the weblog of Alan Knox

Pastors and Churches and Salaries

Posted by on Oct 2, 2008 in elders, office | 36 comments

About a year ago, I wrote a series on pastors and salaries. These are the posts in that series:

1. “What about work?
2. “What about work for elders/pastors?
3. “What about honor for elders/pastors?
4. “What about the right of elders/pastors?
5. “Summary – Should elders/pastors be paid a salary?

In that series, I concluded that we cannot defend paying a pastor a salary from Scripture. I understand that some of my readers disagree with me. That’s fine. I have many friends who are paid pastors. This is not the point of this blog post.

Because of the series on pastors and salaries, I’ve received more and more “search hits” concerning this topic. I’ve also received more and more emails concerning this topic. It is a very sensitive topic both to pastors/elders and to churches.

Recently, I’ve talked with a few paid pastors who trying to decide whether or not they should stop being paid by the church. Instead, they would get a job in order to “work with their hands” to provide support for themselves and their families. (I’m assuming that those who consider paying a salary to a pastor to be scriptural, would also allow a pastor to choose not to receive a salary. But, I could be wrong.)

However, each of those pastors has been troubled by something. The biggest problem to them does not seem to be getting a job, even though several have mentioned that their only “training” is in the “pastorate”. The biggest problem does not seem to be their families, even though several of them are concerned about their financial situation given the current economic state of the nation. Their biggest hurdle does not seem to be a doctrinal issue.

No, their biggest concern is the church. Some are afraid that the church will not allow them to continue to pastor without receiving a salary. Some have been told by the church that this will not be allowed.

When I first heard this, it seemed very strange. I would think that a church would be excited to have extra money. I’m sure most churches have many projects on which they could spend this extra money.

But, as I thought about it, it makes sense that churches would want to continue to pay their pastors a salary. And, I can think some of the reasons may be good, scriptural reasons, and some of the reasons may not be good, scriptural reasons.

Can you think of some reasons that a church would not want pastors to “work with their hands” in order to support themselves and their families? Can you think of good, scriptural reasons? Can you think of reasons that may not be scriptural?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-2-2008


    The only scriptural reasons that comes to mind, why churches would only want a Pastor they could pay a salary to is that the Pastor has more time to devote to the study of scripture and sermon preparation, as well as other duties they’ve been assigned such as visitations for the sick and elderly.

    The first and really only non-scriptural reason that comes to mind, is that the “church” would have virtually no control over a Pastor they could not pay a salary to. Just telling it like I see it.


  2. 10-2-2008


    I can’t think of any real scriptual reason to do it. I know some scriptures that can be used, but if that be the case we have a book full of contradictions and Richard Dawkins is correct. But sense I don’t believe that the bible contains contradictions I must say that those scriptures are wrong.

    Now I CAN think of some really good “pracitcal” reasons why. Simply put the Pastor is to be to the assemly what the President is to the United States. A vision caster, He is to go to God on our behalf in prayer, He is to visit the sick on our behalf, he is to bury the dead on our behalf, he is to visit the wayward saint on our behalf, he is to grow the church on our behalf, he is to study the scriptures and bring us a really good sermon on God’s behalf.

    Pretty much the pastor is the mediator between us and God. He does everythign for us while we work jobs. They take care of the spritual while we take care of the secular (sounds very close to Rome to me). Because this is the norm I can understand why people would want their pastors to stay on staff. We need visible leaders, tangible leaders, to be the face of the church.

    But again scriptural. I don’t see it. Pragmaticism sure

  3. 10-2-2008

    You wrote: “I concluded that we cannot defend paying a pastor a salary from Scripture.”

    I would point you to I Corinthians chapter 9, where Paul defends that very thing pretty eloquently. Here’s a small excerpt from the NASB, “6Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense?”

    See also I Timothy 5:17-18 (NASB) where we read, “17The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.””

    Also in Acts 6:1-6, from which I took this: “4“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”” we see that dedication to the task was desirable. Note that it was the congregation who agreed to the restructuring that was done.

    I think there is precedent in Scripture for pastors being paid and devoting substantially all their time to ministry. I know that you had some of Paul’s statements in mind (he was a tent-maker, etc.), but it is good to remember that Paul was something of an itinerant evangelist. Pastors seem to me to be more akin to Timothy.

    I hope this makes some sense and provides my perspective on the topic, Brother.

    With respect, I wish you Grace and Peace.

