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Rev. Kuiper os pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Randolph, Wisconsin. Previous article in this series: February 1, 2009, p. 199.

I digress.

My articles in this rubric focus on the office of deacon. The deacons’ work is to care for the poor and the needy. In various ways, but primarily by putting money in the collection plate when the collection for benevolence is taken, the congregation supports the work of the deacons.

So the support of the ministry of the gospel by contributing to the General and Building Funds of a congregation differs from the support of the work of the diaconate. Even though the men who take the collections for the support of the gospel ministry are usually deacons, they take these collections not because it is a work that pertains to their office, but on behalf of the church’s council, which oversees the financial and earthly aspects of the ministry of the gospel.

But I digress with a purpose.

First, having just finished considering the congregation’s calling to support her deacons by giving to the Benevolent Fund, we consider now the question of the extent to which the principles we discussed apply to other aspects of our giving.

Second, the subject is timely because, at the time of this writing, congregations have just held their annual meetings and approved their annual budgets. Perhaps one man voted against it, thinking he could not and would not pay his equal share. Perhaps another voted for it, supposing that the congregation would easily raise the necessary monies, but not considering his own obligation to pay his part of the budget.

So the questions arise: Is it the obligation of the congregation to support the ministry of the gospel? Is this the obligation of each member of the congregation? And is it the obligation of each member to support this work equally, so that the “per family” rate of the budget is not merely a guideline for giving, but an assessment or obligation laid upon each family or individual to give the specified amount?

In this and a future article, God willing, we will demonstrate that the answer to each of these questions must be “Yes.”

What the support of the ministry of the gospel involves

In speaking of the support the ministry of the gospel, we specifically have in mind financialsupport. It is true that the support of this ministry includes the godly encouragement of the minister (Col. 4:17), prayers for the minister (Eph. 6:19), and other tokens of love and expressions of honor. But for our present purpose, the support of the ministry of the gospel involves contributing financially to the funds out of which the church pays her bills.

This support of the ministry of the gospel involves, but is not limited to, the support of the minister of the gospel. Without question, the work of the minister is an essential aspect of the ministry of the gospel, so that to support the ministry of the gospel includes paying the minister’s salary. But the support of the ministry of the gospel also involves provision for pulpit supply, in the case of a vacant congregation, or in the event the minister is absent. And the support of the ministry of the gospel properly involves supporting the cause of evangelism, which is the ministry of the gospel to those near the congregation geographically, but outside it.

Added to this, the support of the ministry of the gospel involves providing a place to worship. Whether the church’s worship place is owned or rented, having a place to worship is essential to the ministry of the gospel. So the paying of rent or mortgage, utilities, and janitor’s wage is part of the support of the gospel ministry.

Then, the ministry of the gospel includes the work missionaries do on behalf of our churches; the work of the professors in our seminary; the support of students for the ministry; the publication of catechism books and Psalters; and other similar endeavors that the churches in common undertake.

In sum, the support of the of

gospel ministry involves contributing to what we in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America commonly call the “General Fund” and, in those congregations in which such a fund is found in addition to the General Fund, the “Building Fund”—for out of these funds the ministry of the gospel is supported.

The congregation’s obligation to support this ministry

That the congregation is obligated to support the ministry of the gospel is hardly a debatable issue. She must do so.

None other may. The spiritual right and authority to pay the ministers’ salaries, support the denominational causes of missions and training of ministers, and provide and maintain a building in which the church may worship belong to the church alone. The authority and responsibility to do so does not fall to society as a whole, nor to civil government. The reader who is familiar with the concept of a state church, and with the history of Protestant churches in Europe in the centuries following the great Protestant Reformation, knows the dangers of permitting the civil government to support the ministry of the gospel. If civil government supports the gospel ministry, civil government may also, and will also, govern the gospel ministry—a prerogative that God assigns only to the church, and that the church exercises through the office of elder.

Let us not quickly pass over this point. Such will be the relationship of the political entity of antichrist’s kingdom to the religious entity of the false church, that either the church will rule the state, or the state will rule the church, or a combination of both. In fact, God assigns authority to civil government in civil matters, and to church government in spiritual matters. Any attempt of the government to help support the ministry of the gospel must be rejected. No matter how appealing the offered support might be, no matter how poor the church, no matter what she finds herself unable to do because of limited resources, the church may not receive financial support from the civil government.


That the support of the ministry of the gospel is the obligation of the congregation herself is the teaching of the Scriptures.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to bring their tithes, their freewill offerings, and their half-shekels for the support of the ministry of the gospel as carried out in the tabernacle and temple.

