Tramping

The words “church tramp” may immediately conjure up an image of people you have known who don’t seem to get along very well at any church and who are constantly on the move from congregation to congregation. I am not talking about those who move for legitimate reasons, such as a dramatic change in their doctrinal beliefs, because their congregations have turned liberal, or because they have been taken over by some schismatic faction. I am talking about those who, like the hummingbird, hover for a while at one flower and then another but never stop their wing motion long enough to settle down anywhere.

People like this often cause trouble wherever they go. They may come declaring that the church they left is full of heresy or problems and that they are so glad they have finally found a church (yours) that stands for the truth. But it is not long before they are somewhere else in town telling someone else the same story about your church. What can be done about this problem?

Are we to everlastingly be plagued with such people and the trouble and distrust they bring, or is there something that can be done to stop this flitting from church to church? And, is there some way to minister to them so that we can reclaim them from this life of ecclesiastical vagrancy? Yes, there is an approach that will do both. The only difficulty is in getting enough congregations to begin doing what needs to be done. I often speak about this topic when I meet with a ministerial group in a community. There I propose a biblical solution and urge the group to adopt and follow a policy that, if enough pastors and people agree, will virtually put an end to the practice.

If you are encouraged by the policy I set forth, you may want to share this article with your pastor, who, if he thinks it has merit, may in turn wish to share it at the next evangelical ministerium. At the very least, he may wish to work out an arrangement with those pastors in town with whom he already has working arrangements.

A deceptive, flattering temptation faces a pastor and church whenever someone defects, declaring that the former church has serious deficiencies he at last finds remedied in yours. How glad he is to be with people who mean business! It isn’t easy to think objectively when someone is feeding you such heady stuff, but if you follow this policy, you will be able to keep your senses, and not even that kind of obsequious prattle will affect you. But first, let me tell you about an incident that happened when I was pastoring a church.

I had no more than arrived on the scene as the pastor of a new congregation when I received a call from a neighboring pastor. He said, “Mr. and Mrs. I. M. Tramp have been attending our church for several weeks now and want to join. I understand they were members of your congregation for a while; can you tell me anything about them?” Because I had so recently arrived, of course I could not. I replied, “No, I don’t know them; I just arrived in town about a month ago. But I’ll talk to my elders about them and let you know what I find out.”

When I did, the elders said, “Oh, the Tramps, eh? Yes, they were members here; but they caused all kinds of trouble, and after working patiently with them for over a year about their schismatic activities, we were forced to excommunicate them.” Hearing this, I immediately called the neighboring pastor and told him the story. “Thanks,” he said. “I had no idea.” About six or eight months afterwards, I bumped into this pastor at a meeting, and I asked him, “Whatever happened to the Tramps’!” “OOOH,” he replied, “I hate to talk about it. We took them in, in spite of what you told us, and just last week they split our church and walked off with half a dozen families.”

Church tramps are no bargain. They are a Jonah in your boat!

A minister of the gospel has no business welcoming a church tramp into his congregation in the first place. If he has wandered out of the fold of a true shepherd of Jesus even though that shepherd doesn’t teach every jot and tittle correctly, you should lead him back. Now, understand, I am not talking about sheep that have left the fold of a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. Take them in immediately. In fact, you should do all that you can to lure them away from any place where the gospel is undermined and the Word of God is despised. But what I am talking about is a straying sheep from a sheepfold that is under the care of a true shepherd of Christ.

When you discover a stray appearing regularly in your services, you should speak with him, saying something like this: “It’s nice to have you here, but you tell me you are a member of the congregation pastored by Bob Greene?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that puzzles me. Bob preaches the gospel. What has happened; have you changed your doctrinal beliefs or something?”

“No, I just don’t seem to fit in there very well. I have had problems with some of the people. But, even after only two weeks here I can tell I am going to really get along well.”

At this point you say, “Well, I’m glad you have enjoyed our services and like our people, but the reason you give for leaving Bob’s church and coming here isn’t biblical. What you should do is work out your problems over there. In cases like this Bob and I have an understanding. This is what we do. I shall call Bob, and we will all meet together to discuss your problems thoroughly and to figure out what God expects you to do about them. I will be glad to offer any help you request in this matter.”

