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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.

The Qualifications of a Pastor July 2, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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2 comments

 In many contemporary churches, particularly the established ones, it is needful for an individual who wants to become a pastor to attend a seminary, at the recommendation of their church. After completing seminary education the individual may then have the right to append the estimable title of “Reverend” to their name and he or she may then seek appointment to a “local” church. This usual involves them being interviewed by the deaconate and approved by the members. The question which needs to be asked however is whether attending seminary automatically qualifies an individual to “pastor a church”? We could equally ask whether it is biblically correct to have a single individual as the “pastor” of any particular church. Indeed this is what has become the norm in churches today but the biblical efficacy of this needs to be tested.

 In order to answer the questions aforementioned perhaps it is useful to first understand what the term “pastor” denotes. The term is used to refer to a “shepherd” and in different translations of the Bible the word “pastor” is sometimes replaced by “shepherd” so the two words are interchangeable. A shepherd or pastor therefore is someone who tended the sheep and this is symbolic of God’s people being the sheep of His pasture and those who tend to them are seen as shepherds or pastors. In the Old Testament for example, God appointed pastors to tend to the flock of Israel:

 Jer 3

15And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

 The role of the pastors here were that of “feeding” the sheep with knowledge and understanding. The role of the pastors here are somewhat similar to the role of pastors in the New Testament. Under the New Covenant it is God who gives the gift of “pasturing” in the church:

 Eph 4

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

 It should be said here that although the role of the pastor contributes to the “edifying (knowledge and understanding) of the body of Christ” this is not their role exclusively and we can see this from verse 11.  It stands to reason therefore that the body cannot be fully edified without the apostles, prophets and teachers who together with the pastors play the role of enablers in the perfecting of the saints till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. But in our churches today we see a system where a single individual, the pastor, who supposedly fulfills all these other roles. In a similar vein, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to different individuals in the church and all these different gifts were meant to be working together for the edification of the whole church (1 Cor 12). But again in most churches today these gifts are recognized in the pastor alone, and he alone his treated as being able to manifest these gifts. But we can discern clearly from scripture that this is not what the Lord intended for His church. However, it would seem that a certain level of confidence is invested in a person who has attended seminary in that only he or she is regarded as having the “competence” to operate in the spiritual gifts. For example, only the pastor is viewed as having the “ability” or sufficient skill to demonstrate or impart the word of knowledge (or wisdom), a skill derived from his/her seminary education. But the result of this is to quench the Spirit to the detriment of the church.

 If we should look at the early church, instead of one man (or woman) standing at the head and preaching a sermon on Sunday we instead see a church which edified one another through hymns and psalms:

 Col 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

 This of course is not to say that sermons from men holding Theological qualifications isn’t relevant but it should not replace what Christ already laid down for the church in how it should operate. Attending seminary doesn’t automatically qualifies one to be a pastor as this is the gift of God although it could be beneficial in aiding one’s understanding of scriptures. The implication here however is that the ordinary Christian who has not attended seminary will not be able to understand the scriptures and this is clearly not true since wisdom and understanding comes from God alone. Another very important consideration here is that if an individual can attend seminary in order to be “qualified” as a pastor, based on Eph 4:11 above, what school does the apostle, prophet, evangelist, or teacher attend in order that they may be equipped to fulfill their roles? Evidently this lack of scholastic competence on their part increases the pastors’ profile as the only ones having the competence to officiate in spiritual matters.

 If we should however look at the original disciples/apostles we note from scripture that they were not learned yet the Lord chose them as the first apostles. We note that the Holy Spirit worked mightily through them to establish the gospel throughout the world as this was the commission given to them. The Holy Spirit is therefore more than capable of working through an individual without the need for formally attending a seminary and this should never be overlooked. The scripture says we should not quench the Spirit but this is exactly what the church has done by a displaced confidence in those who attended seminary vs those who have not. The only qualification that one needs therefore in order to operate in his/her gift is the qualification by the Holy Spirit. May the church return to this essential truth.