Tag Archives: Carolina Messenger

Editorial: Good Stewardship, Financial Report, Coming Soon Next Year (November/December, 2014) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

The Carolina Messenger has seen some changes over the past year. Several sound brothers in Christ were added to the board of directors: Michael Grooms, Steve Miller, Michael Morton, and Spencer Strickland. Terry Wheeler turned the chairmanship of the board over to Paul Kirkpatrick before leaving the Carolinas to pursue a good work in Florida, and we all wish him and his family the best. David Pharr retired as editor after many years of serving the publication in that role, and the board as well as our readership thanks him wholeheartedly for a job well done. After several months of Paul Kirkpatrick and myself serving as interim editors, the board recently asked me to serve as the publication’s new editor. It’s a privilege to take on this responsibility, one for which I am very grateful.

Under brother Pharr’s guidance as editor, the Carolina Messenger taught and edified many souls in the Carolinas and beyond due to his decision to publish articles written by sound men who taught biblical truth in a loving, balanced manner. I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2, ESV).   “Stewards” comes from the Greek word oikonomos, and is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon in part as “a manager, superintendent.” David Pharr’s work as editor of this paper was the epitome of good, trustworthy stewardship, and my hope and goal is to follow in his footsteps by managing this paper in such a way that it continues to lovingly proclaim sound, balanced truth that will convict, encourage, edify, and admonish as needed. I ask for your prayers that our Lord helps me to do a good job so that his name and kingdom are glorified.

The scriptural principle of good stewardship applies not only to the work of Paul and his fellow workers, nor solely to those of us who preach and teach God’s Word from the pulpit or on the printed page. Christ’s parable of the talents as recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches all Christians about the need of good stewardship over the abilities and opportunities our Master has placed before us in order to be fully prepared for the day he comes again. The three servants of were each given “according to his ability” varying amounts of “talents,” extremely large sums of money. The two servants who had each received a plurality of talents “went at once and traded with them,” doubling the amount originally given to them and thereby proving themselves to be “good and faithful” stewards or managers of what had been entrusted to them. However, the third servant who had been given a single talent “went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money,” thus proving himself to be a “wicked and slothful” steward in the eyes of his master, who upon returning and hearing of his poor stewardship “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”

Christians, our Lord and Savior has entrusted with us the responsibility of being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The need for us to be trustworthy stewards of this responsibility is very great.

Within the Lord’s church several deride and reject the concept of “follow(ing) the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) and “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4), “draw(ing) away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Indeed, more and more seem to be ignorant of even the basic teachings found in the sacred writings. Even among those of us who wish to uphold sound doctrine regardless of what persecution may come, a decidedly noticeable apathy exists when it comes to being as evangelistic and spiritual as God calls us to be. This issue lists some of the problems facing the church from within along with some of the ways all of us can easily bring the saving power of the gospel to more people.

Yet in spite of these obstacles, the church of Christ still stands, and will continue to stand regardless of these problems (Matt. 16:18; 24:35). Moreover, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” continues to be found “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-4), i.e., in his body which is his church (vs. 22-23). The Lord’s church continues to be a blessing especially for those who are a part of her, as this issue will also bring out.

The reason we as the church of Christ continue to experience these blessings from God comes from the power of his grace and providence, but also because of those of us who respond to his grace as he instructs us to do (Tit. 2:11-14). When we “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” and “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives,” we are proving ourselves to be trustworthy stewards of the privileges and responsibilities God has entrusted to us. When we “do good to everyone,” especially by bringing them the saving power of the gospel of God (Gal. 6:10; Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16), we are good managers of what God has given to us and God uses us to be a blessing to many. However, we join the ranks of those with poor, untrustworthy stewardship when we allow ignorance, apathy, and worldliness to dominate our lives and hearts.

Paul, whom we are told to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1), was a good steward of what God had given him. As 2014 ends and 2015 dawns, let us likewise work to be found trustworthy in the management of our own God-given responsibilities as Christians. — Jon

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The board of directors and the writers of the Carolina Messenger would like to thank each of you for reading this publication. We also thank all of the congregations and individual Christians who financially supported our work this year. Without your generous contributions we would not be able to use this publication to bring the saving truths of God’s Word to so many in the Carolinas, the United States, and abroad. As many of you know, this publication is given free of charge to any who subscribe, and all who write for the paper do so without cost to the publication. We depend on the generosity of you, our readers, to be able to continue to print this paper and mail it to our subscribers. As 2014 ends and many churches, families, and individuals plan their monetary budgets for 2015, we ask that each of you consider contributing toward the support of the Carolina Messenger so we can continue to produce this publication for the benefit of the kingdom.