If the potential tramp agrees, perhaps you will save him from making a career of tramping. If he is already making a career of it, perhaps you will be able to turn him from it. At any rate, you have done the right thing before God and before him, regardless of how he responds; and don’t forget, a church tramp is no bargain.

“What you say may be right, but won’t he just go to another church?” Doubtless, that is what will happen in a number of cases, but consider:

  1. You must do the right thing regardless of the outcome.
  2. You don’t know what the outcome will be; perhaps he will respond properly. After all, no one has ever confronted him this way before.
  3. You will have saved your own church future heartaches.
  4. After he causes trouble at the church that accepted him, the pastor of that church may wish to join in the agreement with you and Bob.

Of course, you won’t get all of the Bible believing churches in town to agree to follow this or some similar policy right away, if ever. But the better churches are likely to respond favorably, and when more and more churches agree, it will become increasingly difficult for tramps and potential tramps to run from church to church. How exciting it would be for church after church to respond in the same way whenever a stray attempts to flee from place to place.

Think this over carefully. Doesn’t something like this need to be done in your town? Think of the last bad experience you had with a church tramp. Do you want that again? And think of him. But most of all, remember the proper processes set forth in the Bible for handling interpersonal problems (Luke 17:3 ff.; Matt. 18:15 ff., etc.). The practice of receiving such persons cannot be justified biblically, and it is time that pastors and congregations stopped encouraging these tramps to sin by doing so. Aiding and abetting sin is sin. Think. Think and act.

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Provision Needed

The modern church, while excelling in every other convenience, has overlooked one that ought surely be supplied. A cloakroom for brains. Many people like to check their brains at the door when they enter a church.

This is understandable, of course. All week long they have been stretching their brains at work and home and its time they found a place where they could rest them. Since the average sermon preached today requires little or no thought, this is the ideal place to give your brain an hour’s rest once a week.

Unfortunately, there are those old fogies who want the preacher to stretch their brains even more, when everyone knows that isn’t the reason for the sermon. The smooth little essays, or the repetitious Gospel message wrung out of every passage preached from, is designed to relax and sooth the brainless.

Moreover, the songs sung are not composed for brains to tackle. Having but three or four notes, and messaging-like words that were chosen for rhyme rather than sense, they help lull one into unconsciousness. After all if emotion is the order of the day, every part of the service should aptly contribute to this end.

It is most disconcerting to go to church and discover that there is no place to park the brain, that there are others also looking for such a place. It disturbs the entire purpose of the service when one has to stuff his brain into the pew rack, and keep picking it up when it falls out! Brain rooms aid composure.

The invitation at the end of the service can be disrupting too, unless it is carefully orchestrated. The preacher must use it carefully to determine how well he is doing. But the church officers will use it too, to determine how long they want him to remain. If he doesn’t want to undergo the inconvenience of leaving every three years, he must encourage them to leave their brains home (in the absence of a cloakroom). But, if he is truly wise, he will lobby for the cloakroom, and then urge them to set a good example for the congregation by checking their brains there.

Shepherding

There is nothing esoteric about this article. But to some it may seem so. I say that, because I recognize that there are preachers . . . and then, there are preachers! That is to say, among those who are reading this article there may be conservatives, and a few liberals. There may be Reformed, and a few Arminian. There may be large church pastors and small church pastors. There may be those who have great insight into pastoral matters, and there may be some who have very little. There may be pastors who are excited about the ministry, and there may be those who are disheartened. There may be some who are succeeding, and there may be others who are failing. There may be pastors who are in a good relationship with the Lord and their people and, then, there may be some who are not. Yes, there are preachers, and then . . . there are shepherds!

“OK. OK. Get to the point.”

Sure. Some things seem routine to those who are used to doing them, but on the outer edge to those who are not. Nothing could be more foreign to them. That is how it is with the subject of this editorial. To the former, what I have to say will not seem strange; to the latter it probably will. I am suggesting that out of love you ought to shepherd the people of your congregation by approaching them when you suspect that there is something wrong.

“Now wait a minute. Are you telling me to probe into their lives when they haven’t asked me to do so? Isn’t that asking for trouble?”

That depends.

