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.

feedback@nouthetic.org

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

How They Do It

The way in which some act in churches and in Para-Church Christian organizations is puzzling. Perhaps, I should say disappointing. What I’m referring to is the dominant individual who insists on getting his way, no matter what. He will come up with an idea that he believes everyone else should adopt, and will find ways and means of putting it through—even though a minority suspect that the plan isn’t biblical, and would like to take time to study it from an exegetical perspective. They rarely speak up. If one does, he is trounced with a bevy of reasons for moving ahead, without delay.

Does the proponent listen? Seldom. The idea of assuring Scriptural fidelity is brushed aside in one manner or another. “Trust me—I have studied this out and, in addition, Drs. Jones, Smith and Green are all for it.” Who can disagree with these three “greats” of the Evangelical world?

How does he get his way? He lays it out—full-blown—before the group and tells them this is what they must do. There may be a few individuals who are neither for nor against it, but would like to hear more information before they endorse it. They may or may not express this desire. But it doesn’t matter; the one proposing the plan—whether it be the construction of a building, the adoption of some ambitious program, or the backing of a scheme for furthering one of his pet projects—he will get his way. How? By virtually bludgeoning the rest into agreement.

Continue reading

If You Had to Choose

If you had to choose, which would it be?

“I think the other one.”

Any particular reason for that option over the other? Or it is it a matter of mere momentary preference?

“I don’t really know? Think I may be as much influenced by color as by anything else.”

Well, it’s good to know that within the fundamental principles of the Scriptures, there are options for us from which to choose. What a tragedy when, in the name of the Lord, so much power is given to another that he thinks he has right and obligation to make all the major (sometimes even minor) decisions in other peoples’ lives—who they should marry; which car to buy, etc.

“Yeah.”

There are churches like that, where if the pastor says so, no one dare to disagree with him. We operate, instead, by biblical principles; not by someone else’s absolute authority. While there are lots of decisions which might be possible (and biblically acceptable), the Bible teaches that not all are “expedient.”

Think about that for a while. You have a lot of freedom in Christ, but only so much as you harm no other believer, nor make decisions that injure your church. But each man/woman is responsible before God for thinking these things through carefully so that all the biblical principles that are appropriate are applied in making those decisions.

“Yeah. I want the yellow one.”

feedback@nouthetic.org

Greeks and Barbarians

A modern marketing technique is to target the sort of people that your church wants to reach. The young, upper middle class is a common group, for instance. Hardly hear of anyone targeting the feeble and decrepit, however (unless they’re the moneyed sort)!

Is this targeting a biblical strategy?

Consider Paul’s words,

I am a debtor both to Greeks and Barbarians, to the educated and to the ignorant.
                                                                           Romans 1:14

Sounds like if you asked him to do so, he’d go on to mention just about every other sort of person. And, as we shall see, that’s just what he did. Can’t see the apostle targeting a certain group—can you?

Continue reading

A Word of Caution

How about a word of caution from the apostle Paul that probably applies across the board to people in all sorts of churches—yes, even where the Bible is supreme.

Here is what he wrote under the moving of the Holy Spirit:

Every charge must be substantiated by the mouth of two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1).

Now, if that word were heeded among Christians, there would be far greater peace in their respective congregations.

There is nothing esoteric, confusing or difficult about the verse. There is no context to define it—except for the fact that the Corinthians were always at each other’s throats about something or other.

Continue reading

John Calvin

This is the year for celebrating  John Calvin’s birthday. I have been re-reading his letters and am amazed once again at the amount of time a busy writer, preacher, and Protestant apologist spent doing pastoral work. The letters are filled with concern for the average man on the street to whom he was ministering. Things like bringing people into contact with one another who had been displaced by persecution, helping select brides for church members, dealing with church disciplinary matters, writing letters of comfort to bereaved or persecuted persons, spending time at Diets representing his community, taking part in the affairs of Geneva, dealing with drunkenness, wayward church members, those who were fearful, anxious and dying, and instructing other preachers in how to counsel members of their congregations. All of this—and much more—fill his letters, showing his loving care for his flock.

Continue reading

Stand Alone?

Some of us who began our ministry in the late forties and early fifties know what it was like. Christians, today, have no idea. The liberals ruled! They had stolen all the key churches in the major denominations, along with their colleges and seminaries. The Federal Council (now the National Council) of Churches had even gained control of the media—you couldn’t get on the air, except through them! It was a time when those who believed something were cast aside and ridiculed. It was a day when conservative preachers were forced to meet in storefronts since they were no longer welcome in the mainline denominations. I remember it well.

Today, the roles have been reversed—the conservatives have it all; the liberals are trying to keep their heads above water. It wasn’t all bad though back then—you knew who was who. If you believed anything, you would be ostracized. So, you knew who the true believers were. Like you, they were starting all over again with their small congregations. There was no mixing with those who denied the Word of God—except to evangelize them. The two camps were apart out of the realities of the situation.

Continue reading

A Jonah in your Boat?

I spoke in an earlier blog about flattery and the trap that the Bible says it’s easy to fall into if a person allows it to pump up his vanity.

If we have any preachers reading, I’d like to speak to you specifically about the issue (by the way, when do you get time to read my stuff, if you’re a busy preacher?)

Anyway, here’s the point:

A visitor comes to your church. At the door, leaving the church you greet him: “Nice to have you visit, sir. New in town?”

Continue reading