers if they did not.  Jesus did not say, "Stay and preach," but rather, "Go and preach."  His commission was, "Go ye into all the world and teach all nations."  The New Testament ministry is essentially a traveling ministry.  There are those in the church who assume a little responsibility, whom we speak of as elders, men who live in their own homes and are settled down, but the ministry I am speaking of is a moving ministry, and it could not be the New Testament ministry apart from this.


The third question:  "Why is it necessary for workers who have gone to foreign fields to return home again after a period of years abroad?"  I heard of a man sometime ago who, after meeting, said to another man, "I'm very glad Jack explained that to us this afternoon.  I used to think of it as an unnecessary expense for the workers to go abroad and spend several years there and then come back again."  He was looking upon it from a viewpoint of dollars and cents.  It is just as necessary for workers to return to us as it was for them to go forth from us.  No worker now in the region beyond was sent there by any other worker, or by any group of workers.  There is no group of workers that I know of that would assume that responsibility.  Those who are in different fields in China, Japan, India, all over Europe, and all over Africa are not there because any one of us sent them.  They are there because God moved upon their hearts and caused them to lift up their eyes to behold the fields white unto harvest.  He awakened an interest in their hearts in people in other lands and so moved upon them that they expressed the desire of their hearts to launch out a little further into the deep, and if we had any part in their going it was in deciding their qualifications.  Many have volunteered to go whose health would not justify them going.  Many have expressed a wish to go who we would never think of encouraging to go.  Those who have gone are there by their own choice.  They can have the glad assurances that God sent them there, and when the devil discourages them, they can fall back on this thought--"I am not here because any individual sent me, but I am here because God moved upon my heart and by my choice I am seeking to carry out His work in this land."  We would not like any servant of God to lay his hands upon any brother and presume to say, "You go here or you go there."  It would indicate we were out of God's plan if we presume to do so.


Why is it necessary for workers to come back to us as it is for them to go from us?  First, for the sake of their health.  That in itself should be sufficient.  Some live under conditions which are not conductive toward health or longevity, and it would be a cruel thing if we were satisfied to leave them there to live or die.  So, for the sake of their health, it is necessary for them to come back for a change.  The second reason is that most of them have fathers and mothers whom they love, and who would like to see them and whom they would like to see.  This is not a human fellowship.  It is a spiritual fellowship, but it does have its human side as well as its spiritual side.  There are fathers and mothers who have boys and girls in foreign lands, laying down their lives for Christ's sake, and those children are interested in their parents.  They look forward, after spending a reasonable time in these foreign lands, to returning home again to tell the story of their labors to those whom they love.  The third reason is that all of them were tried and tested before they left.  They have friends in the gospel for whom they are still responsible, whom they would like to see and who would like to see them.  The fourth reason, and the most important, is that it is necessary for the unity of the people of God.  This fellowship that is ours is more wonderful to me the older I get.  Here we are, a body of people absolutely unorganized, a puzzle and a mystery to the world.  They are prepared to leave us alone, and we are content to be left alone.  We are satisfied to be as the mustard tree--a shrub in a man's backyard to which no one gives very much attention.  God's method for uniting and holding His people together in one is by the coming and going of His bond-servants and handmaidens.  The constant coming and going, their traveling from one state to another, from country to country, and from continent to continent contributes to the fulfillment of the purpose of God in uniting His people into one family, one fold, one fellowship, and one Kingdom, so that we can truly say, "We are one in Christ."  Our brethren in South America have asked me to come down and visit them.  I don't think it is going to be a pleasure trip by any means.  I don't intend to make it a pleasure trip.  My purpose in going is to help link our brethren in South America to their brethren in North America--to endeavor to add a little to the foundation that has been laid by others, and to build upon that foundation--not wood, hay, and stubble, but gold, silver, and precious stones. 

           

Those who have read the book of Acts will have noticed how little groups of God's servants were continually on the move, going from one country to another, from Europe to Asia.  It seems to me that this was God's simple and wonderfully wise way of uniting His people, so that regardless of their race or nationality, color or language, they would be one people and that, in a measure at least, there would be answered that prayer of Jesus on that last night of his life, that "They might all be one in Him."  When we welcome one of our brothers from China, Japan, and other countries, their coming will awaken in us a new interest in those countries.  Those who have gone to other countries and returned to us will bring Sweden, Norway, etc., a little closer to us, and make us feel that we are indeed one family and one fellowship, striving together for the extension of the same Kingdom.


Question No. 4, "Where does the money come from that enables the workers to live, to travel and to return?"  When you talk about the workers coming and going, your friends tell you all this takes money--and it does.  When they ask you where it comes from, you probably say, "The Lord provides it."  Buy why not tell them plainly, just where it does come from?  It comes from you.  Money, as a means of exchange, is used to enable workers to live, travel, etc., and it comes as the spontaneous, unsolicited, free-will offering of God's children.  You don't minister in this way because you have to, or are solicited to.  If you don't love to do it the Lord doesn't accept it, and we wouldn't either if we knew.


When workers go forth, they get rid of everything they possess.  Money thus surrendered is scattered so that it can never be theirs again.  It is gone for good, and it is used to minister to our brethren abroad, or to bring them back from the foreign field, or to send others there.  Occasionally God's children, who set their affairs in order, and whom the Lord takes home, remember individual workers with the gift of money, or sometimes they leave them a piece of property, but that money is scattered in the furtherance of the gospel, and that property is sold and the money it brings is scattered in the way, so that no gift can ever enrich any individual worker.


When you are asked, then, by your friends, "What is the fundamental difference between our ministry and every other?" I hope you will feel free to be frank and open with them, so that you won't convey the impression that this is some kind of a secret society you are in.  We teach nothing in private that we are not prepared to proclaim from the housetops to all men.  Everything we teach can be read by all men in the pages of God's own book.