If your relationship to your people is close (as a shepherd’s ought to be to his sheep), the thought may not seem strange at all. Not only will your congregation know that you care enough to do so, you will also know that they know. They may not always appreciate it, but on the whole they’ll recognize that not only are you doing this because it is your pastoral duty, but also that you are willing to do such difficult things because you care for them.

“But why would I take such an initiative? If I do so, won’t people begin to think of me as a snoop?”

Not necessarily. You see, there is a second thing as well. You must do it properly. In time, you will cultivate proper methods of approaching people. And you’ll do it because you know that to treat a wound when it’s fresh is so much better than waiting until it festers. As Spurgeon put it, “It is easier to crush the egg than to kill the serpent.” If you’re one who hopes that things will go away on their own, you’ll soon find those problems seldom go; instead, they grow!

“Well, I guess that I’ve seen that to be true at times. So, what’s the proper way to approach people about perceived problems?”

I like the way you put it; you just spoke of “perceived” problems. You’re already on the right track. You certainly don’t want to go around accusing people when you only have suspicions. What you think is only how you have “perceived matters.” You may be right. On the other hand, you may be quite wrong. Recognizing that fact is half the secret to pulling this off well—i.e., in ways that honor God and help His children.

Let’s take an example. It seems to you that Larry and Martha have been very unhappy lately. You have noticed this over a period of three weeks or so. Suppose you conclude from the data that you gleaned that they’re having marital problems. What will you do? Forget it? Or deal with it? If you go piling in, cornering Larry after a church service, and say, “Larry, I want you to tell me about it old man. I’ve noticed you and Martha lately, and it seems evident to me that you two must be having marital problems,” you may have made a colossal blunder. If, after that faux pas, Larry decides to tell you, he may say something like this: “Wait a minute, Pastor. Don’t accuse us of any such thing! Sure, we haven’t been as bright and cheerful recently, but it has nothing to do with our marriage. In fact, our problem has drawn us closer together, and to the Lord, than ever before. If you must know, I’ve had a biopsy for cancer of the liver and I am afraid that it may turn out positive.”

How would you feel if you blundered that way? Lousy? Certainly. Sputtering apologies, you’d probably walk away. Now, perhaps Larry should have told you and the elders of the church about his concern so they could pray for him. But he didn’t. And you did no one any good but, possibly, a great deal of harm by accusing them of marital difficulties.

“I can see that. But there wouldn’t have been any problem if I hadn’t attempted to become involved. It seems that it’s probably better to wait until people approach me. What your scenario with Larry does actually proves my point, doesn’t it?”

No, it doesn’t. There’s a right way to approach Larry that in almost all instances will cause no offence. If you follow it, and Larry is offended, it’ll be his fault and not yours. Consider the following. Suppose you phoned Larry and asked him to meet with you for a fellowship lunch. After the meal, over desert, you then say, “Larry, I suppose you wonder why I’ve asked you out to lunch. Well, there are a couple of reasons. It’s always good to meet with church members. I enjoy just talking over things that we have in common—the way we’ve been doing today. That’s one reason that I wanted us to get together. But there’s another too. I want you to know that, in my opinion, you just haven’t seemed to be your old cheerful self lately. Maybe you’re working late, and you’re overly tired. Maybe something’s come up that’s troubling you. I don’t know, and I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess about it. On the other hand, I may be seeing things that aren’t there. It all may be in my head. So, I also asked you to have a fellowship lunch also to raise the matter so that I could offer my help if it’s needed.”

Larry might respond to such an approach this way, “Well, you see, pastor, there is something wrong. I wasn’t going to tell anyone about it until I was sure, but . . .” and then he explains about the biopsy. Even if he doesn’t tell you about it (he and Martha may be “very private persons” ), Larry’s response should (and probably would) be something like this, “Well, pastor, this time I’m glad to say that you’re wrong. There isn’t anything that you need to help us with. But I do appreciate your offer, and if something does come up, I’ll remember to call on you.”

Now, you see, there are right ways to approach a matter. You don’t accuse, you don’t guess. You don’t even assume that your “perception” is correct. You allow Larry space to back off the matter, but you haven’t neglected him. And, if and when, the biopsy is positive, he may want to ask for prayer and counsel.

