Should Pastors Get Paid to Preach the Gospel?

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preach the gospel for moneyIn years past I have written about what the Bible says about getting paid to pastor, and especially getting paid to preach the gospel (Look on this page, under the “Pastoral Pay” section). Recently, a reader sent in the following question:

I need help responding when someone quotes 1 Corinthians 9:14. Especially when they use the ESV & NKJV.

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”

Specifically, that getting one’s living from the gospel is a “commanded” practice.

I understand that it is also translated “directed,” however, once “commanded” is interjected into the debate, it’s tough to respond.

My thoughts are: If “commanded” is the correct translation, then did Paul blatantly disobey the Lord’s command? And why would Paul say he would rather “die” than to even give the perception that he materially benefited from preaching?

Any thoughts on the issue would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Neil

I must admit that although I have finished a rough draft of a commentary on 1 Corinthians, I have never before considered this question Neil brought up. By one way of reading 1 Corinthians 9:14, Paul does appear to be saying that Jesus commanded that certain people should get paid to preach the gospel.

There are multiple ways of explaining and understanding this text, and I will present a few below, but would love for you opinion as well on what 1 Corinthians 9:145 means when Paul says that the Lord commanded that those who preach their gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Maybe the Command is not for the Preacher but for the Hearer

When Neil initially sent this question in to me, I responded this way:

First, I did some quick study of the Greek in the text, and decided that the various translations are fine. Though there are some verses in various translations that are horrid, this is not one of them.

So I then decided that maybe the command was not primarily for the one preaching the gospel, but for those who were receiving the benefit from the teacher. That is, the command is for the hearers. They were expected to provide for the one doing the teaching. If the one doing the teacher turned down the aid, that was fine, as Paul did. In the context, he says that although it was his right to receive financial help from the Corinthians believers, he turned it down so as not to hinder the gospel (1 Cor 9:12).

This is the answer I sent to Neil, and while I think there is truth to this idea (that the responsibility is on the hearer to offer support rather than on the teacher to demand it), I do not think that this is what Paul is saying. It does not seem that we can get my interpretation to fit the text. Note that the command is clearly to the one preaching the gospel, not to the ones hearing it. Although… the context is directed toward the hearers, so maybe my take is somewhat justified…

So what other options are there?

The Command is for Apostles who Preach the Gospel

preach for moneyNeil forwarded me an email that he got back from Alan Knox, who gave a much better (and more thorough) answer than I did. His answer actually considers the context and where Jesus might have given the command that Paul is referring to.

Hopefully Alan does not mind if I include here what he wrote…

My suggestion would be to consider the context… who is Paul writing about? As I see it, there are two options:

1) Paul is referring to anyone who “proclaims the gospel.” Of course, that would mean that he was referring to every believer who ever shares the gospel, and that all of them “should get their living by the gospel.”

or

2) Paul is referring to a specific group who “proclaim the gospel.” But which group. Again, I see two options: A) Paul specifies the group in the context of this passage, or B) We can choose the group. The B) option is not very palatable to me, which only leaves A). And, the first part of 1 Corinthians 9 tells us that Paul is talking about people who travel to proclaim the gospel, i.e., apostles.

So, by focusing on the “who,” you don’t even have to worry as much about what “commanded” means or what “should get their living by the gospel” means.

By the way, I think that Paul is talking about receiving hospitality, which Jesus “commanded” to apostles in Matthew 10 and Luke 10. So, the “command” was not to people giving the support, but to people receiving the support (that is, hospitality).

Neil followed up with some further comments of his own on how Paul reacted to that “commandment” in the second half of 1 Corinthians 9.

Reading only the first half of 1 Corinthians 9, it could be argued that Paul taught and endorsed that pastors have a right to receive a salary. But that would be taking Paul completely out of context on this issue. In reading the entire chapter in context, Paul went much further, by word and deed, as an example to clearly demonstrate that he believed one’s personal right to compensation for preaching the gospel ends where the gospel of Christ begins. Specifically, Paul explained in the second half of the chapter that exercising that right would not only “hinder” the gospel, but also be a financial “burden” on the Church.

So examining Paul’s words and actions on the issue in full context, it’s obvious that Paul wanted no part of anything, including the exercising of one’s personal rights that could possibly harm the gospel message and be a financial burden on the church. And for those who point to 1 Corinthians 9:14 and say, “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel,” the word “commanded” is also translated, “directed” in many prominent translations. Not to mention that if the Lord did in fact command it, then the man He personally ordained as an Apostle and minister of the gospel decided to make the Lord’s command just an option. It couldn’t be sensibly argued that this is the case.

To be clear, in the second half of chapter 9, Paul puts the compensation issue from the first half of the chapter in context, focusing on pastors having to endure all things in complete submission to the gospel, not accommodating a pastor’s personal right to reap material benefits and make a living from the gospel.

I believe Neil is right on target when he says that “one’s personal right to compensation for preaching the gospel ends where the gospel of Christ begins.”

I have written previously about what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:9 where he says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.” Among other things, I wrote this:

1 Corinthians 9 cannot be used by pastors to defend the practice of receiving a salary. It is talking about traveling missionaries and apostolic leaders who have left their home and jobs to teach and support other Christians in other towns. Since they will typically only be in a city or town for a few weeks or months, they are dependent upon the hospitality of the people in that city or town. Ideally, even these spiritual leaders should have “travelling professions” if possible, so like Paul, they do not have to depend on the financial aid of other people either.

