the weblog of Alan Knox

The Vocational Pastor: an interesting discussion

Posted by on Jun 4, 2012 in blog links, elders | 20 comments

Warning: Illegal string offset 'class' in /homepages/26/d240780368/htdocs/assembling/wp-content/themes/Assembling-Envisioned/epanel/custom_functions.php on line 111

Warning: Illegal string offset 'alt' in /homepages/26/d240780368/htdocs/assembling/wp-content/themes/Assembling-Envisioned/epanel/custom_functions.php on line 112

Warning: Illegal string offset 'title' in /homepages/26/d240780368/htdocs/assembling/wp-content/themes/Assembling-Envisioned/epanel/custom_functions.php on line 113

A couple of weeks ago, in my post “Do pastors have their cake and eat it too?” I linked to a post by Eric (and “A Pilgrim’s Progress“) called “Cake.” In that post, Eric suggested that the work of being a vocational pastor is easy or “cake.”

I’ve followed various posts that have been written in response to Eric’s post, some agreeing with Eric and some disagreeing. (You can find links to those responses in the comments on my post, in the comments on Eric’s post, and in the comments on some of those other posts.)

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for very long, then you probably know that I do not think that Scripture supports the idea of paying someone a salary in order for that person to hold the position of pastor/elder for a church (i.e., a group of believers). However, that does not mean that I believe that all vocational pastors are evil or that they have chosen their position for personal gain or in order to control others.

That said, I have been surprised by the rhetoric involved on both sides (or all sides, I suppose) of this discussion. It has been interesting to notice how intricately people automatically associate being a vocational pastor with many other things. Some automatically associate being a vocational pastor with very positive things, while others automatically associate being a vocational pastor with very negative things.

It seems that it is almost impossible for people to discuss the concept of salaried pastors/elders without venturing into those other topics. (Again, I’ve noticed this on all sides of the discussion/argument.) Granted, we all have a bias in this discussion – and, since I’ve already stated my bias, you know that I’m including myself when I say, “We all have a bias.”

I’ve noticed that automatically associating the concept of vocational pastors with other aspects of our relationship with Christ and with one another often leads to extreme rhetoric. (Yes, I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of this same thing in the past.)

Is it possible for believers to discuss this concept without the rhetoric? I honestly don’t know. I know that it is a very personal issue for people on all sides of the argument.

Over the next few days, I plan to write a series of posts looking at various aspects of this discussion. I do not plan to present my own case. That’s not the purpose. Instead, I want us to look at the state of the discussion itself.

I want to ask you to help me get this discussion started. This is what I’d like for you to do… answer the following questions:

1) Do you believe that Scripture supports the concept of paying a salary to someone in order for that person to be an elder/pastor (or other kind of leader) for a group of believers (i.e., a church)? (Simple a statement of what you do or do not believe concerning this, please.)

2) Why do you think people who agree with you (NOTE: people who AGREE with you) sometimes immediately jump to other issues that are not related to salaries and pastors/elders? (Do not turn this into a defense of your position.)

For this post, I’m asking you to stick to the questions above. There will be other opportunities to discuss other aspects of this question in the later posts. (I will be strict with the comments on this post.)


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

  1. 6-4-2012

    1. NO

    2. each differantly re:the focus of where they are at in their mind, brings out uglies or praises

  2. 6-4-2012

    1. no

    2. Past experiences influence current responses.

  3. 6-4-2012

    1. Maybe. In most cases and in early church, it was natural for believers to have other professions. Today, my former pastor was a missionary in Africa, and has given up pursuit of a regular profession. How should he support himself if he has not developed his lay career?

    2. I have never discussed this subject or thought about the issue.

  4. 6-4-2012

    Generally speaking, no, unless the elder/pastor is working with or providing other ministries the church might fund (Christian school/online education, homeless shelter, orphanage, publishing & distribution of a variety of gospel media, leadership & conference training, periodic missionary service, or church planting). Some pastors are gifted enough to be a blessing to the church at large in their speaking, teaching, writing, and counseling. It is difficult to draw a line which separates one form of service from another. Ministries to larger audiences might also serve the local church body of which an elder is a part.

    I’m not sure people who agree with me tend to jump to other issues — at least not any of which I can remember examples. If there have been instances I cannot recall, I would presume we all tend to do this sometimes due to things we assume are part of various roles or professions. For example, people who advocate supporting a pastor might assume he needs to be on call as a ‘first-responder’ for any emergencies which might arise as he fulfills the role of community chaplain: visiting people in the hospital, counseling acute-crisis situations, conducting funerals, etc. People who disagree with elder support might insist on defining his role in a more narrow way which does not envision broader ministry which extends from his service to the local church into other areas, too, as perhaps an evangelist or missionary. I know of a local church which supports its pastor because he also works as the superintendent of their Christian school. I think we need to remain flexible concerning the distribution and use of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit. He works sovereignly “as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11, 18; Eph. 4:7; Heb. 2:4).

