The Problematic Predicament of Paying the Pastor
- Thursday, September 17, 2009
Every pastor I know is held by two scriptures at opposite poles--and also torn between them.
On the one hand, "The laborer is worthy of his hire." That word from 1 Timothy 5:18 is a quotation of several Old Testament references. The New Testament will not let the super-spiritual among us dismiss the idea of compensating the minister with something like, "The Bible teaches that the ministers should get out and hold jobs like everyone else; there's nothing in there about paying the preacher."
Bad wrong. Read your Bible.
But on the other hand, the other reality that Scripture nails down as a line the minister must not cross says, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).
On one side, the minister must never put a price on the work he does. He must look to the Lord as the Source for his needs.
On the other side, he should be adequately compensated. The church must do the faithful and responsible thing in providing for these the Lord has called, equipped, and sent into His fields to labor.
He has a hard time saying this. So, I'm saying it for him.
Some thirty years ago, Dr. Bill Prout was a professor of religion on the faculty of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, MS, where I served the First Baptist Church. I was Bill's pastor, but he himself was a former pastor of Southern Baptist churches. He often supplied pulpits in the area for absent ministers and took interims when churches were between pastors.
I wrote an article for the old Baptist Program (the wonderful Leonard Hill was editor) based on a conversation Dr. Prout and I had. Fifteen years earlier, when he arrived in the community and began to fill the pulpits, he told me the average check to the visiting minister was 50 dollars.
"It's still 50 dollars," he laughed.
A friend who worked at a local bank ran the numbers and informed us that 50 dollars in, say, 1960, would have to be about 125 dollars fifteen years later, in order to have the same buying power. I quoted him in the article and urged churches to be more generous and faithful in taking care of their visiting ministers.
And now, that truth has come full circle for me.
It was easy to say churches should do the responsible thing when I was serving a rather prosperous county-seat-town church. It gave me a lot of pleasure to hand visiting ministers, particularly revival guests who had spent a week laboring among us, a generous check.
Then, I came to pastor a church in the New Orleans area that had barely survived a split and was struggling to keep its head above the water. The monthly mortgage payments on the huge sanctuary required over half our income. There were times back then--I grieve to remember--when the offerings we gave visiting ministers were far less than they should have been.
For those who read these words, I want them to know I remember. I didn't forget their faithfulness and the sweet spirit with which they took the small checks and went on to their next assignment.
The prayer of my heart was (and is) that the Lord made it up to them on the next place they served.
These days, as an unemployed retiree I am now the one being handed a check at the end of a day. All in all, I have no complaint. In my case, it really is working out that a low check one time is made up the next time.
In every case--large check or small--I thank them and thank the Lord. The Lord is my Source. I do remember, be assured of that.
I'm leading up to something; bear with me.
Before getting to it, I want to tell you about those full-time evangelists who are being invited to hold revivals in fewer and fewer churches. Now, with Southern Baptists counting over 40,000 congregations, there are still enough doing extended revival meetings to keep several hundred evangelists at it full-time.
Recently on Pastors / Leadership
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content