  4. 10-2-2008


    I am altering what I originally said concerning scriptural reasons for a church to pay a pastor. The scripture I was thinking of is in Acts, pertaining to the Apostles wanting the people to appoint Elders to make sure that the widows of a certian descent were being taken care of. This was so the Apostles themselves would have Time to devout themselves to scripture. But, upon thinking about it that scripture pertains to time and not salary.

    So really I can’t think of any scriptural reasons. Just really reasons of convenience for the “churches themselves.

    I personally don’t believe in Pastors being paid a salary. But, like you, I have several friends who are Pastors receiving a salary for that reason.

  5. 10-2-2008

    Lionel, In I Timothy 2:5-6 we read, “5For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

  6. 10-2-2008

    You ask some great questions. I think it is important that if churches do pay their ministers they need to pay them enough to take care of their families. I have found that some churches don’t pay their ministers enough to make ends meet. I know several personal friends that are on gov. assistance because the churches they work for don’t pay enough. Alan, God bless you brother for dealing with this Topic. Keep up the great work you do with your blog.

  7. 10-2-2008


    Let me ask. Are Elders and Apostles synonymous terms? If so can I call an Elder today an Apostle?

    Second lets look at the verse in Timothy. Where does Paul get the last quote from? Who said that and what was the “wages” that the person who said it was referring to?

  8. 10-2-2008

    Larry let me also ask.

    You quoted Acts 6. Can you explain/exposit what Paul says here in Acts 20?

    32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

    Thanks in advance.

  9. 10-2-2008


    May I ask you (with all seriousness and no cyncialism inteneded). Why won’t the “pastor” go and get a normal job, in order for his family not to live in such conditions? Why be so dependent on a church?

  10. 10-2-2008


    I, like others here, have been having a hard time seeing a scriptural reasons why a church would want to continue paying a salary to anyone. I am curious, what you were thinking about?

    I can think of a number of reasons (non-scriptural) why a church would want to continue paying their pastor. First, they feel like they have some sort of control over who they pay. Stemming from that, they can expect the pastor to do many things… things that they should be doing but don’t need to because they pay someone to do them. There are reasons having to do with tradition… “it’s just how it’s done”. And probably a few others, if I really thought about it.


    I think you will find that Alan disagrees with the conclusions you have come to regarding those verses. I know Alan has discussed them all at length in various posts on his blog. I would recommend starting by reading some of the links he put at the top of his post today.

    Regardless of this simple disagreement over verses, I am still very interested in knowing your answer to Alan’s questions today… Why do you feel like a church would not want pastors to “work with their hands” in order to support themselves and their families? Especially given the financial benefit of not paying a salary to a pastor.


    I’m curious about your comment. Do you feel it is OK for a church to not pay a pastor a salary at all? I only ask because of your “if” conditional. “If they decide to pay him” – “they should pay him enough…”.

    What justification do you think a church has for desiring to pay a pastor… one who does not want to get paid a salary from the church?


    I think, probably due to the subject, we have gotten a little off-topic. The discussion about why or why not a pastor should receive a salary is an important one… but the question at hand is, “why should a church desire to pay a pastor”?

    I’m very curious as to what everyone thinks about this…

    God’s Glory,

  11. 10-2-2008

    Having not read the discussion thread, I am not sure if this has already been said yet, but I think one major reason churches (and pastors) are wary of bivocationality is because if you are working 40 hours a week at a job and then taking time for your family, do you really have time to devote yourself to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4), much less visiting the people, counseling, etc?

    -Matt Emerson

  12. 10-2-2008

    Alan–Hi! Lionel hit the mark on this in his first post. One of the reasons churches feel the need to pay their pastors is that they expect the pastor to do all kinds of things that should be the job of the whole church. Things like visiting the elderly/shut-ins/sick, providing leadership & decision-making, etc.

    Also, it seems like the biblical model was to have more than one elder in place to do the teaching/preaching duties. If several people shared those tasks, it would relieve the burden of one person preparing sermons every week.