When Jesus sent out His disciples by twos, and later the seventy, He told them to provide “neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt. 10:9-10; and cf. Luke 10:4, 7).

The apostle Paul reminded the church of this in I Corinthians 9:14, saying that “the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” and gave this as a reason why it would not be improper for him to cease working, and expect his support from the church. He grounded his reasoning in the law of God: “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn” (Deut. 25:4 as quoted in I Cor. 9:9).

From the viewpoint of the minister’s right to such support, I Corinthians 9:6-14 teaches that the church must support the ministry of the gospel. In I Timothy 5:17-18, Paul teaches the same from the viewpoint of thechurch’s obligation, again quoting Deuteronomy 25:4: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith….”

Reformed churches have historically understood the support of the gospel ministry to be the calling of the congregation. Any practice to the contrary has been a departure from the stated and confessional position of Reformed churches. The Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, in drawing up the Church Order that Reformed churches have used since, stated in Article 11 of that document: “On the other hand, the consistory, as representing the congregation, shall also be bound to provide for the proper support of its ministers….”


The reason why this calling falls to the congregation is simply this, that she is the beneficiary of the ministry of the gospel.

Spiritually, this is so. God commands the church to support the ministry, because He has provided the ministry of the gospel for her benefit. Insofar as the gospel is administered, the members of the church are strengthened in faith, and defended and preserved from spiritual dangers. Society does not benefit from such; civil government does not; true believers benefit from the ministry of the gospel.

Even from an earthly viewpoint, this is so. As a business man hires employees to help him in his business, and thus obligates himself to support them, so the church calls a pastor to preach to her, sends out missionaries, and calls men to be professors in her seminary, thus obligating herself to support these men.

The obligation of every member

Is it sufficient that the congregation as a whole supports this work, or is every member of the congregation required to support it individually? The latter is the case. None may justify withholding his own support of the gospel ministry by saying that, in the end, the bills will be paid without his help.

In saying that this is the obligation of every member, I recognize that minor children and wives or mothers who devote all their time and energy to the home are unable to support the gospel ministry by their own earnings. Our churches recognize this, too, by the common practice of assessing a “per family” rate for the General and Building Funds. But the wife and minor children are represented by the father and husband; when the head of household supports the ministry of the gospel, he does so on behalf of every member of his household.

In saying that this is the obligation of every member, then, we mean it is the obligation of every head of household, and of every other mature individual such; civil government does not; true believers benefit from the ministry of the gospel.

Even from an earthly viewpoint, this is so. As a business man hires employees to help him in his business, and thus obligates himself to support them, so the church calls a pastor to preach to her, sends out missionaries, and calls men to be professors in her seminary, thus obligating herself to support these men.

The obligation of every member

Is it sufficient that the congregation as a whole supports this work, or is every member of the congregation required to support it individually? The latter is the case. None may justify withholding his own support of the gospel ministry by saying that, in the end, the bills will be paid without his help.

In saying that this is the obligation of every member, I recognize that minor children and wives or mothers who devote all their time and energy to the home are unable to support the gospel ministry by their own earnings. Our churches recognize this, too, by the common practice of assessing a “per family” rate for the General and Building Funds. But the wife and minor children are represented by the father and husband; when the head of household supports the ministry of the gospel, he does so on behalf of every member of his household.

In saying that this is the obligation of every member, then, we mean it is the obligation of every head of household, and of every other mature individual

ministry of the gospel, because every member benefits from it.

Principles of giving

In an article appearing in the October 1, 2008 issue of the Standard Bearer (p. 13 of this present volume), we examined various principles of giving to the support of the diaconate. Some of these principles apply also with regard to giving to the support of the gospel ministry. We are to give to the support of the gospel ministry in the same manner as we are to give for the relief of the poor: with sincerity and simplicity of heart, willingly and cheer fully, trusting God to supply our needs. The support of the causes of God’s kingdom must be our first priority; we give to these causes, trusting God to put food on our tables and clothing on our backs. Jesus reassured His disciples that God would indeed do so, when He said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). This promise must encourage us to carry out our obligation in supporting the gospel ministry.

But in our October 1, 2008 article, we also addressed the question of how much to give to the relief of the poor. We saw that the Bible teaches that we are to give generously to this cause, but that God permits us to give as He has prospered us. One gives more, having more; another gives less, having less; thus both serve God faithfully in their support of the work of the deacons.

Is the same true with regard to the gospel ministry? Every member of the church must support this cause; but must all do it equally, or may each give a different amount, as God has prospered him?

This question we will answer next time, God willing.