In recent years, I have come to question the standard of Pastor’s in full time ministry . More specifically, the western norm of salary, and how having paid church staff affects churches for one, and the Pastor’s ministry for two. Before I begin this journey, I know such a topic is difficult to tread, and doing so, brings out a lot of debate. My goal here is not to be fastidious, but to carefully challenge the Western norm coalesced with the Biblical norm, and see if that helps us arrive somewhere. My process, though subjected to my research, I hope feels much more dialectical, than one sided opinion….you will be the judge.
As a youngster one of my life long pursuits was to be a Pastor. And as a youngster, this would mean to make a living in such a way. A full-time Paid dude, who would be revered and respected… Though I have made it to the Pastorate, I have never been full-time paid…In the beginning I desired such a thing, but as time progressed , and I watched church after church spend (tithe) income, I started to question the salary, the ideology, and ecclesiology behind it. Sure, being paid for my work would be great, but the positions I chose always paid part time. (I chose, yes subjective-writing from my experience, not the other side). With funds limited, I had to seek employment elsewhere and to the flooring world I entered (today, I now own the business). And the bi-vocational world began…
Let’s return…the western world that we are set up in, is structured much like a business, and normally at the top you have the CEO, who is the highest paid. There is nothing wrong with that (of course this is a wide topic of debate in recent years), it’s the system. The system defines the pay, and who is worthy of it. Today’s church here in the West, is designed in such a way as well. A friend of mine recently write this on a post:
“I think lone churches rising up in a capitalist and commercial society will have a hard time not looking like a business. Protestant churches are usually privatized and separate structures. Everyone’s got their own church and each church attracts its own personality types. Each one caters to those personality types. It all sounds like business, so it seems natural for everything to just start looking like a business.”
I would have to agree, each church in our area caters to different consumer Christians (please note , I am not suggesting they are all consumers), and in doing so, we have structures set up with paid Pastor’s. Is this wrong?..no it’s the way things are, is it Bibical? Well, that’s a worthy question to pursue.
Today’s church as we have stated, operates much like a business, but the Biblical church functioned more as a family. The church did not own property, and was not encumbered by mortgages and full-time salaries. Not far into the book of Acts 2 we discover this in Acts 2:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
A beautiful picture, a family, having everything in common. Today’s world is totally different, one were not under Roman rule; two Jesus did not just ascend to heaven; and three; there are no apostles who just saw the risen Christ. We live in different world and one has to be careful as he exegetes, not to eisogete, and create anachronisms. Unfortunately, that reality in Acts no longer exists at least here in the West. Sure some churches are more familial than others, but not in this manner. There was no dichotomy in their lives, no sacred or secular, even in roman paganism, such was the same. All life was sacred, for god’s were involved in all areas (unless you were a epicurean/deist). [See Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright] Today, due to this divide, everything changes. One day out of the week is set aside for the gathering of church family to hear the Pastor teach, to have some worship, and to be on our way. Things are far from the norm, but so is the culture, which brings us back to the question at hand, paid-Pastors.
From early on after Jesus’ ascension, there is no mention of Biblical paid elders. The common mistake is when people defend such a position by pointing out the idea of the apostles being paid. We know that Paul was supported, but did his best to provide for himself to not be a burden on others.
“Don’t you remember, dear brothers, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled and sweated to earn enough to live on so that our expenses would not be a burden to anyone there, as we preached God’s Good News among you” (1.Thes.2:9)
“I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:33-35 KJV
Paul, if you ask me, looks more bi-vocational, than a full-time paid ministry professional.
But the problem is elder does not equal apostle. And by elder we mean Pastor.
Strongs Greek dictionary
652 apóstolos (from 649 /apostéllō, “to commission, send forth”) – properly, someone sent (commissioned), focusing back on the authority (commissioning) of the sender (note the prefix, apo); apostle.
4166 poimḗn – properly, a shepherd (“pastor” in Latin); (figuratively) someone who the Lord raises up to care for the total well-being of His flock (the people of the Lord).
