All through my time in seminary (2002-2006) I had been taught to look to the bible as our authority in decision making. Sometime late in the year 2009, after I had been a salaried pastor for about a year and a half, I decided that I should apply what I had been taught to my position as a pastor.
I wanted to find out whether or not pastors in the bible received salaries. Well, I found a lot more than I was looking for. Not only did I find no evidence for salaried pastors, I didn't find any evidence for modern pastors at all. Beyond that, what I saw of the church in the New Testament was drastically different from the institutional churches of today. All these findings sent me into a bit of a crisis.
Back to the pastoral salary for a minute. After much research, I came to see that pastors receiving salaries is based in two things: applying Old Covenant ideas to the church and misinterpretation of New Testament passages. First, I'd been told repeatedly that since priests in the Old Testament received support from the people, then pastors should as well. The obvious problem with this is that on this side of the cross we live as part of the New Covenant. Those O.T. practices have no bearing on us. Second, passages such as I Corinthians 9 and I Timothy 5 actually do not indicate that pastors should be paid salaries. I Corinthians 9 deals with traveling evangelists. I Timothy 5 speaks of "double honor," but there is no indication that this means salaries.
The more I studied the New Testament, the more I saw that modern pastors have little in common with biblical elders. The elders we read of in the bible were part of the church body; they were not outsiders. They didn't have formal theological education. They didn't stand out from the body. They were simply mature believers. They were good at serving others. Meanwhile, modern pastors are (usually) brought in from the outside, have theology degrees, and do many things that are different from what most of the rest of the body does. They are the clergy, while the body is the laity. The difference between biblical elders and modern pastors is so stark that they truly are two completely different things.
The more I studied the issue of pastors, the more I began to see what the church in the New Testament looks like. It was simple. It was a family. It was a body. It met for edification. It shared possessions. It gathered (generally) in homes. It ate together. To use a popular term, it was organic. The pages of the New Testament show us a body of Christ that has none of the institutional trappings that have shackled the church today.
After seeing all this, I couldn't remain a salaried pastor. After several months of study, prayer, and struggle, I decided that I simply had to resign. I could not in good conscience continue to either receive a salary or continue to be a modern day pastor. There just isn't any biblical basis for either.
Every believer is a priest to God. This is the beauty of the priesthood of all believers. The modern pastorate stifles this priesthood. Although this is not the intent of the clergy, it nonetheless happens. It is the system that causes the problems. I cannot be a part of it.
I resigned in September 2010 from the Southern Baptist church I had pastored for a little over two years. The folks of the church were wonderful about the whole thing. I still have good relationships with them. They do not agree with me on this issue; not long after I departed they began their search for another professional pastor. I'm not surprised by this. It's what most churches do.
I have no regrets. If the bible is going to drive how we live as Christians, then we cannot pick and choose the passages that we like. The bible gives no indication whatsoever that the modern pastorate should exist in its current form. Therefore, I had to resign. There's no going back.