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Should Pastors Be Salaried? July 5, 2010

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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8 comments

This question of whether a pastor should be salaried is quite an interesting one as it throws up many controversial issues; nevertheless, it is a valid question which should be asked in Christendom today. In looking at this question we could equally ask, should “workers” in the church be paid for their services also? Should the choir be paid for serenading us with good music?  Should the ushers, the Sunday school teachers, the people who make the tea and do the washing up be paid as well? But more importantly, what of the other elders such as the deacons, bishops, apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, should they be paid also?  Evidently if all were to be paid for their services this would put an immense strain on the churches finances especially if the church is relatively small. In most modern churches there is one man or woman at the head who is the pastor and beneath him are the deacons and elders and the other “workers” but only the pastor draws a salary. But why should one group of people (the pastors) receive a wage for their services yet another group (the elders and workers) do not! Surely this status quo is not equitable?

 My personal experience of the Baptist church is that usually a Baptist pastor/minister would be in ministry fulltime and as such he would be given a monthly stipend decided upon by the deaconate. This would usually be a modest amount of money that would be considered reasonable to meet his needs and that of his family. The church may also provide a manse for the pastor and his family to live in, the expenses of which would be dealt with by the church. On retirement or resignation the pastor would evacuate the premises and find other accommodation, and the manse would be prepared for the new pastor. In my opinion this arrangement is reasonable and I have no problems with this at all. After all the scriptures do allow for those who minister at the altar to eat from the altar or in other words those who minister the gospel should be fed from the gospel. Where I have a problem however is where the role of a pastor is treated as any other profession and where he is expected to attract the market rate that other positions of a “similar level” do. One of the reasons why this problem arises is because when a pastor studies for four years or so to earn an M Div or higher qualification he is then seen as on par with other master’s level graduates who may attract significantly high salaries. Thus the role of a pastor is in some churches is seen somewhat as that of a professional in their field. Perhaps this is why the pastor is salaried and the other elders of the church who did not attend seminary do not receive payment.

In truth I am not advocating that any of the elders or workers should be paid a salary. However the church has a responsibility to meet the needs of those in their midst who are in need and this includes the whole church, not just a select few individuals. If we look at the church in Acts 2 and Acts 4 this is exactly how they operated. The people would bring their gifts and lay it at the apostles’ feet and this would in turn be distributed to the congregation according to everyone’s needs so that none lacked. Today however we have the opposite scenario where the pastor gets the lion’s share of the takings (tithes and offerings) and some who are in need do not get anything and are still expected to pay tithes as well. Whilst this might not be the case with the traditional churches like the Baptist, this is certainly the case with the mega-churches.

When Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to minister the gospel, He told them specifically to freely give that which they also received freely (Matt 10:8). They were forbidden from collecting a wage although it was reasonably expected that those they came in contact with would meet their needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Likewise the gift of “pastoring” is a free gift which should be used/exercised in the church freely along with all the other gifts. However what we have done with organised religion is to create a system whereby one man stands at the head and speaks to a congregation for a fee on Sundays. Confidence is invested in such an individual because he has the requisite qualifications and therefore considered as a “professional” and in like fashion a suitable remuneration package is decided upon. However all this is foreign to the gospel message. I pray we may return to the truth of God’s word.