Below is the latest financial report of the Carolina Messenger (4/8/14-10/31/14):

Church contributions

Duncan, Wildwood, Mauldin, West Walker, Concord, Corinth, Charlotte Ave, Cape Fear, Meadowbrook Road, Cornelius: $3700.00

Individual contributions: $622.00

Total contributions: $4322.00

Expenditures

Bates Printing: $7226.34

Labels: $359.88

Accuzip: $1590.00

P.O. Box: $56.00

New checks: $26.85

Total expenditures: $9259.07

The Carolina Messenger currently has a balance of $9558.43 in our checking account. As our long-time readers know, we used to be able to produce 11 issues per year, but recently have had enough funds to produce only 7 issues in 2014. Our monthly expense to produce those 7 issues is about $922.00. The board of directors and many of our readers would like to be able to return to producing 11 issues per year. In order to do so and also pay postage, labeling, and banking costs, we need your help.

Please use the enclosed envelope to contribute to the Carolina Messenger and help the gospel reach more souls throughout this land while edifying your brethren in Christ. Again, thank you so much for your support. — Jon

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COMING SOON NEXT YEAR…

The Carolina Messenger is not the only thing that has seen change in recent days. Christians have watched our society undergo numerous changes in the past year or so, not all of them for the better. The religion of Islam has gathered much attention recently from the terrible, murderous actions of ISIS overseas. In our own country, we have been saddened to see the sinful abomination of homosexuality become increasingly accepted by more in our culture, even among those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. Many among our brotherhood struggle to cope with these realities along with problems, and questions which Christians have faced for decades.

The mission of the Carolina Messenger is to teach God’s Word in love and in an understandable, balanced way that not only opposes error but also instills habits of thought which promote godly morality and Christian character. Thus, we will publish in 2015 articles that give a balanced, biblical approach to the following topics:

  • The need for evangelism
  • The religion of Islam
  • Christian apologetics
  • Works of the flesh
  • How to contribute to unity
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Godly leadership
  • Godly marriages
  • Avoiding foolishness
  • Lessons our youth need to know
  • Proper perspectives on prayer
  • How to react to persecution
  • The Christian’s involvement in politics
  • Spiritual gifts
  • And much, much more!!

We hope you continue to read and ask for your continued prayers that the Lord bless in 2015 both the Carolina Messenger, his church worldwide, and his disciples and their families. Lord willing, see you next year!! — Jon

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DON’T MISS THIS!!

The 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship

Saturday, March 14, 2015

9 AM to 3 PM

Location: Gold Hill Road Church of Christ, Fort Mill, SC

Questions? Call the Charlotte Avenue congregation at 803-327-7853 or email charlcoc@comporium.net or drpharr@msn.com

—AND—

The 71st Annual

Carolina Lectures

April 5-8, 2015

Theme:  “What The Church Needs”

Location: Duncan Church of Christ, 1234 S. Danzler Road, Duncan, SC

Questions?

Call the Duncan

congregation at 864-439-9263 or email

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

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The Editor’s Page – David R. Pharr, Editor

When I became editor of Palmetto Messenger in 1997 I would not have imagined that I would hold that place for seventeen years.  (In 1999 the name was changed to Carolina Messenger.)  With this issue I have decided to pass the responsibility to another.  With only a few exceptions, there has been a deadline to meet month after month and I have decided to take a rest.  The board of directors has selected Paul Kirkpatrick to continue the paper as interim editor.  Brother Kirkpatrick is the able preacher for the Warners’ Chapel Church of Christ in Clemmons, North Carolina, and is the Director of the N.C. School of Biblical Studies.  The board is determined for the publication to continue.  In view of our current financial situation the schedule for now will continue to be six issues per year.  The purpose and principles have not changed.  From the beginning the purpose has been to apply the instructions of 2 Timothy 4:2.  “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

Much gratitude is due to those who have cooperated in this endeavor:  members of the board (past and present), writers who have contributed articles, the late Oscar Craft and Jerry Craft as business managers, Michael Jordan in charge of mailing lists, and Jimmy Bates of Bates Printing Company, which prints and mails the copies.  It has been a fellowship of good work.  Of course our efforts have been supported by individuals and congregations who provided the funds.

