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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Should The Church Pay: Double honor to the preachers and teachers

Paul does mention giving “double honor” to elders, and especially those that work hard at preaching and teaching. I am in favor of giving honor and double honor to godly elders who shepherd, mentor and teach the churches. But I have a hard time interpreting “double honor” as a full-time salary and benefits. We have come up with the word “honorarium” based on this expression in the New Testament. When we present a speaker with a financial token of appreciation I actually think we are closer to Paul’s intent in this passage.

To be fair, Paul does refer to a “worker worthy of his wages” which is a quote from the Old Testament, mentioned by Jesus as well. It is probably in reference to paying for a day’s hire rather than a yearly salary. We should definitely be generous in sharing all good things with those who teach us (Gal. 6:6), but the goal is always the strengthening of the church, not the sapping of her strength. I also think we are rather limited and uncreative if we think that money is the only thing that we should give to those who teach us well.

I think that the principle of the New Testament is to release the servant to be able to fulfill a specific need in the church. I also think that the precedent is that the servant will have already been performing the service before the honor is given, rather than becoming a condition of service in advance.

14 comments:

The SOUL NAMI said...

1. I agree the church needs more who say "forget the paycheck...I'll fulfill the calling on my life..."
2. I wholeheartedly agree churches need to count the cost and pay the price for true leadership, vision...etc.
3. I think "one" of the problems may be "the church" is in debt to "the man" and has made so many errors that it's finally caught up with many and they can't afford to pay a pastor or if they need one...they're such an unattractive body of believers in regard to their debt...
...maybe that's just my observations in my own little corner of the world...but I REALLY appreciate you writing your last few posts...

Joshua Tucker said...

Good thoughts as usual. I think I mostly agree with you. There's just a few questions in my mind. Could paying ministers be sinful, just burdensome, neutral, or actually beneficial? I'm not sure, as you wrote, that there's a Biblical standard for the way we're doing "professional" ministry. I'm just not sure that makes it wrong.

Apart from pulling out verses to justify the practice are just problems it's created today. For example, many congregations basically hire a paid Christian, who's supposed to do all the ministry. Instead of equipping (Eph. 4) we've just settled with the model of having someone paid to make disciples of Jesus.

Another major problem I see is that modern ministry as a whole seems to be in contradiction to the way Jesus did ministry. For example, Jesus' primary ministry was not to the crowds. He ministered to many, but focused on a few. Close, relational discipleship was His primary ministry, and then He tells those disciples to go and make more. It seems like we've based most ministry on preaching rather than relationships.

Anyway, I could go on but these are just more thoughts to add to the table. Thanks for the posts, bro.

Joshua

Joshua Tucker said...

Good thoughts as usual. I think I mostly agree with you. There's just a few questions in my mind. Could paying ministers be sinful, just burdensome, neutral, or actually beneficial? I'm not sure, as you wrote, that there's a Biblical standard for the way we're doing "professional" ministry. I'm just not sure that makes it wrong.

Apart from pulling out verses to justify the practice are just problems it's created today. For example, many congregations basically hire a paid Christian, who's supposed to do all the ministry. Instead of equipping (Eph. 4) we've just settled with the model of having someone paid to make disciples of Jesus.

Another major problem I see is that modern ministry as a whole seems to be in contradiction to the way Jesus did ministry. For example, Jesus' primary ministry was not to the crowds. He ministered to many, but focused on a few. Close, relational discipleship was His primary ministry, and then He tells those disciples to go and make more. It seems like we've based most ministry on preaching rather than relationships.

Anyway, I could go on but these are just more thoughts to add to the table. Thanks for the posts, bro.

Joshua

bud said...

Hey, Neil, thanks for the post. You may not remember me but my name is John. I was in a greenhouse in LB a while back - the guy with the baby. We spoke on this at that time, and I've been building a scriptural sense on this issue for a while. Praying for you! I read you reg. BTW, our church community has an LTG training session tomorrow night and we're at the point where I'm not doing the training. Pretty sweet. Sorry to get off topic. Keep rocking it for the Kingdom.

David said...

I think maybe the word elder is wider than we commonly use it. For instance, Paul as an itinerant church planter refers to himself as a "fellow elder." (1 Peter 5:1). Could it be that certain elders formed a local apostolic-type team, going around the house churches teaching and declaring truth? The nature of their work (as of the apostles) meant it was difficult to hold work in the normal sense and that they needed to be released to do this - honored financially for their work of building the church?