    With the people I fellowship with, several of us rotate teaching duties. When it's my turn, it's a joy to share what God's put on my heart. When I was preparing sermons every week, "joy" wasn't the word I would use to describe it…

  13. 10-2-2008


    A few more non-NT reasons churches may want to pay a salary, many of which I have heard recently: 1) hundreds of years of church history/precedent, 2) the desire for a corporate or civil (i.e. “rulers of the Gentiles”) organizational chart, 3) a sense that a church with an unpaid pastor is somehow “inferior” to other churches, similar to the Israelites’ desire for a king, 4) a feeling that it is the responsibility of the church to pay the pastor, 5) the benefit of having someone on-call in the event of an emergency, 6) the (inappropriate) parallel with the support system for OT Levites and priests, 6) the sense that a modern seminary grad has more training/education/value than a bi-vocational home-grown NT elder, and 7) the fact that channeling money through a 501(c)(3) gives the donors a tax deduction, while a gift to an individual does not.

  14. 10-2-2008



  15. 10-2-2008

    Hey again Lionel!

    While it seems hard to make a Biblical case for salaried elders, as folks have mentioned above there can be worthwhile reasons. A congregation may simply love and want to bless their pastor. Or they may decide that the church is better served if he spends all his time in “equipping the saints“ and “prayer and the ministry of the word”.

    We’re to “give double honor” and “share all good things” (Gal 6:6), so I think we’d want to be cheerfully generous with those who are gifted to preach and teach; I just don’t think this sounds a whole lot like “salary”.

    One situation where a church might want to relieve a pastor from working with his hands is if he is disabled.

  16. 10-2-2008

    Thank you for the discussion everyone. I was surprised at the amount of discussion on this post. Instead of responding to every comment, I’ll give a quick run-down of my answers to the questions.

    Like Lew pointed out, I did not intend to discuss the merits of my position in this post. I’ve written about my position in several other posts, includig the ones that I’ve linked to here. I’ve dealt at length with 1 Cor 9, 1 Tim 5, Acts 20, etc. I know that many people disagree with me. That’s fine.

    The point here is that some pastors decide that they do not want to be paid a salary by the church, and instead they decide that they should “work with their hands”.

    I think some churches equate the salary with “double honor” of 1 Tim 5:17. Thus, they want to pay the pastor a salary in order to obey that passage, even if the pastor asks that they not pay a pastor. (Notice that I didn’t say that I agreed with this interpretation, but I do understand why many hold to this interpretation.)

    Many of you have already listed some of the non-Scriptural reasons that churches would want to continue to pay a salary to a pastor even if the pastor asks them not to. I think the primary reasons would be 1) they don’t know of any other way to do things, and 2) if the pastor works then who would do everything.

    As someone has already pointed out, “visiting the sick”, “teaching”, “proclaiming the gospel”, “counseling”, and other activities are the responsibility of pastors. But, these activities are not the responsibility of pastors BECAUSE they are pastors. These are the responsibilities of ALL believers. Thus, it might benefit the church if the pastor did not do all of these things for everyone else. So, “working with his hands” and not having enough time to do everything else might actually force the church to act like the church.


  17. 10-2-2008

    I cannot think of a scriptural reason a church would not want a pastor to work but I actually had a church tell me when they were considering me for their pulpit that they didn’t want me to work. They wanted me to be available to visit the sick and the elderly–which of course pastors and all Christians should do. They didn’t want me to work, but they were going to pay me $1,000 per month with a wife and a child to take care of. Yes they had a “pastorium” which was a two bedroom house with no heat and no air conditioning so I would be able to live in that for free. No health insurance, no retirement, but they wouldn’t permit me to work outside of church. I promptly told them that I wasn’t interested in dragging my family into poverty, thank you very much. So much more could be done with the money God entrusts to the church if all members, pastors included, worked with their own hands.

  18. 10-2-2008

    I think it is far easier to find unscriptural reasons that a church would not want a pastor to “work with his hands” than to find scriptural ones. Within our culture, we expect to get value for our money. It is a point of pride to be able to afford more than our neighbors, so that mirrors the corporate image many churches show when they pay their CEO and his executive staff.
    Also, as Lionel pointed out, there is a master-servant relationship between the pastor (or other paid church staff) and the congregation. That creates a new dynamic within the body where all are to submit to each other.
    I think the basic reasons for a congregation to refuse to pay their pastor are pride and power.

