Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Salaried Pastors Are Not Evil Men

Salaried pastors are not evil men - at least not any more evil than the rest of us.

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.

7 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

Most of the salaried pastors I know are good guys who really want to serve the church and are culturally and traditionally conditioned to assume that the way to do that is to become a full-time preacher. I cast more aspersions on the "laity" that is content to pay someone else to do the work of ministry instead of doing that work themselves.

Eric said...

Arthur,

There does seem to be a sort of co-dependency between the salaried pastor and the laity. He depends on them for a salary; they depend on him for ministry.

Blair said...

Where do you get that pastors shouldn't be salaried? 1 Corinthians 9 makes it clear that they SHOULD be. Paul may have denied his rights, but that doesn't mean every pastor is to do so.

Paul was an apostle, unmarried, without a family, who traveled around on his own. Had he had a family to take care of, and stayed in one city, it may have been different.

If a pastor is married and has children, it's his responsibility to take care of and support that family. So the options are to be in the ministry full time, and salaried, or to be part time while doing other work to support the family. However, that not only leaves no time to spend with that family, but it takes away from his responsibilities as a pastor. Shepherding his flock is nearly impossible when working another full time job. Being a pastor is a full time job in itself, and there are very few people who can work 2 full time jobs. It's just not possible.

It's much better to be a full time, salaried pastor (fully serving your family and flock, while the church is fulfilling their responsibility) than to be a Shepherd that can't be constantly guarding and shepherding his flock, and a husband/father that is not involved in his family.

Not to mention that the apostles did receive support-food, shelter, etc. In todays culture, that means a salary, unless your church is literally going to buy your every meal and let your family move around from house to house to sleep. Culture is totally different today, and while you have to be careful, that HAS to be taken into consideration.

If there is a problem today with this issue today, it's most often with the church, not the pastor. The churches should be supporting the pastor, and typically that means a salary. But it's often turned around to seem that a pastor is greedy or unfair when wanting/needing support, when in actuality it's a problem with the church not doing or wanting to do all that they should.

Maybe some people like yourself can drop your salary and still support your family somehow, but that doesn't mean everyone can, or should. And it's crossing the line to just flat out call salaried pastoring an "unbiblical practice" when there is nothing to back that up.


Oh, and laity are not called to be pastors. Many of them do their job, but their job is far different from the load that pastors are called to do.

Eric said...

Blair,

Thank you for commenting on the blog.

I'm familiar with the I Corinthians 9 passage. Paul is speaking about traveling apostolic workers and evangelists. He's not talking about pastors/elders/overseers. Paul never mentions them in that passage; therefore, it doesn't apply.

The remainder of your argument (and I say this respectfully) appears to be pragmatic, traditional, and culturally driven. I don't see any biblical basis for what you are saying about the pastoral role and salaries.

In Acts 20, Paul is speaking to the elders from the church in Ephesus. After reminding them that he worked with his hands, he told them that Jesus said that "it is more blessed to give than receive."

You wrote this, "And it's crossing the line to just flat out call salaried pastoring an "unbiblical practice" when there is nothing to back that up." I believe I can back it up. When we look in the New Testament, there is absolutely no evidence of pastoral salaries. Pastors may have received monetary gifts here and there, but regular salaries are a foreign concept.

You also wrote, "Oh, and laity are not called to be pastors. Many of them do their job, but their job is far different from the load that pastors are called to do." This is the case if we believe in a professional pastorate that artificially separates the clergy and laity. Again, this is foreign to scripture.

My point is to try to be biblical. I would like to hear pastors who receive salaries actually defend this practice from scripture. So far I haven't heard anything convincing.

I'm not condemning the practice. However, we should at least be willing to admit that it has no biblical basis.

Blair said...

In that passage Paul is speaking of those who preach the gospel. Pastors are evangelists.

"What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel." -1 cor. 9:18

I think that makes it pretty clear that they are rights. Not that we should always fight for our rights and take them, but if a church offers, there is nothing wrong with accepting.

Along with that, the Biblical basis for my argument was that a man is the head of his family (Eph. 5), and it's his role and responsibility to support them. This doesn't apply to Paul and others who don't have that responsibility.

Laity are not called to be pastors. I just say that referring to Scripture where people have different callings and gifts. That is not artificial.

And receiving monetary gifts occasionally along with other support-I don't see how that's any different than a regular salary. Either way the needs are being met. If the pastor is spending the money as he should be, on food and shelter and providing for himself/family, how is that any different than the way they were supported Biblically?

Maybe my argument was somewhat culturally driven, but culture does make a difference in understanding and applying the Bible. The bible was definitely at the core of my thoughts.

As for Acts 20-Paul says this after talking about coveting and how he hasn't asked for anything from them. He's reminding them of all the things he's done and how much he loved and cared for them. That one verse doesn't counter all the other Biblical evidence. It's more blessed to give than to receive-he's trying to remind them of this. So that they help others without expecting anything in return. He's using himself as an example of not expecting anything in return-not saying Pastors/preachers/evangelists/whatever shouldn't receive support. It's talking about the character of the church. It's saying to help those in need. And if that is the Pastor...



I'm seeing more Biblical support for salaried pastors, than not.

Blair said...

I'm not trying to be disrespectful or argue! But Paul makes it clear he simply doesn't want to hinder the gospel. If pastors are hindering the gospel, then I agree with you. Otherwise, there is Biblical support.

Eric said...

Blair,

You are not being disrespectful. It is good to have spirited, gracious discussion and debate. We are brothers in Christ - that unites.

I agree with you that pastors are evangelists. However, if that is the case then we are all evangelists. Using that logic, then, we would all receive salaries.

Interestingly, in Ephesians 4 when Paul discusses gifts to the church, he mentions evangelists as different from pastor-teachers.

I also believe you are making an unhealthy clergy-laity divide. Where in scripture do we see pastors doing anything different from non-pastors? Pastors were to shepherd, but we are all to do this. Pastors were elders. Elders came alongside other Christians and encouraged them to grow in Christ together.

I do think your argument is in large part culturally driven. The problem with this is that cultural values are subjective. If the bible is true, authoritative, and sufficient, then we will get all we need from its pages.

As for Acts 20, we'll have to differ on interpretation. But at least in that passage we know he is talking to elders. In I Cor. 9, pastors are nowhere mentioned. Evangelists traveled around, could not hold down jobs, and therefore had a right to support. Elders remained in one place and therefore could hold down a regular job.

Where in the bible do we see any pastors who did not work regular jobs but instead were paid salaries by churches? I can't find one place.

You sum up by saying, "I'm seeing more Biblical support for salaried pastors, than not." Where is this support? Where specifically do you see salaries mentioned as it refers specifically to pastors?

I agree that pastors should provide for their families. This is why they should have regular jobs. This is also why churches should have multiple pastors and why everyone should be ministering.

As for salaries, I just don't see them anywhere.