A few years ago, I heard a biblically ill-informed “Christian” DJ say on the radio, “I don’t think we should pay pastors.” He went on to explain that that money should be used for other things like taking care of widows in the body. While this may be an extreme example, many may question the idea of paying the preacher. Wayne Pohl points out, “Churches often fail to count the hidden costs of poor salaries.”
The passage above from Galatians points out the fact that those who teach and preach the word of God faithfully should “share all good things” which means the physical provisions like food, clothing, and shelter. The passage is in the context of sowing and reaping. The reality of human nature remains that we will spend our money on what we value. Paying a pastor for faithful preaching and teaching emerges many places in the New Testament. Paul quotes both Jesus and Deuteronomy in 1 Timothy 5:18, “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Also, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:14, “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”
Every church should strive to pay at least one full-time pastor who labors to faithfully preach the gospel and apply it to daily living. Not all churches can afford this, but many have a bi-vocational pastor. The pastor needs time to reflect and study the word. Many issues continue to bombard the church, and the church needs someone to aid them in applying the gospel and biblical principles. Remember the Bible does not focus on private bible study, although that holds significant value. The Bible emphasizes the public teaching of the word, which is taught by pastors supported by their hearers. The human principle remains, we will find money for what we value. Our bank statements are a black and white snapshot of the values of our hearts. Too many times our local churches approach pastors’ salaries with the attitude of, “What is the least we can do?” instead of asking the important question of, “What is the best we can do for our pastor or pastors?” Here are a few practical points to make on this issue to ensure that you as a church member are faithful in this area.
1. Do you know if your pastor’s salary is livable? Remember pastor’s compensation package is not the same as a salary, what you see reflected usually has to have medical insurance and retirement carved out of it.
2. Do you know if your pastor’s salary truly provides what he needs to live and support his family (including housing, transportation, healthcare, continued education, kids college savings, and retirement)?
3. Do you know if your pastor’s salary is comparable to other churches of a similar size? In our denomination, Lifeway often does compensation studies to determine if a pastor is being paid adequately and fairly.