Over the years we have received many notes of appreciation and encouragement and we are grateful for every kind word.  There has also been criticism.  When it has been constructive, it has been appreciated.  When it has been in opposition to biblical principles we have espoused, we have not been dissuaded.

Though for several months I have been doing most of the preaching at the Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, my intention is to be retired from full-time work.  I will continue to do some writing and to preach as there are opportunities.

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Salute to Jerry Craft

Our faithful and efficient treasurer and business manager has decided to resign.  Jerry Craft has been in this position since 2005.  His brother Oscar Craft had managed the business aspect of the paper since the paper was started.  At the time of Oscar’s passing, we knew we needed someone who would show the same diligence.  Accordingly, Jerry was added to the board of directors and asked to serve as Treasurer.  Jerry’s efficient work has provided perfect financial records and has kept us on track in meeting our obligations.  As a member of the board he has been a keen adviser.  As a brother in Christ he has been a faithful encourager.  In whatever good the paper has accomplished, Jerry Craft has been an essential part.  We are grateful for his unselfish service.

— The Board of Directors

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Men’s Fellowship

March 8, 2014 is the date for the 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship.  This is a one-day lectureship with the purpose of encouraging men from churches of Christ over the Carolinas (and from a few other states.)  It is a day of strong Scriptural messages, tremendous singing, and visiting.  The Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, continues to host this gathering and provides a barbeque lunch.  There is no need for advance registration, no charge for attending, and no collection is taken.  Last year’s attendance was over 600.

In the first years the program was held in the Charlotte Avenue building.  Later it was moved to a public school building, then for a few years has been in the larger facilities of the Gold Hill Road Church of Christ in Ft. Mill, SC.  It is a cooperative effort with the Rock Hill congregation providing the program and the Ft. Mill congregation providing the location.

The keynote speaker this year will be Gary Hampton from Jacksonville, Mississippi.  Brother Hampton is the author of several books and was formerly the Director of East Tennessee School of Preaching.  One thing that differs from many lectureships is that several speakers are included, but very limited in the amount of time allowed.  The brief time between speeches is used for singing.

It is sometimes asked why this is designed only for men.  There is no reason except it is thought to be expedient and it has been successful in bringing together so many men from so many places.  Some lectures have been of particular application to men and boys.  Every message is intended to strengthen faith and to encourage steadfastness.  Opportunity is also provided to browse displays and bookstore selections.

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There was a warm fire in the courtyard where Peter was.  His surroundings were more pleasant than those in the building where Jesus was on trial.  Great issues were at stake, but Peter was not concerned about them.  He was thinking of his own welfare.

How many people today are willing to wait until the battle is fought before they are willing to identify themselves with the cause involved?

— Leslie G. Thomas, Another Hundred Sermons

The Faith Once Delivered – J.T. Wheeler

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  (Jude 3)

We have the truth.  And we have to fight for the truth.  Evil men hinder the truth (Rom. 1:18).  Righteous men spread the truth (Eph. 4:15).  Why is this corpus of revelation, this presentation of supernatural reality, this thing called the faith – why is it so important to us?

The Heavenly Body of Truth

Did you know that, before any word of Scripture was set pen to paper, the Message was enshrined in the holy halls of heaven?  It is true.  The Bible speaks of there being books in heaven (Rev. 20:12).  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89; see also Ps. 56:8 and 139:16).  Before Ezekiel was to write or speak a word, he had to consume the heavenly volume containing the message he would deliver to the Jewish refugees (Ezek. 2:8-10).  In the New Testament, the apostle John was told to do the same (Rev. 10:8-11).  Daniel, before he wrote down his final vision and interpretation, was told by the heavenly messenger, “But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth” (Dan. 10:21a; notice also Dan. 7:10).

