December 12, 2017

The Ethics of the Evangelist

Jerry Sivnksty

We are going to address a matter that we trust will be pondered over and weighed heavily by our dear friends in evangelism. It is my desire to be a help and an encouragement to these fine men who are proclaiming the wonderful message of God’s Word. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” A man who is a true friend will want to help and encourage his friends.

There is a principle that I first want to establish before we discuss the ethics of the evangelist. It will involve a sequence of verses. First, Proverbs 27:5 says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Second, Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Third, Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend loveth at all times.” Now please follow these verses in the same order as I apply them in an illustration. Let us say that you are a dear friend of mine and you are involved in doing something that is not right. As your friend, I can walk up to you, grab you by the neck, start slapping you across the face, and tell you that what you are doing is not right! And every time I slap you, you will say to me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” This is true friendship! As a friend, I have the right to rebuke you, and your response will be one of sincere love to me because I brought you back to your senses. There was a blind spot in your life, and as a friend I approached you and dealt with it.

What we are going to talk about may seem harsh and very “smiting,” but it is intended to help because that is what a friend will do. Pastors are concerned about the ethics of evangelists they have had in their churches and have voiced their concerns to me. What I am about to relate are accounts of godly pastors who believe it is time that some of these matters be addressed. By the way, these pastors were kind and did not tell me the names of any evangelists.

The first concern is about finances. To be honest with you, it is hard to believe that an evangelist would do this, but here are the true accounts. A pastor related that he had an evangelist and his wife for a week of meetings. When the ushers took up the love offering, the evangelist’s wife followed them out of the auditorium to make sure the ushers took it to the proper people to count it. On the final night of meetings, the evangelist was tied up in conversation with a person, so the pastor walked up to the evangelist’s wife and asked if she would please give the love offering check to her husband. She looked at the check and said to the pastor, “Oh, Pastor, I would be embarrassed to give this check to my husband because of the small amount. … You give it to him.” This is heartbreaking to me! No evangelist should ever put a price on his head—and he should never let his wife follow the ushers with the love offering!

Another pastor told me of an evangelist he had in his church for a week of meetings. On the last night the pastor walked up to the evangelist at the close of the meeting to give him the love offering check. The evangelist looked at the check and exclaimed, “Is this all? Is this all I get? I can’t make it on this amount.” The pastor then said, “Well, I could give you my week’s salary if that would help.” The evangelist accepted that pastor’s weekly salary. That was wrong! That evangelist should have accepted what was given him with a gracious and kind spirit. One of the qualifications for the man of God is found in 1 Timothy 3:3: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre.” Another pastor told me of an evangelist who came to his church who would find out who the wealthy men were in his church. After he left he would write to these businessmen and tell them that he had financial needs. Several pastors told me the same thing and said they would never have those evangelists back.

My dearest friends are evangelists, and I pray that what I am relating will be taken as it is intended. We must be careful not to be guilty of doing such things. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Thus saith the LORD; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” When we put a price on our heads and foolishly hint for financial needs and play up to wealthy individuals, we are trusting in the arm of the flesh. Elisha cursed Gehazi for his deceitfulness in taking two talents of silver and two changes of garments. In 2 Kings 5:26, 27 we read, “And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.”

Most of the evangelists we know are above reproach with their finances. However, if what we have said applies to someone guilty of the above, I would encourage you to fall on your knees and confess this to your Heavenly Father. We all must focus on the teaching of 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Evangelisth Jerry Sivnksty makes his home in Starr, SC.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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