In other words, there are a lot of critical cultural, historical, and biblical background material that must be considered to properly understand, interpret, and apply Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:14 that those who preach the gospel should get their living from the gospel. We need to understand the role of hospitality in the Hebrew and Roman culture and economy, we need to understand the law in Deuteronomy about borrowing a neighbors oxen, we need to understand the the role and purpose of apostles, and above all, we need to properly understand the full scope of the gospel.

The bottom line is this: If a pastor quotes 1 Corinthians 9:14 as a way to demand that the people he minister to should pay his salary, he is using 1 Corinthians 9:14 in exactly the opposite way that Paul was using it. Paul writes 1 Corinthians 9:14 in the context of explaining why he does not take money from the people he serves. 

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying it is a sin for pastors to take a salary. All I am saying is that 1 Corinthians 9:14 cannot be used to defend the practice. Taking a salary as a pastor is a choice, and deciding to not take a salary is also a choice. Each person must decide for themselves which way of living will be of most benefit to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the people whom they seek to serve.

So what do you think about 1 Corinthians 9:14? Have you ever had a pastor tell you that it is God’s command that you support him to preach the gospel? Weigh in below, and if you have written about this on your own blog, include a link in the comment section. 


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Comments

  1. says

    Jeremy, thanks for sharing this. The professionalization of pastors has had hugely negative consequences, not to mention inflated egos. The inevitable outcome is that like all professions it begins to mimic market principles of supply/demand and profit/loss, which is antithetical to the gospel.

  2. Alan Knox says

    Jeremy,

    I’m glad that you shared this. Just so that proper credit is given, I think my part of the conversation (that you quoted) ends with “… to people receiving the support (that is, hospitality).” I believe the remainder of that quotation is from Neil.

    I’m glad that people are talking about this issue.

    -Alan

    • brother John says

      Let us all put this thing about pastors, preachers, any any members of the church getting paid. NO, NO, NO!!! What part about freely you have been given freely give do people not understand. No true preacher of the gospel should ever take money as a payment for preaching. The preachers that do so are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ask yourselves which one of the prophets took money for preaching? NONE that i know of. The word of God is free. Almost every single church in the world is out for money, and they feed off of peoples quest to feel better about themselves. Churches almost always have been a place for people to socialize, and that is what they are, and not temples of God. Why do you see them selling stuff in church did Christ not say to the money changers my temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. The churches are full of hypocrites, Christ said to pray not in the synagogue as they hypocrites do they pray to be seen by men, and what is a synagogue but a public church?? There are many things i can state to show all of you that these places are deceptive. And people buy into this. ‘STRAIGHT AND NARROW BE THE PATH TO LIFE AND FEW THEY BE THAT FIND IT.” MANY WILL SAY TO ME IN THAT DAY LORD, LORD WE HAVE TAUGHT IN YOUR NAME AND IN YOUR NAME CAST OUT MANY DEMONS, AND HE SAID GO AWAY FROM ME I KNOW YOU NOT!!

  3. Sam says

    You’re brave today! Don’t you know that pointing out that Bible passages that are used to prove that one Must give money (to pay staff salaries and property mortgages) don’t really say what we’ve been told they say is messin’ with the Man?

    Many of today’s churches, churches which are a far cry from anything envisioned in the New Testament, n-e-e-d money, lots of it to keep afloat. Does it not stand to reason that they will find Bible passages that they claim are commands by God, Jesus, Paul or whoever to give them the money they think they desperately need to pay (sometimes) six figure salaries, and mortgages on multi-million dollar properties?

    The movement of the culture away from the church, and the attendant loss of $$$ is forcing churches to either radically redefine church, or close the doors. Few are radically redefining church.

    • says

      Ha! Well, I don’t know if I’m brave…. I didn’t write it after all… Alan and Neil did most of it. They’re the ones to blame!

      You are right though. Few are making the necessary changes… The next few decades will be very interesting.

  4. Markus Watson says

    As a pastor who gets “paid” for ministry, I don’t disagree with your conclusion. But I do want to point out that I don’t “take” a salary, as you put it. Rather, I “receive” a salary. Or, better, I receive God’s provision. It may seem like a minor distinction, but I think it’s actually quite significant.

    No doubt some pastors do take a salary (that new show about pastors in L.A. comes to mind). But I think most of us pastors recognize that our income is really a gift from God. It is something we receive, a grace given. It is not something we take, as though we deserve it.

    I love getting to be a pastor. I love studying the scriptures and sharing with people what I’ve learned. I love encouraging and spurring people on to love and good deeds. I love getting to play a part in people’s drawing closer to Christ and watching them become salt and light. I love reminding people of God’s enduring presence by being present with them in their best and worst times. And I’m so grateful I get to do all this without distraction (other than my 3 young kids!) because of the financial provision that I receive.

    • Alan Knox says

      Markus,

      Are you saying that you don’t do some things because you get paid a salary, and that if they stopped paying you a salary you would continue doing everything you do now?

      By the way, I disagree 100% that a job (outside of the church) is a “distraction.” In fact, it seems to me that being paid by the church is often a distraction… but one that is rarely seen from the inside, but is recognized by many on the outside.