That the New Covenant, or Testament, was established in heaven first is seen in Hebrews 10:7, 10, and in Acts 2:23.  Think about it.  If the covenant had to first be written down by men before it would be real to men, then Peter would have had nothing to say that first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, certainly nothing authoritative; for nothing of the New Testament was written on earth at that time.  And nothing would be written, as far as our Scripture is concerned, until around fifteen years later.  So the New Testament had to exist, real and in force, before Peter and the other apostles opened their mouths as authoritative messengers of this covenant.

Catholicism states that the Church as they understand it gave us the New Testament.  But we should see clearly that the church did not originate or even authorize any canon as God’s Word.  Such is beyond the ability of men (Matt. 16:19).

Did the New Testament exist in its fullness in the time of the acts of the apostles?  If not, what authority – what covenant – were the apostles demanding allegiance to (Acts 2:42)?  What would be the efficacy of the blood of Christ that the church would celebrate the first day of every week (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25)?  The Old Covenant ceased to be in force after the crucifixion of Christ (Col. 2:14-17).  And John’s ministry certainly concluded its course with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Yet the word, beginning in Acts 2, was preached with authority that validated the New Testament, the testament now in force because the risen Christ was on his throne (Acts 2:32-33; Heb. 9:15-17).

The message of the Bible is from the mind of God.  It is not arbitrary or capricious.  Rather, the Lord our God has graciously revealed what has been established in the will of God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:8-11).  This is good for us, because we could not know these things any other way (1 Cor. 2:7-10).

Delivered by the Miraculous Work of God

This Message was given to men as God chose to deliver it to us.  Speaking of Old Testament concerns, God delivered the revelations as he saw fit, but always with the same end in view (Heb. 1:1-3).  Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The term is verbal, plenary inspiration.  It refers to God giving the writers of Scripture the very words to use to convey the message He was revealing to them (1 Cor. 2:12-13).  Since it is God’s message from God’s mind being revealed and communicated, to think of inspiration in any lesser terms becomes illogical – and certainly unscriptural.  The fact that the Scripture indicates that God used the vocabulary and communicative skills already familiar to the writers shows us God’s gentleness in his use of men (1 Cor. 14:32), but not God surrendering to their understanding of what was to be revealed (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

And now the mind of God has been fully revealed as that mind speaks to our life and godliness (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).  It has been given by the authority of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is the New Testament which now establishes the apostles of Christ as the revealers, interpreters, and guides for all who would follow Christ (2 Cor. 3:3-6; Eph. 3:1-7; Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; 3:10-17).

For All Men of All Time

The Message is for all everywhere, for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), for every creature in this sphere of existence who can believe it and be baptized in obedience to it from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:15-16).  It is for all time, the eternal covenant which will not be abrogated (Heb. 13:20-21).  It will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).  The Message stands with us forever (2 John 2).  It does not matter that the Message is 2,000 years old.  It is as relevant and pertinent to us today as it has ever been (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:15).  It cannot be lost to humanity (though we may ignore it), so it will never need to be re-given to us.  There is no such thing with God as the restoration of revelation.

What Our Disposition Toward It Should Be

Notice that the Message is called the Faith.  That is telling and instructs us as to our response to this wonderful gift from God.  We are to believe it, trust it, be fully convinced of its truth.  Some brethren struggle with whether the word “faith” deals with subjective understanding or objective revelation.  The fact is that, most of the time, it references both.  The fact that the objective revelation from God, known to God from eternity, the fact that this is called the Faith demands that we hold it personally, intimately, subjectively in our own hearts.  The Faith does you no good unless it becomes your faith (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 4:13-25; 10:17).

What to say about this gift that is appropriate, adequate, impressive?

We are able to save our souls from eternal destruction because of this gift.  We can learn a depth of love beyond ordinary human comprehension.  We can commune with the Divine and make his realm our home.  We can see the invisible.  We can know the unknowable.  We can experience the best of the unspeakable.  The past is explained; the present is understandable; the future is relatable.

We can beat our weaknesses and promote our strengths.  We have a clear vision of perfection while we are able to see our own failings.  Community is enhanced while we still hold to individual worth, dignity, and honor.  Circumstances are seen as transient while we understand that real value is in the internal and eternal.

To surround yourself with Bible believers is to touch heaven.  To have a home where the Bible is believed, taught, and celebrated is to know peace, love, enrichment, and empowerment.  Children grow up secure and ready to take hold of challenges, understanding the greater good to be all important, as God himself has defined such.