These are not the same office, in fact they have no cognate to them at all.
The apostle seems more like today’s modern day missionary, than a Pastor. The difference though, is that Paul knew the culture, he was a Roman citizen, different then some of our missionaries today (another whole writing in that).
What about Jesus and his disciples?
Well, we know they were being supported from many women
8 After this, Jesus traveled from one city and village to another. He spread the Good News about God’s kingdom. The twelve apostles were with him. 2 Also, some women were with him. They had been cured from evil spirits and various illnesses. These women were Mary, also called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; 3 Joanna, whose husband Chusa was Herod’s administrator; Susanna; and many other women. They provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples.”
I reckon, the greater question when using these passages to defend Pastor’s salary is to ask how much were they receiving ? Though, we have already made the distinction between the two, let’s examine just a step further.
Jesus and his disciples could not have had a whole lot. We know clearly from scripture that Judas Iscariot was the money holder, and he was stealing from it all along. When the temptation to betray Jesus presented itself, he sold him out for 30 pieces of silver, which must have been a lot, considering he had access to the treasury.
In Matthew 26:9, Jesus was anointed with oil, and Judas, got very upset, saying that was a lot of money to feed the poor (or a lot of money for him to steal) with. In regard to this Barnes notes states this:
Matt 26:9. [Sold for much] Mark and John say for three hundred pence-that is about 9 British pounds. John 12:5. [Three hundred pence] About $40.00 .
This was a large sum of money, and Judas was upset.
This leads us to the betrayal. Judas was tempted with thirty pieces of silver, it’s said that it amounted to $15. If the disciples were wealthy or somewhat well of, he would not have betrayed Jesus for so little. Again , using texts like these to defend Pastors salary, leads to question then, well are you really poor? have you experienced this in Philippians 4:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I know a good many Pastors who are poor, but I believe this type of poor as an apostle is a whole different level.
One final passage we must touch on and then we will have some closing remarks…
I Timothy 5
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
There are three analogies being presented here. First elders (not singular elder by the way) are worthy of double honor, oxen should get their grain for there work, and finally, workers should be paid for their labor. Typically, I have heard that Pastors therefore are worthy of their wages, maybe in a western sense, but that is not what is being applied here. Paul does not say elders are worthy of their wages, he says they are worthy of double honor, equating it as oxen are worthy of their grain, and laborers are worthy of wages. The elders are worthy of the honor they receive, just as the rest receive what they receive for there work. The question then is what is double honor.
Honor from Strong’s Greek
5092: time (pronounced tee-may’)
from 5099; a value, i.e. money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy, esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself:–honour, precious, price, some.
This alludes more to reverence, and respect then anything else, based on the context and the way it was translated. Not monetary, but something different, something desired: prominence.
The passage above verse 17, is all about widows and overall a formula to determine who should receive financial support and who should not. And at the end of this it says, let the “elders who rule well” receive double honor. Rule what well? It is as clear as day, rule well in handling the finances to the widows. The instructions about widows is for the elders to help them rule well, and if they do so, they should be held in high esteem for doing a good job, just like an ox, and a laborer. This is not saying to pay them.
Here is where I conclude. I realize this is not exhaustive and has possible flaws, but I think it’s a good beginning. I believe that though Pastor’s are paid in today’s world, I do not believe this was the original intention. This seems to follow much more of Constantine’s interference with the world and paid professional Pastors stemmed from that beginning, really not being seen until 800ad. I do not believe that Pastors who get paid is something that can be defended with the bible. But, yet, I do not believe it is wrong either.
As I stated earlier, we are in a Western mindset, with western ideals, and a church structured after such only make sense for paid Pastors. Do I believe the system could be better? Yes. Do I believe the financials could be changed? Yes. For more reading on this idea, and more in general on this topic check here:
Hugh Halters new book “Bi Vo”
This is just a start.