      -Alan

    • Neil Braithwaite says

      I, us, our and we? Sure a lot of those throughout your comment Markus. I counted no less than 15 I’s. Not trying to impugn your integrity, but Jesus and the Apostles always put the needs of others ahead of their own. Unfortunately, the corporate church model with its vocational pastors have the whole shepherding thing backwards. Under their model, the needs of the institution and the pastor come first, superseding the needs of the sheep. In their model, the sheep make sure the needs of the building and the pastor get met – and if the budget permits, the needs of the sheep can be addressed. It’s what Paul referred to as a “burden” on the church. Not to mention all those people who see vocational pastors as only in it for the money. That’s what Paul referred to as a “hindrance” to the gospel. No amount of justification can dismiss these two realities and their negative effect on the gospel today. And that’s exactly why Paul NEVER took a salary. Please read “The Apostle Paul on Personal Rights and the Gospel” http://honorgodsword.com/

      • says

        I agree as to what Paul was saying. Paul also worked. We are shown on an occasion he worked at a tent making olace in on of the cities just before going on the mission to elsewhere. Paul was sent things including money. He stressed the need to give to those in Jerusalem first as they were trying hard to conver the Jews.
        I was burdened from the Lord to take an oath not to work for anyone but him. I do not receive a salary at all and I oreach where I am asked and online. My wife has a good job the Lord provided for us. I am not saying you should have a wife that works so you can spread the gospel, but it has been what has done in our situation for now. It seems the more I work and ahrder I work and learn the more blessings we receive through my wifes Job. Including money and extra compensation.
        Again I am not saying this is the way to do it, I am saying this is the way the Lord has kept me preaching. I have applied many times to preach in many places and did not demand anything from it. It seems everyone is interested in education, morre then the Holy Ghost teaching. They think their picking their pastor and have no faith jesus is bringing someone for them. We have inflated what the Church actually is. Its not the building and the things, it is the people. I was understanding this scripture and googled it to see if my understanding was right. Your explanation confirms what I have understood.
        Peter also said do not do anything for filthy lucre. If the pastor and Church everywhere would sell everything they owned and took up the cross and divided it among their congregation and the rest given to the poor. There would be an outpouring of the Holy Ghost you have never seen before and millions would be saved. Yet sadly most pastors have fancy houses and cars and the little lady on social security giving her last dollar for it.
        Another thing you should point out is the tithe was done away with in the actual pure sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I see Pentecost preachers threatening the congregation with curses from God for not giving. Yet in Corinthians and other places we see its what our heart sets to give and we are cheerful to give.
        How can one be cheerful and afraid of a curse at the same time? And malachi refers to the same people from nehemiah. Not the Church. Nor new covenant. And every baptsit preaches it, and says were not like pentecost and preach the law, yet thats one of the laws. And the pentecost preach it when there running low on funds. And the tv preacher preaches it to gain another house in the beach. Ive seen it to many times.

    • says

      Markus,

      There are lots of things I really miss about being a pastor… and many things I don’t miss at all. The most surprising thing of all is which is which.

      If I did go back to the pastorate, I think one of the main things I would do is make sure that I got a job outside of the church in the community. For me, this has been one of the most beneficial and rewarding aspects of leaving full time pastoral ministry. It helps me understand what other people go through (the pastorate can get somewhat insulated), and it helps me get to know people in the community (again, the pastor can live an insulated life).

      Anyway, thanks for your input and your passion to love and serve!

    • ed says

      All preachers can serve GOD without accepting money. Why get paid for what our father has commanded of us. You can not serve both GOD and money. What would happen if the holy spirit commands you to say something the church council does not want said? Will you or any other preacher follow GOD and risk losing your salary? If not money is worth more to you than The LORD. I am having a hard time finding a church that does not pay the pastor. Let Cesar has what is his. Jesus told us and we are not listening. As for Paul, if he contradicts Jesus my savior I will disregard Paul’s teachings.

      • Mark says

        Hi Ed, The Pastor at the Church of Hosanna International Ministries (HIM), does not get paid he willingly shows his bank statements to the congregation, in hopes that they will understand where the money is really going and with that said he keeps 100 dollars in his account and lives off of that for a whole month and the rest of the tithes and offerings go to 13 different ministries, divided evenly and the Church helps out at least 3-4 missionaries and the youth group of the Church all in separate accounts, this is a Church of around 68 to 80 people every Sunday this is not a big Church but God has blessed this man beyond measure and continues to do so this Church can be found in Saint Joseph Missouri, Pastor Larry Gray.

  5. Neil Braithwaite says

    Thanks Jeremy for addressing my initial question. Alan is correct saying that the remainder of the quotation is mine. (see Alan’s comment in this thread) I’m sure it was a simple mistake. In any case, I’m glad to see you like my quote: “…one’s personal right to compensation
    for preaching the gospel ends where the gospel of Christ begins.” It is foundational to my argument against salaried pastors. I also agree with you that if a congregation wants to pay a pastor a salary it’s their right. But they also need to understand the possible negative effects exercising that right will have on the gospel. And it will! I challenge all vocational pastors to read my study on the issue. “The Apostle Paul on Personal Rights and the Gospel” http://honorgodsword.com/

  6. WARD KELLY says

    My wife and I have been looking for a church family for a while now. One mega-style church that she is drawn too has all the earmarks of this topic. They have roughly 900 people attending, and have a budget of $1,400,000 dollars to operate. I asked the finance guy for a budget breakdown as every week when in attendence thay spend an inordinate amount of time asking for money, and using some of the afore mentioned scriptures. What I found was slightly over 50% of the budget was dedicated to the staff (churches rarely list individual salaries for fear that people might have a problem with the lead pastor’s salary and benefits), for four pastors. I can only assume that they have a church secretary as well leaving over $500,000 dollars for the lead pastor, associate pastor, the finance guy, worship leader, and a secretary. Most of the rest of the budget is dedicated to an elaborate building with around 1% left for missions outreach.