Does this seem foreign to you after all? If my words haven’t raised a matter that you believe you ought to consider seriously, then think about this. When a sheep has a problem, does the shepherd neglect it? Suppose it seems to be limping. Doesn’t he examine the sheep to see if something is wrong with its leg? If he discovers that it isn’t anything serious, he backs off with a sigh of relief—he doesn’t manufacture problems. But if there’s a genuine injury, he helps heal the sheep before the problem gets worse. Does the sheep think less of him for doing so? Not really. Indeed, in most cases, the experience draws shepherd and sheep closer together. Think again about what I have suggested—then about some members of your congregation who, like that sheep, seem to be limping.

How to Obtain a Living Wage in the Pastorate

Pastors, on the whole, are doing as well financially as they ever have. That—of course—isn’t true of all. Nor does it mean that they are doing well—the average salary is still far below par. And in many cases it is the prime source of hindering their effectiveness in the ministry. Can anything be done about it? More specifically, what can the pastor himself do about it—or should he do anything? Yes! and Yes, again!

First, you must recognize that God expects you to earn a living wage. In part, pastors themselves (by their failure to teach this, failure to speak with their elders and deacons, and failure to take action) have perpetuated the popular laymen’s myth that ministers are atypical creatures who propagate children in some other way than engaging in sexual relations and—in line with this—can feed them on transcendental pudding, fluff-duff, and air! It is time to demythologize this widespread—but heretical—article of faith!

Next, consider this: “The worker is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18). If you aren’t working, then this article doesn’t apply. In that verse, Paul alludes to Christ’s words (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:17). Some people in your congregation may subscribe to the unscriptural philosophy, “Keep a preacher hungry and you’ll keep him humble.” More likely, as you know, that’s the way to keep him ineffective. This contra-scriptural viewpoint is usually offered as a rationalization for stinginess.

The ox passage is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:9–14 also. But verse 14 in that chapter is especially apropos: “The Lord gave orders that those who announce the good news should live by announcing the good news.”

If you—as their official expounder of the Word—(1) allow your people to rationalize their way out of a proper understanding and application of Scripture, (2) cater to selfishness in the congregation, and (3) thereby fail not only to explain and insist upon the Lord Christ’s orders,1 but fail to heed them yourself, you are unfaithful both to Christ and to His church.

“But Paul often made tents,” you say. Yes, but (1) Paul was a missionary (not a pastor), (2) clearly claimed a salary as a “right” that he didn’t use (vss. 6, 12, 15), and (3) was a single man.2 Paul allowed churches to support him (cf. Phil. 4:15; but especially 2 Cor. 11:8, where he seems to have sought funds from other churches to carry on the work in Corinth).

It is true that when funds were not forthcoming, he would work hard with his hands (cf. 2 Thess. 3:8, “night and day”) to raise funds so he could carry on his work. If your congregation can’t (won’t?) support you—you too have the same right (Paul didn’t starve! You can’t neglect your family—1 Tim. 5:8). But if you do, it will mean curtailing your ministry somewhat as Paul’s tent-making must have done. Your congregation must recognize and accept this.

Thirdly, note that the Scriptures teach that you may earn a living wage—i.e., a good wage; one that enables you to live without great care or concern over finances. “Where?” you ask. Paul says that he often prospered greatly; his word for this is that he “abounded” in money (Phil. 4:11–13). So it is clearly not wrong for a pastor to “abound.” Paul was able to rent a house for two years in Rome while not working (Acts 28:30). This gives additional evidence of the possession of substantial funds.

The only biblical warning about money is against trying to become rich in the ministry as a lover of money (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:5–10). These verses probably refer to unscrupulous practices associated with such desire. Most ministers, with the writer of Proverbs 30:8, 9, will settle for a living wage.

“Well, what should my salary be? Suppose I muster the courage to sit down with my elders and deacons to talk over the salary problem—what should I ask for? There isn’t a scriptural guideline, is there?” Yes, there is—and you’d better be aware of it. “Well, tell me quickly; what is it?”

