October is “Pastor Appreciation Month” here in America. Churches all over the place are planning different ways to show their pastors how much they care. Thankfully, Riverside (my church) is no exception: this Sunday, after the morning worship, a covered dish luncheon has been planned. Even though I don’t think anyone is planning on giving me the keys to a new Cadillac, Mexican cornbread would be nice.
The Reason for This Post. Because of all this ‘preecheeashun talk, I feel it is appropriate to address something rarely discussed: pastoral compensation.
In a recent edition (Aug. 16) of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, the editor ripped some comments historian David Barton made during an interview with Glenn Beck. The issue being debated was whether or not a pastor should receive an income from the church.
Should pastors be paid to be pastors? Should they earn their living elsewhere? What does the Bible say? Barton and the Sword of the Lord stand in opposition on this subject. I wonder where my opinion will fall?
In June of 2013, ChristianPost.com discussed an interview historian David Barton had with conservative radio personality Glenn Beck. In that interview Barton spoke of the need for pastors to be more like Paul and become “bivocational.” Anything else he considered “church welfare.”
“What they (pastors) believe is that they can’t survive without it. Now, I’m a big believer in the way Paul did it. Paul was bivocational. He had his own income so that he wasn’t dependent on a church…Right now what happens is so many ministers depend on their church, and I’m sorry, I often call it church welfare. These are guys that get their check from the church and they don’t want to mess with their check, don’t want to jeopardize that.”
“It’s time for more pastors to become bivocational so that nobody can tell them what to do with their money. They own their own money…If the church money dries up, great, they are still ministers and they can still preach because they’ve got an income. So I’m really into that mold. And until we get out of the church welfare mold, the church takes care of me and I can’t afford to lose my check from the church. It’s going to be really tough to get the guys in a different direction.” – from ChristianPost.com
Essentially, Barton believes that a pastor should get a job outside of ministry so that he (the pastor) can better perform the work of ministry. In other words, a self-funded pastor is better than a fully-funded pastor.
Note: someone should inform David Barton of the statistics…most pastors are already bivocational. The economy and declining church attendance has made sure of that.
The Sword’s Swipe
In response to David Barton, the Sword of the Lord editor, Dr. Shelton Smith, wrote the following:
“Barton is ill advised on this. First of all, it is totally scriptural for pastors to be paid and paid well (1 Tim. 5:17,18).
Secondly, if a pastor hesitates to “take a stand” because he is “taking a salary,” he needs to get a backbone and use it. If he can’t figure out something so simple as how to “take a stand and a salary” without flinching, then your church doesn’t need him as pastor.
Third, any church that would hold the salary over the pastor’s head in an attempt to throttle his voice is not a church where I want to be a member.
Fourth, pastors need to be fully funded so that they can invest themselves fully in prayer, preaching, teaching, soul winning, administering the work, and shepherding the flock. If a man does well with all his responsibilities as pastor, he won’t have a lot of time left to make his living elsewhere.”
Booyah! In your face, Mr. Barton! Seriously, this was a good response, but I do have some minor issues with it.
If you are still reading, I would like to make a few observations. If you are not still reading, then you won’t mind that this piece is a little longer than the average blog post.
First, just in case you don’t understand the difference, bivocational pastors are not necessarily “part-time” pastors; they do full-time work for part-time pay. “Part-time” is a misnomer. Bivocational guys need to have other sources of income because the congregations they serve cannot afford to “fully fund” them. The amount of responsibility is often the same.
Also, what we are talking about here are pastors of congregational-type churches, not ones who are paid regardless of where or how they perform the duties of their calling.
Second, I would love to be fully funded (“full time”), but the compensation my congregation can afford is not enough to provide for of a family of four (in this culture), especially when my wife cannot do any regular work. If I were able to walk away from my other jobs (driving a bus, etc.) to spend more time in study, prayer, and other aspects of ministry, that would be wonderful. However, I must deal with the cards I am dealt, and God holds the deck.
Third, regarding David Barton’s thoughts, it would be great if every preacher could be like Paul, but we are not. It is unwise to use Paul as the sole template for pastors, for even though Paul was a tent maker, he spoke several times about the appropriateness of meeting the temporal needs of ministers (1 Timothy 5:17; Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14; Galatians 6:6).
Fourth, I believe the Sword of the Lord comment is perpetuating a tendency to think of bivocational pastors as second-class ministers. The editor starts off his fourth point by saying “pastors need to be fully funded so that they can…” Can? Are we to understand that pastors who are not fully funded are not able to do what they are called to do? Intentional or not, the Sword is implying that if you want to find a good pastor, you must first look for ones who are paid well. Essentially, if the part-time guy was a better preacher he might have a bigger pay check.
Let me be clear about this. God is the one who ultimately chooses the fields in which His undershepherds are to minister.
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” – Jeremiah 3:15
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” – Ephesians 4:11-12
Many great men of God faithfully serve smaller congregations, while there are some real heathen leading churches running in the thousands. A man who has a jet is not automatically a man who spends more time in prayer and study. Where one serves should not be an automatic indication of ability.
Finally, it is true that a pastor should faithfully expound the Word without fear. However, without question there are those who fear saying anything to offend the one “holding the purse strings.” But on the other hand, knowing where one’s paycheck comes from can be a useful check on ones ego, brashness, and tendency to run off at the mouth without thinking. Nevertheless, a pastor who muzzles the Spirit for fear of losing his income is no worse than a pastor who’s in the ministry to get rich, and there are a lot of wealthy preachers who fit that bill.
“Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time [or pay] is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching [despite your income or other obligations]. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. [So, at that point they’re gonna fire you, anyway.]” – 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NLT
To my fellow pastors, keep up the good work and finish well. Our reward is yet to come.