    As was mentioned by Neil, this model is upside down. The average household income of my county has dropped $5,000 since 2008 to around $47,000…that is household. Do the leaders of the sheep need to command salaries more than double those of the entire households they supposedly serve? I hear on a weekly basis that I must “trust” God and give my “tithe” at the least, and more so to really impress God, and yet where is ther faith? Why so they have to beat and shear the sheep weekly for money, and yet we are to give not knowing how bills will be paid and have faith. Should pastoral leaders display the same faith they wish their congregants to display? Is this not leadership?

    In this day of declining incomes, loss of jobs, and people working two or three partime jobs just to make ends meet, you would think that pastors would display a little more sensativity and leadership to their congregants. Take a pay reduction, get a part time job like many that they serve have done to provide for their families. When did becoming a professional clergy become a vocation, rather than a spiritual quest of serving others as Christ served?

    • says

      Ward,

      You are right. That model is upside down. The statistics are sobering, but are all too common. I think smaller churches usually pay their pastors much less, but in those churches, the pastoral salary often eats up 70-80% of the budget.

    • says

      Look into the tithe. Also seek cheeful giver. We can not be cheeful if the pastor threatened us with a curse from God. I dont believe in the tithe as it is what the Lord requires of you, not the Tithe which was only proceeds from farming and animals. Now the Lord may ask of you something you covet, but he is doing that to save you from sin. I have given away thing I loved but it was because I was loving those things more then the Lord. Thats a different story. Give what you set in your heart to the Lord, but be sure to give that because you can not lie to the Holy Ghost. If you say you will give a hundred a pay check or a dollar then give that as it would be required of you.

  7. Dustin Ryman says

    I don’t think people should have to pay for another man or woman to read the Bible to them or tell them how to live or help people get to God. Many pastors have become “brokers” between people and God.

    This is not needed. It is also saying that the average Christian is not capable of living in God without the aid of another person.

    Jesus taught we are all kings and priests to God. IMO the money spent paying for clergy, buildings, etc etc could go towards better use.

      • Dustin Ryman says

        I agree. This is one of the hardest subjects to talk about because there are so many pastors out there with great hearts who love God. I don’t think they are ‘doing wrong’, I just believe that the current hierarchical model creates a gap between clergy and laity that was never meant to be. Pastors, priests and even the pope do not possess some ‘special gift’ that allows them to hear from God. All Christians have the same ability to access God as they do.

        IMO, the majority of Christians have unknowingly made their pastors mediators between them and God. Something Christ never intended. Christ came to break the wall down between humanity and God.

    • says

      Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

      I agree they should be paid. As Paul said I robbed other Churches to preach to you. Meaning they didn’t give when they had to give. But I do not agree with a salary over what the congregation can afford without burdening anyone.

      I am not paid by anyone but God, all I preach has been for him. He provides the salary for us through my wife. We do not need buildings yet we have a building called a home we could all gather in. So if we can fit over 3000 in your home can we all come over at once.

      There is a need for buildings in most places as many could not fit in a persons home and we all can not stand outside in the snow and ice. Remember even tho we do not agree on paying the pastor, we also must not forget that the Lord is whom we serve and truly give. As God can do with the money what he sees fit also.

      I would agree we should use those buildings as missions as they shouldnt be empty the other 6 days of the week. We should use the space wisely and grow our numbers in anyway we can. If you have a Church building then ask the pastor to open it to the homeless as its really Gods building since he paid for it.

  8. André van der Merwe says

    Jeremy

    In my humble opinion, the context of 1 Cor 9 was not to serve a proof text for being paid a salary – it was to prove Paul’s apostleship. I wrote an extensive article about “Ministry vs Money” here, which takes just about every single scripture that has to do with being paid for Ministry and looks at it IN context:

    http://newcovenantgrace.com/organic-church/ministry-and-money/

    Here’s the start of the section that deals with 1 Cor 9:

    1 Corinthians 9:14

    In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Cor 9:14 ESV)

    Nearly all people in “full time ministry” justify earning a monthly salary using the right that Paul mentioned here, completely disregarding his example, which was never making use of this right. He called it being a burden to the church.

    When reading the Bible, context is everything. The context of this chapter is that the Corinthian church was beginning to question Paul’s apostleship because he wasn’t claiming any support from them when he ministered, something that they had possibly gotten used to with some of the otherapostles. It’s important to note that Paul wrote this chapter in defense to his right as an apostle and not as an evangelist, prophet, teacher or shepherd (pastor). Paul was specifically defending the right that an apostle had to claim support in this chapter.

    • vieux loup says

      At the risk of sounding like a professional, or worse a charlatan, I think that Paul does make the case for paying pastors. In fact, that is the point he makes with the phrase “Don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain”. The distinction I would make is that he also uses that quote in 1 Tim. 5:18 and if context means anything he is not referring to apostles but to elders. It should be noted that in that context he has already stated that the church should financially support those who are widows indeed. Here I would refer those interested to Craig Keener’s comments on this passage. Then he moves to the issue of elders who rule well being worthy of double honor (which could imply financial remuneration).
      This discussion seems to have moved from a discussion on 1 Corinthians 9 (which could be used in a wrong way) to the issue of whether those lead a church should be paid so I offer the above thoughts to restore some balance. And in the interest of full disclosure I do receive a salary from the church I serve as well as working a part-time job.