Your salary should be on a par with those to whom you minister. Galatians 6:6 commands your congregation, “Let him who is instructed in the Word share everything good that he has with the one who instructs him.” Pastor, you should live on the level of the community (at least the Christian community to which you minister—not far below it, as so often is the case). An average of congregational salaries should set the base (minimum) level for your salary.3

You should not be ashamed, therefore, to ask for this figure since (1) God requires it; (2) it is so easy for the congregation to give (10 families, giving a tenth, can support an eleventh family on the average level of their salaries); (3) your people need to learn the biblical teaching about this and receive God’s blessing for following it.

This base salary is a minimum, I said. The Scriptures speak of giving a substantial bonus to those pastors who do an especially good job.

The elders who manage well should be considered worthy of double pay; especially those who labor at preaching and teaching.      1 Timothy 5:17

Finally, you ask, “How do I go about obtaining a salary like this? Where do I begin?” Let me simply list some suggestions; you may flesh them out:

  1. Pray about it: Ask and you will receive.
  2. Lend this article to your elders and deacons to read.
  3. Talk to your elders and deacons about it and present a plan for moving them from where your church now is to the adoption of a scriptural salary scale.
  4. Don’t grow bitter.
  5. When candidating, discuss salary scripturally.
  6. Make it clear that salary must not be based on (a) tradition, (b) needs, etc., but (3) on the standard set in Galatians 6:6: The pastor should share and share alike.
  7. Teach your elders, your congregation, and your wealthy members. (1 Tim. 6:17–19 encourages you to teach them how to give.)

This article is not written simply to make pastors and their wives happy. It is designed to help pastors become more effective servants of Christ, not continually hampered by financial needs. There is plenty of money in the church for this sort of salary; pastor, it is your job to earn it and get it!

 

1 Christ’s orders are not only (in fact not even primarily) to the congregation; rather, they are orders to a pastor about how he is to earn his living. The verse reads (lit.), “… ordered those who announce the good news to live by announcing the good news.”

2 The other apostles, who took a salary, were married (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5).

3 We shall see later that these are times for far more salary, when we discuss 1 Timothy 5:17.

Shepherds

The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He cares more for them than for himself! What a picture of our Lord’s goodness to us.

But do shepherds who minister under the aegis of the Chief Shepherd have the same attitude?

Rarely would they ever find it necessary to die for their flocks, but how many are even willing to “put themselves out” for them?

The concern and care for the sheep that a Shepherd ought to exercise will mean time, laying things aside that might otherwise be pleasant activities to engage in, and so forth. Perhaps less TV, a tight schedule that differs from that of the majority of his flock, etc. While not slighting his family, he may have to forgo many of the ordinary pleasures that others enjoy. When a shepherd knows the names of his favorite baseball team, but doesn’t know the names of all of the sheep under his care, something is wrong.

Shepherds, think about the task that God has given you. Prospective shepherds also, give full consideration to the laborious task that you are entering into before you take ordination vows. None of this becoming a minister because “grandma always wanted me to!” Be sure you have what it takes to undertake the task.

The ministry isn’t child’s play. It’s difficult—but it has rich rewards from the Lord that only a true shepherd understands.

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Lousy

Following up on my comments about “feelings” as a guide, I’d like to make one other point.

When I taught in the doctoral program at Westminster West, there were students—pastors, I should note—who would ask, “Prof., what do you feel about so and so?”

Often, to make the point, I’d say (with a smile), “Lousy.” Or, if the response seemed appropriate, “Great!”

Invariably, they’d go on to say something like, “No, you don’t understand. What I’d really like to know is what you feel about. . .” entirely missing my point, or unable to express themselves in any other way.

So, I’d continue, “You got my feelings. I’d like to give you my opinion, or belief, or conviction. But what you asked for is feelings.”

People today use weak language—pastors ought to be the last to do so. No one ever nailed another to the door for expressing his feelings. It’s when you state your convictions that they do!

When pastors are willing to speak in such a weak, namby-pamby way, no wonder the members of their congregations have few, if any, strong convictions. Let’s learn TO STAND UP AND PLAINLY DECLARE WHAT WE BELIEVE OR—BETTER STILL—WHAT GOD SAYS!

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Effectiveness

“Why is it that every time I try to do something for the Lord, somebody causes me trouble? You’d think that the Lord would get them off my back so I could be more effective.”

So, to be effective, you have to have all opposition removed?

“Certainly would help.”