  19. 10-3-2008


    Great discussion as always. From passages such as 1 Cor. 9, it seems virtually impossible to contend that there is no biblical warrant to compensate pastors. In this passage Paul seems to actually defend the right of pastors to be compensated. Although he had this right, he declined to accept monetary support because he recognized the benefit of “working with his hands,” as opposed to depending on the congregation (a congregation which had doubted his motives and even his calling). In my estimation, therefore, it is misguided to argue from Scripture that pastors are either obligated to accept a salary or obligated to not draw a salary. While I believe that pastors have a right (how could we have a right to accept a salary and still argue that receiving compensation is biblically unwarranted?) to be compensated it seems that we need to consider the advantages of working independently from the church. I am thankful that you have helped us work through some of these advantages.

    As to your original question, I would suggest that the greatest, if not one of the greatest reasons churches are reluctant to not pay their pastors is because of the lack of perceived control they would have over their pastor. When the church janitor doesn’t clean the church well enough, the congregation feels justified in criticizing him or her because they paid them to clean. When the landscaper doesn’t mow the grass just right, the congregation feels warranted in complaining because, after all, he was paid to do the job the way they instructed him. Likewise, when a pastor is paid, the congregation feels that they have control of him in a similar manner. Instead of being accountable to the Lord, he becomes for all practical purposes accountable to the congregation. This congregation feels justified in dictating how he spends his time while expecting him to bear the load of the ministry. When things are not going exactly how the congregation wants it to, members find it quite natural to criticize the pastor because he isn’t doing his “job.” It’s a shame that many churches view their pastors as independent contractors who are hired to offer their services. Just my take on this. Once again, great discussion.

    Ben Laird

  20. 10-3-2008


    Church salary=control. Working outside the Church for your needed income can be very liberating.

    I used to kid one Church I was at for a number of years……..”you can’t fire me because you’ll never find anyone else to work this cheap” 🙂

    I wish I had understood this issue better years ago. There would have been much less hurt to my family. I pastored Churches that paid us just enough to get by (most months) It would have been far better to have gotten an outside job to improve our financial position and to give the Church some financial breathing room. It seemed we were always under some form of financial stress.

    When a pastor works outside the Church it helps him/her to keep connected to the REAL world. It is real easy to think that the office and the daily work of a minister is the REAL world. It is not.

  21. 10-3-2008

    “When a pastor works outside the Church it helps him/her to keep connected to the REAL world. It is real easy to think that the office and the daily work of a minister is the REAL world. It is not.”

    Ain’t it tbe truth. Too bad most ministry professionals don’t realize that.

  22. 10-3-2008

    Two reasons come to mind right away. 1 – It is the way they are taught. With the practice of Schools and Pastors coming at the church as professionals and leaders(not necessarily servants) the people in the pews are taught that, if a doctor or lawyer(professionals) are to be highly paid according to their education and resume, then as another professional, so should they. I have been to other blogs and usually the person is saying because they have a graduate degree they are entitled(the word they use)to a salary and a good one. I have pointed out that I have friends that have Masters degrees and are making 25,000/a year and few benefits.When I was out of work I met a Ph’d in the unemployment line. Look at what the markets will bear if going this route of thinking.
    2 – Some – those with a “we hire them to do the preaching and teaching and administrative task” – would worry that they may have to take up the slack and we know how busy everyone is and they have not been trained for these task.
    3 – This is more positive.If the man is really spending his time in study and prayer and really loving and teaching his whole flock and really releasing them to do the “work of the ministry”, then I can see compensating him. This does not necessarily mean a salary and salary package. If they can discern their true motives(not a resume builder or until a better gig comes along). I have seen more than once that an outsider(few stakes in the community – mother, father, siblings still live there and go to that church)comes breezes in starts a building or other expensive program and then when things get tight “they have been called of God to another place.”
    Too many times the churches are enamored more by their pastors resume than his godliness. I have been a guide and an observer in the hiring(?) of a pastor. Most churches do not have a clue what to do. Therefore they grab a worldly approach – resume, education, charisma, celebrity status, who they know and what prestigious college they went to.
    Do you have a blog post on pastor qualifications – I know, I know Timothy and Titus. Where do resume’s, education and status come in, if at all?
    To be honest I do not think there would be as much discussion if we were bring on men into the pastorate from within our own churches, rather than a stranger we do not know. Take a survey around your area and see how many pastors were raised up(not physically) in the church they now serve in. I do not know about down South, but up North it would be few and far between.

  23. 10-3-2008

    Thanks again for the comments everyone. Given the discussion here, I think I should explain again my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9. Instead of doing that in a comment, I’ll write a blog post about it.


  24. 10-4-2008

    Not to sound cynical, but I’m not the the church would know what to do with the left over money. Also, I think that most people believe that paying a pastor is somehow Biblical and that to neglect doing it would be shameful.