  9. Grant B. says

    It seems that the end of the article comes to the conclusion that it is a choice whether you receive financial return or not. But yet a lot of the comments seem to toss ministers under the bus that do choose to receive a return. Kind of defeats the purpose. To those that are against a minister receiving a return, are the pastors supposed to do all the “duties” such as visiting the sick, counseling, discipleship, etc. full time, plus work full time and have a family and just suck it up and run themselves in to the ground? What is wrong with refining your focus to serve the saints with greater attention? I am speaking from experience as a church planter, who leads a flock and started the ministry while working a full time job, 50 hours a week. There are only so many hours in a week, and something has got to give somewhere. My church suffered from my absence. I was an absentee parent sometimes. I was trying to do too many things well. There was a problem with that. I’m human. It’s easy to say pastors should just pay their own way until you’ve tried to do it all well. There has to be a balance. Are we running those God has called to those offices in to the ground because we don’t want to support them? I want you to know, I still work a part time job. I barely receive anything from the church. My goal is to be self sufficient, that what would be my salary would be used to fund the gospel. But we have to be careful with saying “putting it to better use”. Imagine your work telling you that. I know you pour your heart and soul into this place, and you’re good at what you do, but we feel like the money could be put to “better use” elsewhere. I absolutely don’t believe in lavish salaries, but why shouldn’t ministers be helped? It’s not just sitting behind a desk reading a bible and telling people what God says. It it is, then yes don’t pay them. This IS WORK, it is taxing, it is hard, you have to be called, and yes it is worth it, but let’s empower and enable ministers by not adding more of a financial burden on minsters on top of that to go out and work a full time job as well.

    I didn’t see much about verse 7, where Paul puts it in natural terms and says things like, ” who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?”
    Paul seems to be fine with ministers receiving support, but he was defending his apostleship and showing his eagerness to go above and beyond to present the gospel without charge. I know for me, trying to do too many things too well results in no one getting the full benefit of what God has called me to do.

    • Sam says

      Grant, Maybe you are doing many things that others should be doing. If you planted the church, you set the example of what the pastor should do, and now you’re expected to do
      those things. You have made yourself indispensible. You and your church will both be better off in the long run if you pass many of these jobs to people in the congregation. You’ll probably encounter some resistance, since most people would rather have you do these things for “barely anything”.

    • Amber says

      I would just like to add that I have really enjoyed reading your conversations. All of them the straight forward direct and respectful communication is appreciated. Blessing

  10. ben says

    One consideration is this- Most people would rather PAY a pastor to go about The Lord’s business than read and study their own bible and do what The Lord commands. It is a comfort to go about their daily lives, knowing that they tithe and the pastor is taking care of the rest. Let the church and a few 10%ers feed the hungry and give to the poor on behalf of their offerings.

    • Mike says

      Just reading these posts and had to chime in. I have been wrestling with these questions for several years now, and after turning it inside and out, I have come to this conclusion; We are asking the wrong question. The question should be what is the biblical def of pastor. The word is only in the new testament 2 times (original text) and is synonymous with shepherd, or overseer, which in turn are synonymous with elder and is always used in a plural sense. By very little study, one can see that elders were always meant to shepherd the church, and always more than one. The purpose of the elders is to oversee, that is to keep heresy out of the church, and to allow the church to function as a body, not a dictatorship. When this becomes clear, the whole way we “do” church falls apart, and the “leader” of the church must take a seat next to the laity because that is what he is, and it’s where he belongs. Jesus said in Luke 22:25 that the kings of the earth lord power over the people and yet call themselves the peoples helpers, then He said “It shall not be so with you, for the one who is greatest among you, shall be servant of all.” Paul says “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”. Repeatedly Paul states that he works with his own hands as an example to follow. I think a great question is; if Paul was an apostle and said to follow his example of working to provide for himself, how can a pastor/elder justify taking money to stay in a community and preach week after week to the same people, who I might add, have the same bible and can read it. The church is the body of Christ, the job of every leader, pastor, elder,ect is to help the members of the body grow to maturity, not to lord power over them. When the church is funtionioning correctly, there will be multiple elders, pastors, teachers, ect, to help with whatever arises as a need in the church. The body when taught its real job will begin to serve one another and build one another up, to teach one another and admonish one another. This is all to say, we have made up a position called “Pastor” and defined it in our own way, and then we argue over why it is so hard, and how much it should pay, ect. When what we should do is unshackle the laity, set the leaders back with the people where they belong, and watch what Christ can do through the entire body working together with Him at the helm.

      • says

        You are on to something here….

        Of course, there is the passage in Acts where the apostles want to devote themselves wholly to preaching and teaching, and though the term “pastor” is not used, some use this to justify the practice of getting paid to preach.

        Also, even if your case can be defended (which I believe it can), the question then becomes this: “Is Paul saying this is the way it should always be, everywhere, throughout time, and around the world?” That might be a harder question to answer.

  11. satovey says

    There is a big disconnect with your position and reality as well as the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 25 regarding His Judgment of the Nations as sheep and goats.

    People use the “to not hinder the gospel” to the point of actually hindering the Gospel. God will withhold work from one He has called into ministry as a test to the layman. If those around that person judge and condemn him or her for not having a day to day job, then they have failed the test that is used regarding the Sheep and Goat judgment.

    Under the old testament law, the tithe is given to the Jews so that they can perform the work of the temple. The Jews are then required to give a tithe to the high priest so that they can perform the work of the priesthood.

    Paul informed us of the command not for the sake of the hearer, but for the sake of the laborer whom Jesus said is worthy of his hire.

    While giving pay to the Preacher can certainly hinder the gospel, not paying the Preacher can be more devastating to the gospel as the world will look in judgment on that church and have cause to blaspheme God’s Holy name.

    Then there is the issue of faith. I have read many of these articles and everyone mentions walking by faith. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that faith is all fine and good, but it won’t buy you a loaf of bread or put a roof over your head. The problem I see with all this talk of walking by faith is that certain people actually expect God to drop money from the sky into the lap of those He sends out to preach. I have seen this expectation from both the laity and the clergy. Again, this way of thinking is blasphemy.