Do you think that Paul was effective?

“Sure was. Nobody more so!”

Did you ever read what he said about being effective?

“Not sure.”

Listen to this: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose” (I Corinthians 16:9).

“Hmmmm. . . . “

Looks like opposition goes with the territory, doesn’t it?

“Guess so.”

The more effective one is in the Lord’s work, the more he can expect opposition. If you’re really doing something effective, as Paul said he was, then you should count on the evil one—or one of his henchmen—to oppose. Of course, we’re not talking about ineffective people causing trouble for themselves, you understand.

“Yeaaaah. Well, thanks.”

Welcome.

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What About a Minister’s Salary?

There are ministers all over the country suffering from a lack of financial support from their congregations.  Whose fault is it?  “Congregations,” you answer!  Well, often that is the reason for the inadequate compensation given to those who preach the Word.  A significant share of the blame lies at the feet of niggardly board members and penurious members.  But deficient salaries are not caused merely by parsimonious parishioners.  Preachers, themselves, are guilty in the matter.  They are responsible to instruct their members about providing support for themselves as much as for instructing them about anything else.  And many have failed to assume that responsibility.

“It’s too sensitive,” they say (when their wives tell them they ought to ask for a raise).  “I don’t want them to think that I am complaining,” is another common response.  And, one more: “I’ll pray about it; God will have to provide an answer.”  But such responses will not do.  Basic instruction (and exhortation) is necessary.

Many members (even some board members) may be perplexed, confused about the standard for payment.  It is time to proclaim the biblical standard from pulpits rather than whisper about it behind closed doors.  “But God didn’t speak on that subject,” you say.  Oh?  Do you think that He would have left so important a matter to sinners to determine?  No.  In the Scriptures He has very clearly set forth His standard for the payment of ministerial services.  Indeed, He reveals the basic requirement as well as that which is appropriate in exceptional cases.  Let’s take a look at both.

First, listen to Paul as he sets for the base salary for a minister: “Now let him who is instructed in the Word share everything good that he has with the one who instructs him” (Galatians 6: 6).  In that command (note, it is not optional for congregations to do or not do so) you find the fundamental principle of payment – the minister of the Word is to receive a salary commensurate with that of the members of his congregation.  He is not to live on less than they do.  Put positively, as Paul does, he is to enjoy all the good things that they do. While, as we shall see, he may be paid more than the average of his members’ earnings, congregations must not pay him less — without sin.  And, until they consider this question as an issue of sin, some Christians will go on disobeying God’s command.

Now, I will not go into the matter deeply but notice the two verses that follow Galatians 6:6: “Don’t be deceived, God isn’t snubbed; whatever a person sows, that is exactly what he will reap” (Galatians 6:7).  There are congregations who try to snub God in the matter; they think that they can get by without living up to the base salary that God has set.  But it can’t be done.  He will not be turned off so easily.  He declares that He will respond negatively to their negative response to Him.  If they give sparingly, He says, they will receive sparingly.

Now, what does that mean?  Paul goes on: “The one who sows for his flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows for the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (v. 8).  If one spends the money that he owes his pastor on fleshly things, that is what he will reap rather than the things at pertain to eternal life – just like those unbelievers who ignore God and ultimately receive eternal death rather than eternal life.  In other words, the fundamental principle of sowing that has to do with salvation is mentioned here to demonstrate how this principle also relates to accepting or rejecting God’s standard for  one’s giving.  Congregations that will not obey Galatians 6:6 will lose the spiritual blessings that they might otherwise have had.  How this will happen in each case is hard to say.  Perhaps the way in which the reaping takes place will differ from place to place.  God may call a fine minister of the Word away from a congregation to a place where his work will be recompensed properly.  Thus, the congregation will be impoverished spiritually.  He may harden hearts so that people fail to appropriate the spiritual blessings that they might otherwise receive from their minister.  There is any number of ways in which God may do so.  If a congregation can’t – or won’t – pay a minister a good living wage according to God’s scale for giving, it should not call a minister until it is able to.

So, pastor, what can you do?  Well, you must instruct your congregation about this matter.  If you fail to do so both you and they will suffer.