Freedom is real, but to be used for the good of others.  Everyone gets a hearing but no one gets to control the soul.  With the revelation of God delivered perfect and complete, nothing new is to be feared, because nothing else is allowed authority over the soul (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9).  Peace rules and good advances.  And the Kingdom of God is realized on this earth!

All of this and so much more are found in the wonderful treasures that God has revealed to us in his Holy Bible.  We can know God with it.  We can know how to worship God with it.  We can know what redemption is, what sin is, what righteousness is, what real hope is.

Such a thing cannot be exaggerated.  Such a gift cannot be overstated.  Such a book cannot be spoken about too much.  Oh, the terrible consequences if we were to lose this gift!  The horrible darkness that would enshroud us, the ignorance that would relentlessly beat down on us, the loss of all that could bring good and prosperity to friend and neighbor!

But if we do not appreciate this gift of God’s grace, this divine act of intervention into the affairs of men, this demonstration of love beyond all love, then we will lose the blessings it brings – for ourselves, for our children, for our society.  It has happened before.

Israel lost their focus on God’s revelation and lost great blessings, until at last the word was rediscovered by efforts of reform (2 Kings 22:1-20).  The Great Apostasy occurred with the failure to keep faith with the word of God; and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages until men determined to relearn and re-teach the truth, at the cost of their lives, families, and fortunes.  To honestly think that we can treat such treasure lightly and still keep it is to fool oneself into blindness.

Imagine such a book forgotten on a dusty shelf, trampled as a foot stop, thrown around as a paper weight.  Imagine such a book given less time than is given to an empty TV show or a crass movie.  Imagine children being taught that their secular school work was more important than to study God’s word, or that their job carried more weight than their soul or their God.  Unfortunately, we do not have to imagine, do we?  Such absurd attitudes and declarations are all too familiar in our fellowship.

What would such a treasure demand of us?  What would be the appropriate response to a real revelation from God?  Well, the Bible gives us plenty of historical examples of the wisdom found in those who listened to God and positively responded to him, and the foolishness of those who did not.  In other words, as always, so now, too, when God speaks, we are to listen.  He has spoken, and the Message reverberates to this hour, and will continue to do so, to the end of time and forever more.

charsaint@aol.com

The Minister’s Tax Return – Paul Kirkpatrick

As a minister of the Gospel and a representative of the church where one labors, it is imperative that one maintains his finances above reproach.  One of the areas that few elderships understand and sadly many preachers lack understanding is in the area of 1040’s, W-2’s and the like.  One who serves among churches of Christ needs to know not only the tax advantages for a minister, but also the rules that govern such advantages.  One’s reputation is certainly at stake and there is also that one does not want to start a prison ministry from the inside!

I would encourage elderships and preachers to obtain a tax guide each year to keep up with changes in the tax code.  Publication 517 from the IRS is a free publication.  I ahve relied on B.J. Worth’s Tax Guide for years.  It is very readable, plain, and “user friendly.”  It contains sample W-2’s, 1040’s, Schedule C’s, Schedule A’s, etc.

I would also encourage church representatives/elders and their minister to have a written contract that outlines the minister’s responsibility to the church and the church representatives/elders’ responsibility to the minister.  Included in this contract would be details concerning the minister’s tax details.

Church of Christ Status

A minister of the church of Christ is a dual-status minister.  That means that he is considered an employee of the church for computing income tax to the Internal Revenue Service, and is considered to be self-employed by the Social Security Administration.  In view of this status the minister can ask the church to withhold appropriate amounts from his check or he can elect to exempt from withholding.  It is to the minister’s advantage to elect to be exempt from withholding because many treasurers do not want to be involved in the complexities of ministers’ taxes.  In either case either the treasurer or the minister himself must make quarterly payments.  Social Security payments must be made whether he expects to owe income tax or not.

Parsonage Allowance

In many church/minister compensation packages there is occasionally a house provided and/or utility allowance.  The IRS and the SSA have guidelines governing what expenses can be deductible.  When a house/utility package is not provided (such as when a preacher purchases his own house), the minister is usually afforded a double tax advantage if he itemizes deductions on Schedule A and also excludes the Parsonage Allowance from Box 1 on the W-2.  This reduces taxable income which provides a great deal of savings in taxes.  The SSA says he must also compute the Fair Market Value (rental value) of the house and pay 15.02% of the FMV to the SSA.  This applies to the preacher who receives a house provided by the church.  The SSA views the housing allowance as income.