    Here is the question that everyone needs to ask regarding this issue.

    When Jesus comes, do you want to find yourself numbered amongst the accursed goats that refused to feed, water, clothe house and minister to the needs of the preacher. Or do you want to be numbered amongst the blessed sheep who freely fed, watered, clothed, housed and ministered to the needs of the preacher.

    Erring on the side of mercy and providing the preacher his needs indicates a person that is truly submitted to Christ and His Kingdom. Erring on the side of condemnation and withholding the necessities of life to the preacher, indicates a heart of rebellion and opposition to the Kingdom of God on earth.

    Just keep in mind, that your decision will affect your eternal position, even if you do end up in Heaven.

    Matt 5:
    “17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
    18: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
    19: Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    20: For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus Christ

    If we consider where this debate over paying the preacher truly comes from, it comes from a position that preaching the gospel is not a legitimate career choice. This is in opposition to the position of Christ who not only calls but sends out men to preach the gospel.

    You are more than welcome to stand your position and deny pay to the preacher. But you should ask yourself this question:
    Do you really want to stand before the Judgment seat of Christ and have to answer why you refused to pay the preacher?
    It is in my opinion, better to view paying the preacher as a commandment from Christ, which Paul clearly states that it is, rather than have to hear Jesus ask that question.

    • says

      I will gladly stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and answer for why I refused to pay the preacher, but I will first explain, as Jesus already knows, that before I refused to pay the preacher, I myself resigned from full-time ministry so that no one would have to pay me to preach. It was a tough and painful decision, but I led by example.

      As to what I would say to Jesus, I would explain (as He already knows) that the Gospel is about way more than how people get to heaven, but is about caring for orphans and widows, tending the poor and homeless, proclaiming liberty to those in bondage, etc, and that as I worked to do these things, and gave my money and time and energy to accomplish these, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was getting proclaimed with tangible actions, and not just with words from a pulpit on Sunday morning to people who should be out there doing something rather than listening to another flowery speech.

      • satovey says

        I’m not sure if I should congratulate you or rebuke for resigning your position as Pastor. Certainly, as a Pastor, you were in a position to lead that congregation into fulfilling the mandates of Christ that you so eloquently stated. On the other hand, if the congregation was unwilling to walk in obedience to the commandments of Christ, then your action was appropriate, and you made that decision for yourself rather than someone else making it for you. More importantly, you followed your conscience.

        I however caution you to not think that your liberty is another’s bondage which tends to be so prevalent in Christian society today. Just because the Holy Spirit directs and leads one in a direction that is not the norm, just as Paul clearly related regarding his actions on this subject, does not make it a rule for everyone else, and much harm is done when people decide that everyone else must follow the unique road that the Holy Spirit has directed them down and declaring to be a sin what is clearly not a sin.

        • says

          Yes, I followed my conscience, and encourage others to do the same. If God wants some to stay in their role of “pastor” over a group of people that meet in a building on Sunday morning, by all means, stay! I am still a pastor, but in different ways.

  12. pastor bj says

    I have a few questions to consider and a practical application. First, how does this question relate to scripture as a whole? Certainly in the only testament, priests were entirely dependant on the offering and daily sacrifices of the people. When in the new testament was this abolished or changed? Sure was also abused in the ot, but that does not invalidate the biblical command to support the priestly livelihood. Second, what has historically been the practice? How were pastors compensated in the 1st, 5th, 10th century, etc. If all of Christian history has interpreted a point of practical theology a certain way, we should be careful to oppose it. This is not saying we should blindly accept it however (ex Luther!). Finally, I planted a church over a year ago with the intention not to take a salary possibly ever. About 7 months into it, someone in our small church of about 50 people had a serious medical emergency. We had great people & an elder that were able to make it to the hospital, but the pastor (me) was stuck at work. In fact, I was unaware of the situation until hours after it had begun. I know that family was ministered to by others in our church as well as I could’ve, however there is something about having your spiritual shepherd there with you in that situation that cannot be substituted. And I can never make up for my absence. A month later, the church pleaded with me to begin taking a salary (much less than what I was making at my job) to be able to pastor as I should. How could I refuse? Now I officiate high school baseball & basketball to make up the difference to support my family. Is this an unbiblical decision on my part?

    • satovey says

      If we look at the history of the Catholic church which has a greater and longer record regarding Priests, they for the most part received a salary. In the event that one took a vow of poverty, that individual was still provided the basic necessities to sustain life. Food, water, shelter, and clothing.

      As you have related in your experience, it is not possible to fulfill all the duties of a Pastor when you are bi-vocational. As Jesus stated,

      Mt:6:24: No man can serve two masters: for either he will
      hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the
      one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and
      mammon.

      Lk:16:13: No servant can serve two masters: for either he
      will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to
      the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

      Some will use the above to argue against paying the preacher, the problem with that position however is that it forces the preacher into serving two masters. Serving both God and mammon. This also rejects any notion that a particular result must be expected from a given ministry that is being supported. The only thing that can rightly be expected as Jeremy Meyers stated, is that the individual be engaged in actively doing the work of the ministry which includes feeding the poor.

      When we expect a particular result from a minister, we are putting that minister in the position of God. The only thing that any of us can do is be available to minister to the needs of the congregation. It is God, and God alone who provides the results of our labor. We have no control over it, and there is very little that we can do to change the end result of our labor.

      If our labor was earthly, then we would have all the earthly tools available to us to not only accomplish our goals, but to effect a greater outcome. Our labor however is not earthly, but heavenly. As a result, we have only the tools available to us that God deems most important. Thus, no matter how much stronger we are physically, or how much more intelligent we are than another, we do not have the capacity to output greater unless God chooses to bless us with that result.