But there is also more to be learned about payment.  In I Timothy 5: 17 Paul wrote: “The elders who manage well should be considered worthy of double pay, especially those who are laboring at preaching and teaching.”  Now, in that verse another problem appears: all elders (not just the preachers) should be paid.  I’ll leave that discussion to another time because it might take us too far afield.  “Whoa!” someone says.  “It says ‘honor’ in my version.”  Well, that’s a shame; there is no excuse for obscuring Paul’s meaning.  The original Greek word, time can mean both “honor” and “pay.”  That the second rendering must be given to the term in this context is clear from verse 18, in which Paul buttresses his command (note, again, this is not an optional matter) with a quotation that has to do with earning one’s living by his work (just as the ox earns his food).

Now, all elders manage the congregation, but some, in addition to this task, also preach and teach.  They are the ministers of the church.  Note what Paul commands.  The elders who manage well ought to be given double pay, starting with those who minister God’s Word.

From time to time, I have asked groups of ministers what the Bible says about the salary that they ought to receive only to get blank stares in return.  Evidently, teaching about this is not widespread.  It is about time, then, that we begin remedying the situation.  How?  Well, it must begin with you, pastor.  Are you afraid to tackle the matter?  That’s unworthy of you!  How best to do it?  That’s a worthy question.  Let me give you three or four suggestions:

  1. Preach through Galatians and when you come to the sixth chapter nail the subject emphatically! “That would take too long,” you say, “I’d probably starve by the fifth chapter!” Well, then, preach chapters 5 and 6, which form a very practical unit.
  2. Another suggestion. Sit down with your board (authority bunch) and instruct them in the matter. Try to enlist them in beginning to see and follow God’s provision for His servants. If they come along, then have them request you to preach on Galatians 6 and I Timothy 5 (and make that fact known in the church bulletin).
  3. If, after all sorts of efforts have been made over a sufficient period of time you are able to effect no change (notice I didn’t say right away), consider changing pastorates. When you decide to do so, explain to the congregation the reason why you are leaving. Perhaps God will use that to awaken them to their sin. But, on the other hand, make sure that the congregation to which you move isn’t also as ignorant of (or resistant to) the matter as the previous one. In candidating, therefore, make a point of discussing the question with the elders.
  4. You may find it helpful to hand a copy of this editorial to your board of elders to get the discussion going. You may find that this is a good way to break the ice.

Well, blessings to you.  If more of you would preach the whole counsel of God – which includes his provisions for His servants — then the church would be greatly edified.  Consider becoming one who will do so and enjoy the blessings.


Traveling on a plane in Europe, the flight attendant offered me a choice of newspapers in various languages.  I chose the Greek one.  There, hitting me right in the face on the masthead was the word Time, which was followed by a specified number of drachmas.  Even today, then, the word carries the idea of payment or cost.

Schism

How about a discussion of schism? Does that sound interesting? Among other things, in my discussions with a group of pastors recently, we touched on the subject. One of the comments made was the fact that, in some cases (I’d guess in most), congregations wait too long to act, and, therefore, end up having someone split their churches. It is always bad to put up the traffic light after the fatal accident!

Paul was clear about the urgency of the matter:

Reject a factious man after the first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

In Titus 3:10 he made it clear that quick action is called for when someone is noticed in the corner with a number of persons in secretive discussions. He said whenever a factious person is discovered, counsel once or twice, and if there is no positive response, get rid of him. There was to be no delay or long drawn out process in which there is time for him to continue his nefarious work. He is to be confronted, and unless there is a positive response (which I assume means repentance), there is to be no more delay.

Take to heart what Paul advises. Few things can be as devastating to a church than when someone succeeds in splitting it.

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Two Questions to Start With

In recent days I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of people who are seeking help in counseling others. They are dealing with people who have separated on an unbiblical basis, are divorcing a spouse, don’t attend church, and so forth. Increasingly, I find myself asking two questions almost immediately upon hearing about the basic problem presented. They are: “Is he/she a member of the church?” As soon as I receive an affirmative response, I find the second question coming out of my mouth almost automatically—without even thinking about it. It is: “What has the church done about it?” Too often the answer is totally dissatisfying. Wrong actions, no actions, inadequate actions—these and the like are the rule rather than the exception. Continue reading