For the one purchasing a house, the Parsonage Allowance can include the house payment, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, cost of repairs, yard maintenance, furniture and appliances, household supplies, etc.  Records must be kept.  (All actual housing expenses may be included in a housing allowance provided they are actually paid, whether the minister is purchasing the house or not.)  However, the Parsonage Allowance must be estimated in advance and must be recorded in minutes/records of the church.  The best time to create a Parsonage Allowance agreement is at the time of employment or before January 1 of the next tax year.  Adjustments to the amount of Parsonage Allowance must always be in advance.  The housing allowance can be more than will actually be spent, but any overage must be reported as “other income.”

Income

Ministers who work for congregations (as earlier stated) are considered employees of the church.  Money that they receive from that church is considered as income and must be reported on a W-2.  The IRS determines with clear criteria whether a minister is dual-status or self-employed.  Churches cannot assign a status of “self-employed” unless one meets the criteria established by the IRS.  If the church violates this rule, it can be fined and possibly lose its 501(C) tax exemption.

For many years there has been an understanding that the church gives their minister a 1099 and not a W-2.  The rule was changed, I believe, in 1975.  When I preached in South Carolina, the state began to require a state ID number on the W-2.  When I went to inquire at the State Department of Revenue in Columbia, their taxpayer representative told me that I didn’t need this as I should get a 1099.  I argued with him that I was a dual status minister and required a W-2.  When he went to his supervisor he came back and said that I was right!  He had been at this position for eleven years and did not know the requirement.  Thank you, B.J. Worth!

The rule is different if one receives compensation from another church.  We typically pay ministers to come for various reasons such as gospel meetings, VBS adult class teachers, summer series speakers, etc.  The IRS calls this type of compensation an Honorarium.  Dual-status ministers record the amount of Honorarium and insert the amount on Schedule C.  You might have car expenses, gasoline, airline tickets, etc., that might incur that can offset the amount and lower the Self-Employment tax one might pay.

Miscellaneous Deductions & Business Expenses

Again, let me express to you that a good tax guide that specializes in ministers’ taxes and publications from the IRS are essential for you to take advantage of areas where the IRS and SSA allow.  My philosophy about this is that I want to pay the IRS and SSA all that are due them, but not a penny more!

You may be able to deduct/exclude premiums for health insurance, limited amount of insurance premiums, personal liability policies, and business and professional expenses.  You may be able to deduct actual expenses you incur in traveling to hospitals, home visits, etc., but documentation is essential for making these deductions.  If you are ever audited and you do not have documentation for your deductions and allowances, you may face fines and penalties that may go back three years.  Prosecution is not out of the question either.  It is possible for these expenses to be excluded from income and not reported as income on your W-2.  However, there are rules that apply and both the minister and the treasurer must understand the requirements.  Again, it is essential to have professional guidance, such as the book by B.J. Worth mentioned above.

You only have one reputation and trying to “skirt” the rules may have a devastating effect on you and the church you serve.

I had advised preachers to know the “ins and outs” of the tax code that pertains to them just as much as one might study Scripture.  Your eternal life and your reputation depends on it.

Paul@warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org

The Challenge To Grow A Church – Brock Shanks

In the first century, multitudes of people abandoned their lives of sin and wickedness and obeyed the New Testament pattern (Acts 2:36-42; 4:1-4; 5:12-16).  Today, the absolute necessity of teaching the same redeeming power of the gospel to every accountable person is just as urgent.  Are we preaching the same pure gospel that the apostles preached?  If we are abiding by Galatians 1:6-9, the answer would be yes.  The seed of the kingdom is still the Word of God, and the soil upon which the seed is sown is still the hearts of men (Luke 8:4-15).  Has the seed lost its potency?  Absolutely not (1 Pet. 1:22-25).  In order for results to occur we must, therefore, get the seed upon the soil and plant the Word of God in the hearts of men in the most effective way possible.  In view of the ongoing challenges facing the growth of the local church, our methods of evangelism must never grow stale or become ineffective.  If our methods are not effective, we must prayerfully and properly examine ourselves and find the most expedient manner of fulfilling our obligation to evangelize.