      The prosperity preaching crowd would have us believe that if we are in God’s will then we will always see abundant blessings. This position however is a trap and a great one as it opposes what Jesus said regarding the “Least of these my brothers.” The sheep and goat judgment of the nations is both a warning and a commandment. A commandment to provide for the needs of those who in the course of serving the Lord find themselves with insufficient earthly needs. Along with that commandment comes a warning. If we refuse to do so then there is eternal punishment.

      Many unfortunately take the “salvation by grace through faith and without works”, cut off the salvation and apply the rest to other spiritual areas expecting God to just give us what we want and desire without having to labor for it. A good example of this is revival. I have witnessed so many refusing to do the work of revival, all the while believing that God is going to just send it. Not going to happen.

      The one thing I hope that all Pastors take away from what I have said is this: if you have a member of your congregation that feels lead into full time ministry, guide and help him get there. I have attended many a church were the Pastor either could not or would not help me start preaching the gospel. All the while mind you, preaching do God’s will, and that the local church is dominant above all other ministries regarding tithes and offering and everything else, and nothing should be done without your local church being a part of it. Then they refuse to help you follow the Spirit’s direction.

      I decided a few years ago that unless I’m th Pastor; I won’t be investing my time or money into a church. I have found that they are a very poor investment and are operated no differently than Ponzi schemes. I won’t be a part of that kind of church again.

    • says

      I think this post was part of a larger series on pastoral pay. I think I addressed some of your questions in those other posts. I do not remember the titles right now. Sorry.

      As for your decision, no, it was not unbiblical. I am not certain it was biblical either. It is the decision you made in that situation to do what you could to minister as best as you can to the people you minister with. So in that sense, it was probably a good decision. However, is it starting to keep you from your family? That might not be good.

  13. Diane says

    Matt. 20:8 “Cure the sick, raise up the dead, make lepers clean, expel demons. You received free, give free.” No one paid Jesus, who is greater than their Master? Jesus was a carpenter. The apostles had skills/trades to support their ministry beyond reliance on joyful hospitality of those who received them. They neither fleeced nor burdened the flock. Remember how Jesus fed thousands with what started out as a few fish and some loaves of bread?? God makes sure the message of his Kingdom is preached. He doesn’t ‘need’ to use mankind to do this work, he could have used the angels or even “the stones would cry out” Luke 19:40 It was a gift and a privilege that many have used to bring reproach and turn away honest hearted from the truth of the bible. Matt 7:22-23 “Many will say to me in that day: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them: ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’ ” I particularly appreciated the above comment regard Sunday church service to have their “ears tickled”. Let the preacher take up $$$ and parrot the usual services and go on about your life. The hard truth about lifestyle changes and who will not inherit Gods’ Kingdom is tread on lightly, wouldn’t want to offend. It is as obscure as a light under a basket. The preaching work was a commission to ALL CHRISTIANS. To be Christ-like you MUST do as Christ did!! Matt 28:19-20 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,20 teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” Do you who preach, teach others to preach from house to house and town to town as did Jesus and his disciples? Who are doing this today?

  14. Natasha says

    I would just like to know with all this salaries being paid to these religious leaders, who is caring for the poor? Now that is a command from God! The tithe was brought to the storehouse by the people to supply the priests and the orphans, widows and the foreign residents in the land. Deuteronomy 26 v 12. It also says the tithe was every 3rd year so it wouldn’t be a burden to each family. So paying a religious leader to read Gods word to you, paying the building mortgages, salaries of the others and the utilities leaves nothing for the poor! God talks about the poor hundreds of times in the Bible, but I didn’t see one person mention them in any of these posts. These so called pastors who are demanding any type of salary for themselves from the congregates who follow them will have to answer the question, did you defend the poor? Jeremiah 22 v 16. Also the book of Malachi was written to the priests, they were the ones robbing God, just as the leaders are doing today. Taking the best for themselves and no one is providing for the poor. Giving is a great way to evangelize! I know, I do it all the time. If that pastor would take that salary and help the poor, God would bring it right back to him in an abundant way. Its called sowing and reaping. I do that all the time. I call my ministry “TheDollarMinistry” . Each person is asked to send at least $1 to the person in need…No money is ever sent to me. God is a giver and we should do as He did. It is very sad that so many have a Ministry of Receiving, always seeking money and never give one thought to serving the poor! So many are going to be rejected by God because they have no love in their heart for the people in need! Check me out and join me…TDM caring for the poor on FACEBOOK. Caring for the poor in Jesus name!

    • says

      I like the idea Natasha. Thanks for sharing it! If people would give just a dollar (or food or clothing) to the poor, it would begin a process of seeking to love and serve the poor and needy on a regular basis. Loving others is done one step at a time.