  25. 10-5-2008

    Usher: After reading the comments on this post, it appears that the majority are in agreement that pastors being paid is difficult to substantiate with scripture. I am as well. Based on this, several things come to mind regarding the three main church bodies I personally have been a part of (period of 1972 – present). The situations and churches I have been exposed to answer some of the questions in the comments Do these questions relate to bodies you’ve been in?

    1) How many of you have been in a church with a pastor in which he wasn’t paid or compensated? What was your experience? How long did the body survive? Was the pastor degreed or appointed due to life experiences and annointing?

    2) How about a situation in which the pastor was paid a stipend in addition to their day job? What was the experience? Did it last, and if so, how long or did it go back to tradition?

    3)How about being in a church in which the pastor was paid and did all the things discussed in the many posts (visitation, sermons, church biz, etc.)? How did the body participate in the work of the ministry? In most cases, the pastor in this model must have a degree. Anyone ever see this in which the pastor wasn’t?

    4)Finally, how many have been in an organic or home church or missional movement in which the only money that was distributed comes from individuals (earmarked for ministry) and the tasks and ministry is spread amongst all? What are the experiences? This may seem to be a roundabout, but it’s not. Theory is great, the working out of the situations and the experiences within these various models actually reveals human nature and God’s perfect will or NOT!

    My personal experiences say that the church should never compensate the pastor, firstly because modern day has asssumed the pastor to be the head of the church and that interpretation is a long shot and difficult to substantiate with scripture. As many have written, there is non-scriptural justification by the body of many churches to pay the pastor because they don’t make time (I didn’t say have time) to do the work of the ministry and it falsely substantiates their conscience to pay someone else to do it. And it gives them power if they pastor screws up or doesn’t take the body in the direction of the committee or the elders. In this situation the body never gets out of the Pampers and the church simply goes through the paces of pomp and circumstance (very programatic). Is this how we want the body of Christ to behave and to be when Christ returns?

    Summary of pastors being paid and working a job: Having been in a ministry for nearly 20 years in which the presiding elders/pastors had day jobs and were partially compensated, rarely was anything ever accomplished by the pastor and the burden was put on the body. Most elders/pastors simply did the “fun stuff” like giving orders and making all the decisions as they had the office with which to operate within or behind. But in the end their justification was that they had to have time with their families and inevitably, it led to cultish behavior and major strife when they were absent from body life ministries. Their long term goal was to grow their churches big enough to go “full time” and they put all this on the body. Inevitably, it scorched them because the resentment from the body forced the people into a mindset of “Why should I support them when they do none of the work and take all the credit?” Those laypeople who bought into this model in the beginning were normally youthful and once they grew up and began to have families, they moved away from it realizing it wasn’t going to work. Anyone coming in from the outside of the initial youth movement watched the “sold-out” mentality it took to be a part of the body, realized they didn’t have the time to devote as they had full time jobs and families.

    Which is the right way? Today’s established churches cannot make a paradigm shift to stop paying the pastorate. This type of thinking is limited to new movements and the working out of the missional mindset. It typically can only work with youth and those who cannot and will not work within the confines of the church. It requires an almost “rebel” way of thinking and the ability of the leadership of this movement to keep the old ways of the church out! The church cannot and will not close and divorce its ways and thus the youth will take their energy and their mindset and attempt to pioneer new way. Whether or not they will be successful depends on whether they are able to start from a clean slate and resist certain elements of the church including customs they were raised up with (which are purely traditional) from creeping in. It cannot be a type of reformation, it must be a movement in and of it’s own. It cannot be a compilation of preferences of individuals, it must be a movement of the HS. Once a movment is penetrated with man’s preferences, it ceases to be a movement.

    These types of movements are going on all over the world mostly in foreign countries especially where church buildings and large organizations are not allowed to be formed, or have not made their way of preference into the movement.

    I see so much discussion based on the absolutely unrealistic mindset that if “we prove it”, the church will change. Not going to happen. The church has to die out and empty before it changes its traditions which have been steeped and formulated for centuries. It’s a very simple conclusion: Whether or not it’s scriptural to “pay the pastor”, no amount of evidence will ever get the churches to change en masse. The old must die and the new must rise up. Consequently, it’s all about the motive of those within the movement. If it’s to fulfill the great commmission, money is not the goal. If it’s to keep a building with programs and staff and the management of people within a framework of social initiatives, then money plays too much a part and removing it will cause the organization to die. As much as churches admit today to theis type of social behavior, they will not sacrifice the little they have as it will cause them to have to make drastic change in their lives, receive less and have to serve more. Not going to happen.