When considering all of the aspects and prospects of evangelism, no expedient method, person, or group of people can be excluded.  Effective evangelism must occur in places other than within the walls of our building.  More often than not, the majority of the families living in the houses surrounding our buildings are lost.  We need to visit them in their homes and encourage them to attend our services.  Door knocking is still an effective method of evangelism.  We must never doubt the battle-tested ways of former years (Jer. 6:16; Acts 5:42).  We might be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of a well-organized summer afternoon spent knocking on doors and setting up Bible studies in our local communities.  Different methods of evangelism can indeed help the small local church to grow.  However, we must always be diligent and prayerful in our endeavors.  We must be steadfast in asking our Father in Heaven to help us in our evangelistic efforts (James 4:2).  We must realize that faithful prayers alone cannot take the place of obedient action coupled with a spirit of humility (James 2:26; Luke 17:10).

With these thoughts in mind, let us consider the following four different methods of evangelism that should aid in the growth of small local congregations of the Lord’s people:

  1. Restoring our wayward brethren is one method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  The word “evangelize” simply means to announce the good news to another.  The good news to our erring brethren is that they no longer have to continue in their terrible state of rebellion.  There is hope if they repent and confess their error (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  Some wayward members of the church have been away so long they may not even remember why they stopped attending.  Others never forget past mistakes, nor allow anyone else to forget.  We need to take the time to patiently explore the matter and continue seeking the proper avenues of correction.  Was their departure due to a former preacher’s poorly worded sermon, or feelings of apparent neglect from the leadership, or possibly financial stress?  Perhaps there was no particular reason at all.  Regardless of the circumstances, these individuals are souls that are lost and need to abide in the doctrine of Christ in order to have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; 2 John 9).  They have obeyed the first principles of the gospel and need to be restored to the fold (Gal. 6:1-2).  Therefore, we must evangelize our erring brethren.
  2. Equipping our faithful brethren with the whole armor of God is a second method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  Every aspect of the armor of God is in reference to understanding and implementing the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:10-18).  The good news directed toward our faithful brethren is that, when properly equipped, they can accomplish greater things for the Lord in His kingdom than they ever thought possible.  Can we grasp the concept of an entire congregation of the Lord’s people in which every member is prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15)?  Imagine the difference that would make in our workplaces.  Instead of being unprepared to answer the denominational and worldly quibbles, we would be ready to calmly and patiently discuss and refute any and every Bible topic without hesitation.  Great are the opportunities for evangelism in the workplaces of well taught members of the church.
  3. Advertising all upcoming events taking place at the building is a third method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  We generally send our gospel meeting flyers to the congregations in the (somewhat) surrounding area, and yet fail to place flyers in our local businesses.  Although we love for our brethren to attend our meetings, our hearts would rejoice to have just as many or even more visitors from our local communities.  We pray that the day and hour has not come in which we have gospel meetings only out of habit and not due to a sincere desire of seeing souls snatched out of the fire (Jude 22-23).  Adequate advertising in the local community can be a greater asset than we believe.  This is an excellent opportunity for some lost soul to see a welcome invitation to hear sound doctrine!  We never know who is searching for something better or who may be receiving the House to House/Heart to Heart publication and visit our services for no other reason than sheer curiosity.  Brethren, we must sow righteousness abundantly in order to reap righteousness abundantly (Gal. 6:7-9)!
  4. Perfecting our love toward one another is the fourth method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  You may not think this to be a method of evangelism, but it is an important one.  Imagine for just a moment that you are a visitor at the congregation where you regularly attend.  Is there a feeling of tension in the air?  Do you observe individuals who do not shake hands or even look each other in the eye?  If we can see it, our visitors can as well.  Visitors have a knack for being aware of tensions that are unnecessary in the assemblies of the saints.  Our manner of life must always be in harmony with the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).  There is nothing more discouraging than for visitors from our communities to detect disharmony among the Lord’s people.  The disharmony amongst us will cripple our efforts of evangelism.  The Bible commands us to love one another (1 John 4:21).  What doth hinder us?

We must always strive to find the most effective way to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.  We must be convinced that the fields are white unto harvest (Matt. 9:36-38; John 4:31-38).  James says we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  When the love of evangelism gets into a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people, the results will be evident and everlasting.