  15. Tony Smith says

    I would say that most of my evangelism and preaching of the gospel has been done outside of four walls of recognised church and in this I have seen God work some awesome miracles. Am I therefore a preacher? a teacher? Do I therefore have a right to payment for what God calls me to do. Sure I could receive payment but where is my reward for following God.
    I have read carefully through all the post here, there is one thing missing, the speak of our reward in heaven. Is it not righteousness that we store up for ourselves? is not righteousness given to those who step out in faith, is not stepping out in faith going into the unknown where all you have is trust in Jesus and nothing else?
    Where then is faith, without it you cannot earn righteousness. Righteousness is something that is paid to us by God for the faith we have in him. This is not paid to you now, it is stored in the heavenlies.
    Which among you would rather seek a reward while on this earth for what you do? would you rather be better off to receive it from afar, looking forward to your inheritance in the kingdom? Is this not what you live for?
    How can anyone know Jesus if you never share in his sufferings, the ones he rebuked when he said away from me had one thing in common with each other, they all came to Jesus saying didn’t we do this or that… yes they did and maybe some of them received a salary for doing so. The point is this, if you are being paid as a preacher/pastor or any other service you offer to the church then I would urge you to escape from it and step into the unknown. In the unknown, where you abilities and confidence in yourself has vanished, there you will find God, once you have found him you wont care less if you are paid or unpaid I promise, you will not care what you wear and so on… But he will look after you. There is faith in action.
    The problem with most churches, if not all of them in the entire world, they need financing yet most of them are devoid of any power.
    Ask yourself this, If the Jewish nation looked at your church would they be jealous to see their God with you, the God they recognise? if not then what on earth are you getting paid to do…?
    The only people who would defend getting paid are the ones that want to get paid. The only ones who would defend not getting paid are the ones who don’t want to get paid… For me, I know which one I would prefer to listen to, its the one operating in more faith than the one who isn’t. People who operate in faith have to have a deeper relationship with Jesus to do so. If those who get paid to preach/teach don’t like me saying that then take it up with the Lord but before you do try this. Next time you meet at your church, announce that next week you are all going out onto the streets to evangelise, if they all turn up the next week you have earned and deserve your money, if they don’t then you had better ask what you have been doing while taking a salary. I tell you this, most churches are full of people who would rather just tithe and sit back and let you do all the work and it is them that hold you captive. Test them and see.

    • says

      Tony,
      Great points. Yes, one reason that people accept the tithe is because it makes Christianity easier. They can give a bit of money, then sit back and let others do the work. Thanks for pointing this out.

  16. Liz says

    Wow.

    Good article.

    I’m a bit saddened though Jeremy at one of your comments.

    You never stop being a Pastor just because you leave some “ordained position” with a title and office. The church is a spiritual body so if you have some little old Lutheran widow next door are you saying she’s not your ministry responsibility?

    Markus, a question for you…

    Would you “Pastor/shepherd” without the pay?

    That’s makes all the difference between a hireling and a servant.

    • says

      Liz,
      That is true. I think I still have giftings for Pastor/Teacher, but I am just do not bear the “title” or take a “salary” from it. That is all I meant.

  17. says

    Full times ministers should get a wage, paid from the church. This would be to compensate for the money they would ordinarily get from working the same hours. It is not money paid for ministering, but money paid for giving up your lively hood for the sake of Christ. Generally churches prefer their minister to be married, therefore any church should take that in to consideration when determine the wage. If your minister is financially independent, the church should not pay a wage. Also a minister should not be paid beyond the means of the church. A minister may also choose to refuse the wage. To me this is common sense. It is not a direct reading of the meaning of Saint Paul’s words in I Cor 9, but rather the application of what Paul is getting at.

    Yours In Christ,

    Kurt
    (Australia)

  18. Daniel Owen says

    I appreciate all the honest and courteous feedback in the comments section. Outside of a few walls of text and CAPs rage, it was pleasant to read. I want to preface this post by stating that this is my interpretation of what was said in scripture. My opinion only, not meant to sway anyone’s viewpoint or angry the blood.

    As I was reading through this section of scripture today I felt compelled to look up another opinion of what it meant to compare it to my understanding of the passage.

    I would not say I have the gift of teaching. I studder and lose my train of thought. I often compare myself to Moses in my speaking abilities. I have respect for those that have this gift and appreciate their knowledge and certain way of explaining things that makes more sense than how I would have put it.

    Here’s my first point. Regardless of cultural differences, the command or ‘direction’ in 1 Corinthians 9:14 is there and explicitly stated. There’s absolutely no getting around that. It’s my belief that God’s word is perfect and you shouldn’t form your own interpretation and try to work Scripture so that it fits what you believe. It doesn’t work like that. Even if you take the next verse 9:15 with it, Paul says he did not take this ‘right’. Whether Paul disobeyed a direct command from God or not is a different discussion altogether. It says what it says. Preachers (pastors) have a ‘right’ to be paid for their work. Absolutely, without question.

    Point 2: Please don’t extrapolate my previous point as my accepting of excessive salaries for pastors, which is all too common today, especially at these ‘mega-churches’. I completely agree with previous posters that many churches today are inwardly focused and not at all wanting to spread the gospel. These are quite often the ‘mega-churches’ mentioned above with the million dollar plus budgets. Pastors definitely should not be paid exhorbatant salaries, but I believe that if they choose to accept a salary, it should be able to cover basic living expenses.

    Point 3: In the end, the gospel and love is all that matters. It’s not just up to those gifted with teaching to spread the good news. Excessive arguments and debates over this, a relatively unimportant topic can cause church splits and bickering among fellow Christians. The last thing the world needs to see from professed believers is heated argument over something so trivial. The building of relationships with the unbelievers we know and the consistant show of our faith to the world day in and day out is all we should be concerned with.

    In summary, once again, these are just my opinions. I realize most here are aligned the opposite way just by reading the posts, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. Let’s focus on the things that are absolutely clear in scripture that cannot be interpreted otherwise and we will be able to live in complete harmony with other believers despite what else they may believe.

    Sorry for the length of my post. I’m much more eloquent writing than I am speaking so I tend to ramble.

    -Daniel

    • says

      1 Corinthians 9:14 is not as clear as you might assume. Especially when we understand it in light of its historical and cultural contexts (which is the only way to read an ancient document like the Bible).

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