  26. 11-9-2009

    I have to agree that most churches “pay” their pastors because of control. There is a tendency to have no appreciation for”freeing” someone to do the work of the ministry as directed by God. This comes from an industrial and corporation mindset that only uses the words “pay”, “compensate”, “salary”, etc. No wonder the word “hireling” comes to mind to describe current day pastors, since they are treated that way, partly because money has become a god in the church. If they were “freed”, then joy would return to both sides, but it still does not take care of the problem of the corporation mindset of “out-sourcing”. Pragmatically it is easier to throw money at something than to take personal responsibility to do it as your own God-given duty. For instance, we have returned the spiritual education for families back to the fathers to teach confirmation, etc. in their own homes to show that it is not a secular place and the church the only spiritual place. Taking back the personal responsibility is difficult, but very well worth the gains in bringing about maturity in Christ.
    By the way, we do not have a paid pastor and do not wish to have one since the fathers are shouldering those responsibilities very aptly.

  27. 2-16-2011

    Thank you so much for this discussion.. what do you think about a small town church where the church family & board members seem to be completely under the submission & control of the pastor , he & his wife live in the parsonage apt , rent free , utility free, cable/phone/internet pkg free, insurance assistance,$200.00 per wk salary. paid pension & retirement fund payments ,time off for vactions, wife will go for a month at a time , there is an assistant pastor who preaches once a month or takes over when needed by the senior pastor ..the pastor has a lot of control here , PLUS he works a full time Job nights as a school custodian ..Good pay & benifits..I see that there is little done by this pastor , there is no accountability for the money the church recieves, The church family clean the church , shovel the walks , help mow, visit the sick , help with all the food prep & cleanup for funerals , weddings etc..pretty cushy i’d say , I believe if a pastor claims to be a full time pastor they can’t work outside that & still be available as needed in crisis or his ability to devote himself to prayer , a good sermon ,shepard the flock,etc..Hence
    Sermon for a quick donloaded sermon,.but really why would a church want to pay a pastor all this , plus him work outside at a full time job..then have the nerve to ask us to put money in a jar for mowing gas, paper towels , t/tissue , cleaning supplies ..everything the church needs is a seperate offering …what say you? Thank you & God Bless..B T W I am no longer at this church ..

  28. 2-16-2011


    Obviously, I don’t know all the details of the situation or the people involved. But, I do know that people change when money is involved.


  29. 5-8-2011

    Even back in the day when I fell into the Western Cultural Christian Religion church model I felt I had to by scripture look at a plurality of eldership as the example of leadership. That did not keep me from thinking of the possibility of a salaried church administrator position. Determining salary I always went with “you should prosper even as your soul prospers” and used a rough interpretation that a church leader’s salary should be the average of the body he shepherds. Since then I see even this as a proponent to the “Church / Laity” distinction which I feel is un-scriptural and one of the largest drawbacks to Christ being the true head of His Church (body). The real argument comes in defining “pastor”. Never has so much been taken into a descriptor that appears only once in the NT.

  30. 9-26-2011

    First, the idea of the “pastor” in the modern sense is foreign to the scripture. So paying such a person a salary is necessarily also foreign.

    A pastor is a shepherd. The word is applied almost exclusively in the NT to Jesus. It occurs once in Eph 4:11 as part of what is called the fivefold ministry, though in fact the grammar suggests it is a fourfold ministry of which “pastors and teachers” or pastor-teachers are the fourth part. The equivalent verb is used in 1 Peter 5:2 as an instruction to elders: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

    So pastoring/shepherding is a role of the elders; it is certainly not the role of one man alone.

    In order to pay a salary, there must be an organisation that can deal with the bureaucratic procedures (deducting tax and so on). There must be a bank account. But the church of Jesus is an organism, not an organisation. Many of the comments above talk about looking after church buildings. That is not a role that any NT leader has! The NT church met in various homes. If the church operates biblically, it should not need these organisational encumbrances.

    Elders should be supported by the people (1 Tim 5:17-18), especially those elders who teach well, but this should be by individual contributions (Galatians 6:6), not by a salary determined by some committee. If everyone listens to the Holy Spirit, the right amount of money will be given.