  5. 6-4-2012

    1. Scripture neither mandates nor forbids it. I think it is compatible with scripture and can be useful in certain circumstances, but like everything, subject to abuse and misunderstanding.

    2. People who agree with me probably jump to other things because defining a pastor or elder’s role within a congregation goes to the very heart of ecclesiology, and that is a broad topic.

  6. 6-4-2012

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I hope that others will share their answers to my two questions.


  7. 6-4-2012

    1. My first reaction is “no,” but if I think carefully I would say scripture doesn’t forbid it. I cannot see where a dedicated, paid pastor/elder was normal for the early church, but abnormal does not mean wrong.

    2. The paid pastor is the lynchpin of the institutional church system; or at least one of the keystones. The pulpit, pew, and building are also very important to the system, but notice none of those are people. Thus, if you have problems (philosophical or emotional) with the institutional church, the person to blame is pastor, and the pastor is responsible for all of the other problems. Critics sometimes forget that Israel asked for a king.

  8. 6-4-2012


    1. No!

    2. They need an escape route, because they have no explanation of their position, muchg like most traditionalists (in my experience). They are simply following the views of someone who holds that position. They have no opinion apart from that, and are part of a new developing traditionalism.

  9. 6-4-2012

    1. No, I have never found a scripture that supports paying a salary for anything related to service. I have asked for scripture to support it and have never gotten an answer either.

    2. I don’t really think I have heard anyone who agrees with me jump to any other issues, not that I can think of. It would be interesting so see what they have to say. ( I guess I don’t get to hear from many who agree with me lol).

  10. 6-4-2012

    1. No

    2. Perhaps people jump to other issues bc they aren’t certain why they believe what they believe. Do their beliefs stem from god’s word or are they living off of borrowed faith?

  11. 6-4-2012

    1) A semi-qualified yes, i.e. as a means to provide for needs, not financial security.
    2) I haven’t had someone try to change the subject.

  12. 6-4-2012

    Thanks again everyone for taking part in these comments. My post which will be published tomorrow morning will continue this discussion, with the usual freedom in the comments. 🙂

    If you’re just reading or thinking about this, feel free to leave your comment as well. But on this post, please only answer my 2 questions above. Thanks!


  13. 6-5-2012

    Hi Alan

    1 – No…
    [edited by moderator]

    2 – Not sure what you mean -“immediately jump to other issues that are not
    related to salaries and pastors/elders?”- for those who agree with me.

    Can only speak for myself. (And even I’m subject to change.) 😉
    [edited by moderator]

  14. 6-5-2012

    1)I do not believe that Scripture supports the concept of paying a salary to someone in order for that person to be an elder/pastor (or other kind of leader) for a group of believers (i.e., a church).

    2)This of course depends on what “other issues” you are referring to. For many this discussion is driven by emotions based on past experiences. For others it could be rooted in a desire to be different or be independent or be rebellious against the establishment (says the guy who loves Rage Against the Machine!) For some others the issue could be monetary. Money is important to people, I’m sure it can be a motivation in this conversation. Mostly we, as people, just struggle to think logically and not be driven by our emotions. Because of this, most arguments contain ad hominem attacks, set up straw men, throw in red herrings and, most importantly, fail to prove or disprove a focused point. If you don’t believe me, just read a facebook argument or comment thread on any “church” blog out there.

  15. 6-5-2012

    1) I cannot find that scripture “supports” it, nor that any leaders apostles or otherwise were paid a “salary”. Though Paul does mention that some form of benefits (food/housing/money?) were permissible to be received by himself as an itinerant servant – these were largely refused.

    2) Most people go to their experience (or knowledge of others) where not refusing the money resulted in the things Paul was trying to avoid. So really the root issue is the same, just turns to discussion of the fruit.

  16. 6-5-2012

    Thanks again, guys, for answering the 2 questions that I asked in the post!


  17. 6-7-2012


    (1) “in order for” — definitely no. Scripture doesn’t tie these two together that way.

    (2) I think on all sides there is a tension between commonly accepted practice and scripture. Even historically, there hasn’t been uniformity. It was common prior to the 20th century for churches to operate quarter-time, half-time, sometimes not having budgets, and other times paying pastors with goods and services. The salaried, budgeted staff position seems to be a quite recent phenomenon. I personally think it is okay for a church to support their pastors financially and in most cases preferable. Still, I really don’t know if I have answered this question…

  18. 6-8-2012

    1) Yes
    2) They don’t want to part with money…keep the pastor poor and he will work harder.

  19. 6-9-2012

    An emphatic NO!

    We often jump to other topics because we have seen the broad impact this deceptive tradition has on the spiritual life of the body of Christ in hopes that the spirit will reveal to the hearers how crucial every member is to the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

  20. 6-10-2012

    Everyone, thanks again for commenting on this post and for only answering the two questions above.