We must be very cautious when making assumptions about the heart motives of other people. Quite frankly, when discussing salaried pastors, I've heard and read (in comments on this blog and other places) some people make some very general and very negative accusations about the motives of salaried pastors. I do not think this is accurate, charitable, or fair.
As with most of us, I've met many pastors in my life who receive salaries from their local churches. In almost every case, I believe these men love the Lord Jesus, love the church, desire to serve the church, work hard, teach the scriptures to the best of their abilities, and do not crave power. More than anything, they desire to honor God by building up their churches.
Do I agree with all of what they are doing? If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that is not the case. Do I think some of their assumptions about the church and the pastoral role are incorrect? Yes. Do I think they should receive salaries for their service? No.
Despite these differences, I do not believe that their heart motivation is evil. I suppose some pastors in this country do crave power and want to be seen as #1, but in my experience this is the small exception, not the rule.
We should feel free to question practices that we believe are unbiblical. In fact, this should be encouraged. On the other hand, let's be very careful about making automatic assumptions about the motivations of those who may be performing what we believe to be unbiblical.
Let's take an example: the pastor preaching the weekly sermon. When we look at N.T. church gatherings, the sermon is a foreign concept. Therefore, nobody should be preaching sermons as the church gathers. This is a fairly simple and straightforward conclusion - if we are willing to let scripture inform and direct all our belief and practice.
But what about the motivations of the pastor who preaches the weekly sermon? Is he automatically evil and power hungry? Does he love the limelight of standing before the church and proclaiming? Does he demand that others bow to his wishes because he is in control? Although there are some pastors who could be described this way, for the vast majority the answers to the above questions are a resounding "No."
It is true that some people see the questioning of the existence of the salaried pastor as a direct attack on his character. This is not the case. As I've already stated, we should ask hard questions about the functioning of the church. We should ask why churches provide salaries to pastors today when we cannot find this in the New Testament. In as gracious a manner as possible, we must keep asking these questions.
At the same time, let us be careful. We do not know people's hearts. Most salaried pastors believe that they are doing God's will by serving in their capacities. Most have been raised in a system of traditions that has never challenged or questioned salaries for pastors. Many attended seminaries that would never ask these questions. They've fallen into a system that exists. This doesn't mean they are evil.
Let us question unbiblical practices, but be careful about questioning motives.