    I don’t think it is actually wrong in the absolute sense to pay a salary, but in the current state of the church it encourages unhealthy practices and false teaching about the nature of the church and of relationships within it.

  31. 9-27-2011

    Years ago, I served as the preacher for a church with about 150 members. One of the wonderful things about this church is their willingness…and just about mandate…that I have outside employment. This worked out for several reasons.

    1. It freed up funding to be used for foreign missions
    2. It encouraged members of the church to become involved in ministry and not just rely on the preacher
    3. It made the elders take a leadership role.
    4. It allowed me to preach what I felt the Spirit was leading me to say, without fear of being fired.

    I’m ALL for the idea of having pastors/preachers work in a full-time job outside of the church. Makes sense spiritually and financially.

    Marc S.

  32. 9-27-2011

    Duchessdad, Oliver, and Marc,

    Thanks for continuing this discussion.


  33. 11-28-2011

    There is no Scriptural reason, period. There’s no mention of the position of pastor as it commonly exists today and it therefore follows that compensation for it is not there as well. That said, to me it falls under freedom.

    I was a contributor about 20 years ago to the Salary Handbook of the National Association of Church Business Administratore (NACBA). At that time, as a church worker myself, I was concerned about the ethics of how Church Pastors and workers are paid, the expectations placed on their family (the wife is often an unpaid assistant) and I was advocating for Church’s to step up to the plate (offering even) and show the same level of faith to do right by their pastor as they did for buying their building.

    I was very blind to many things at the time and I couldn’t write that same article today.

    The reason Pastors are paid above and beyond anything else is because most church systems cannot function without a central leader who is continually doing the marketing, producing and management of what passes for “church.” It varies from denomination to denomination but in general the Pastor and his family, serve as a focal point and rallying point for the members of the church who see their “ministry” as vicariously accomplished through him and the church overall ministries.

    Take away the pastors full time involvement and the system either fails or else the rest of the congregation has to step up to things that ironically, most pastors haven’t equipped their congregation to do. The building may not get the attention is deserves (delicious irony there).

    You can’t compete as an average size church with the megachurches (and make no mistake, there is competition going on behind the flowerly words about “outreach, without at least one person pouring their heart and soul into the enterprise and holding the whole thing together. It’s designed to operate that way. Take away the glue and it will fall apart. It’s not that churches necessarily want to pay pastors, it’s that they can’t keep the ship floating without the one superman in their midst and to not have a pastor on full-time would require a complete paradigm shift and overhaul of the system. It’s much easier to go on paying a salary and hoping things will improve and turn around than it is to risk losing all the properties and programs that are now what is called “church.”

    Nevermind the difficulties involved for a pastor and family to go through in the midst. It’s a rare person who can give up security for principle.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Upton Sinclair

  34. 11-28-2011

    Most people think that if a “pastor” gets a “secular” occupation then they will not provide the proper pastoral care for the congregation

    I see two reasons why this problem arises

    One is that most churches have one pastor

    Two is that for some reason people believe that the pastor is the priest of them and lean more on him than they do on Christ

    I have found that although most congregants seem to trust and rely on their “pastor” it seems that most don’t even really have a personal (let alone intimate) relationship with their pastor(s) so its understandable that people would think that if the pastor is so busy to not be able to have a relationship with them then how can they have time to get a job on top of that

  35. 3-19-2012

    While I disagree with you about located, paid ministers, I will say that I served a church that felt this way merely because they had bad experiences with a previous minister running a bookstore that did not manage its finances well. This was a reproach upon the minister and the church.

    Also, I was told that they wanted a minister fully devoted to them and their needs. I went on to ask if I could teach as an adjunct at the local university so that it could serve as a form of evangelism and outreach. They rejected this too because they were afraid that I wouldn’t give them the time for which they were paying me. I have since left on good terms and serve a congregation where I’m fully supported by them — as missionaries are supported — and the elders have given me permission to serve as an adjunct as long as things are taken care of at home.

    My goal is to become a professor — I’m currently working on my doctorate in humanities with an emphasis in the Greco-Roman period — so that I can work for the church at no expense while also providing for my family.

  36. 3-19-2012


    You said, “[T]hey wanted a minister fully devoted to them and their needs.” I think this is a usual motivator. I’m not sure it’s based in Scripture or our mutual life in Christ though.