Lexington, NC Church of Christ

The Challenge of Comparisons To Previous Preachers – Curtis Gilbert

It is for certain that preachers face various challenges when beginning a new work.  Such is true of the preacher just beginning his first work as well as the “seasoned” preacher who has left one congregation in order to work with another.  One such challenge is properly handling the issue of being compared with another preacher.  At this point in my life as a preacher I have had the privilege of serving four different congregations over a period just short of 21 years.  During this time period I have heard comments in both the negative and the positive relative to how I compared to the “previous preacher.”  Such begs the question of how should I, or any preacher for that matter, handle the pitfalls of being compared to the “great preacher” who preceded me and how should I avoid negative criticisms of a “not so great preacher” who was with the current congregation before my arrival?

First, let’s consider some of the possible pitfalls that may be associated with being compared to the “great preacher” who I am now following.  Upon hearing comments of how great the previous preacher was, one might:

  1. Become insecure and seek to investigate why he was so great in an attempt to imitate his qualities and thus lose focus of that which is most important.
  2. Feel as though he is being treated unfairly and therefore become bitter toward those who are making the comparisons, thus becoming less effective in his service to the whole congregation.
  3. Allow such comparisons to eat away at him to the point that he becomes frustrated or depressed and thus functions at a level lower than that of which he is capable.
  4. Though it should never happen, I suppose an immature preacher could attempt to seek out some “dirt” on the previous preacher in order to show that he was not so great after all.

So, just how should I handle such pitfalls of insecurity, feelings of being treated unfairly, frustration or depression, and the temptation to defame the previous “great preacher” because I am being compared to him?  Well, like it or not, our brothers and sisters in Christ are human with the same weaknesses as we preachers and thus comparisons are a reality.  I must realize such and thus not be surprised when I hear of those comparisons.  Then I should truly be thankful to God that the previous preacher was, in the eyes of the congregation, a “great preacher.”  Additionally, I should be thankful to God that the leadership of the congregation saw some potential in me to become a “great preacher” by inviting me to serve in the Lord’s kingdom with them.

Several passages of scripture come to mind when I think of needing strength to overcome the pitfalls of allowing being compared to another “great preacher” impede my preaching ministry.  The first one that came into my mind when I was invited to write this article is 2 Corinthians 10:12-18.  (I am aware that this passage applies specifically to the apostle Paul and his ministry but the thought is applicable to those of us who preach today relative to comparing ourselves with others or being compared to others.)  2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (NKJV) says:

“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves.  But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us – a sphere which especially includes you.  For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith in increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.  But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’  For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”

The second passage of scripture that reminds me that I need not be intimidated by any comparison with anyone else is the apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy as recorded in 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  It says:

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

This passage also reminds me that what is most important in my ministry as a preaching servant of the Lord and his church is to preach the word of God and not be sidetracked by anything, especially that of being compared to anyone else.  God will judge the other “great preacher” by the same standard with which I will be judged (John 12:48-50), and not how my brethren or anyone else may judge me or feel about me.

Second, how do I avoid negative criticisms of a preacher, or preachers who preceded me, who were “not so great”?  Again, I must remember that my brothers and sisters in Christ are human with the same weaknesses that I have and thus comparisons are a reality.  Therefore some well-meaning brother or sister may come to me with criticisms of the previous preacher in order to inform me of things I should avoid or do differently.  Or, it just might be that I have heard of some of the shortcomings of the previous preacher and am therefore tempted to criticize him in order to make myself look good.

To avoid such it is good to be reminded that God is not pleased with “gossips” or “slanderers” (1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Tim. 3:3).  (I am aware that the immediate context of 1 Timothy 5:13 is referring to widows, but can the application not be made to all Christians?)  A preacher needs to remember this, and from time to time he may need to kindly and lovingly remind that well-meaning brother or sister of the same!

In conclusion, preachers, let’s remember that preaching is an awesome responsibility and it is not about us, the other “great preacher,” or the “not so great preacher.”  It is about pleasing the one who gives the increase of our feeble efforts!  The inspired apostle Paul summed it up in these words:

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”  (1 Corinthians 3:5-8, NKJV)

Liledoun Road Church of Christ