Joshua Tucker said...

David - 1 Peter 5:1 was actually written by Peter, not Paul. Paul never refers to himself as an elder in the New Testament. While elders may have been paid, Paul was more of a traveling church planter than an elder who stayed and shepherded one congregation. I guess we have to go mostly on speculation if elders were ever paid or not, but you bring up a valid question.

juanDelaCruz said...

Jesus in Luke 10.7 simply gives a proverb as a reason for why the disciple-in-mission should gladly and without being embarrassed accept food placed on the table for him by his man-of-peace (or host).

I think many of us (because of our cultures) would feel either embarrassed to stay for some time at a new believer's home and/or be fed without feeling we need to pay back or give something in return. Many of us would simply prefer to stay in a hotel so as not to burden our hosts.

But Jesus says that a disciple may be hosted by a new believer for some time and not feel embarrassed about it because of the principle that "a worker deserves his wages."

Mike said...

Neil, though you have a hard time interpreting "double honor" to means salaries and benefits, that is just your opinion; about as valuable as anyone else's. It certainly can mean that. Remember that their economy was much simpler than ours.

But I get your main point: Paying church leaders makes an unnatural distinction between the ones who pay and those who are paid. As a paid pastor, I always raise the same question: Would the standard of teaching diminish if those who teach are not adequately trained and recompensed for that training?

My conclusion after being in many (I am not exaggerating) organic teaching situations is that there is a very poor level of teaching in those groups. Even more than the amount of poor preaching I hear (and I evaluate preachers).

Neil Cole said...

Mike, yes they were simpler in their economics: a day's wage is a day's wage...not an annual salary with bennies. But I understand.

Regarding your organic experiences, there are two observations I want to make:

First, you should try experiencing one where LTGs are being used and the disciples are consuming large amounts of scripture repetitively. That makes a huge difference.

Second, you make it sound as if the whole point of church is to have quality teaching, which I would argue is not the only thing (or even the main thing). That said, I would also add that I am less interested in teaching that carries depth and quality as obedience to simple things taught. All our churches are already educated beyond obedience, and more education will not help...no matter how good it is. Can we redefine teaching as equipping people to live Christ's life out in the world rather than presenting facts in an interesting manner?

To compare depth and quality of teaching from a pulpit with the discussion that takes place in an organic church, is like comparing apples and oranges. It is actually the quality of disciple that is most important.

Anonymous said...

I have been interested in this topic for some time- specifically trying to understand the balance between the paid and the non paid servants. Many members volunteer to use their God given talents to further God's work/minister and perhaps spend many hours serving w/o pay when others are paid for service that may not require any more or as much time as the volunteer servant. I hesitate to say this for I don't want to make the question one of gender bias but, it often appears to be gender related.

Tim Forlong said...

This is really challenging blog for me...I'm currently a full time paid pastor, and i'm also writing an essay for some studies on 'Discussing the issues that need to be considered and implemented following the resignation of a senior leader after twenty years of leading an organisation. The essay should reflect reading on succession planning from the reading, course content, and biblical teaching on honouring those who serve the kingdom' any more ideas would be great!

Anonymous said...

If a goose is laying a golden eggs for you - take some of the eggs - sell them and take care of the goose - take care of its food - give it shelter - Make sure it is rested and happy - don't be cheap - the more time the goose spends looking for food or finding shelter the less time it will have to lay eggs.
If I am receiving teaching that is placing me in a place where I am being blessed by God then I want to encourage the one gifted in teaching to be as undistracted as possible so as to spend more time in teaching.
Paul lays that out clearly when he talks about "not muzzling the oxen" let him eat some of the blessing.
The study of the idea of double honor carries with it the practice of paying double the average wage. I am sure those who work hard in the church would not complain about receiving double what the average wage of the congregation is.

Doug said...

A lifer - there are times when the work one is personally called to do takes more time that he/she has to do it.

There should not be a problem with the church (local or dispersed) catching that vision and supporting him/her. There is too much simple Biblical evidence and really God logic to do so.

However, this neither relieves the ones supporting his ministry of their calling to do ministry and be the church to each other nor does the support mandate that the church manage his or her calling.

Those who work in "full-time" ministry should not supplant the work of others but find themselves like Paul and Peter with the time to equip, lead, challenge, and build up the body of Christ.

On a side note, 20 years into full-time ministry and I have always taken only what I need. Our leaders now question if that is wise as in the next 15 years I will watch those who served with me retire and I will have no retirement. I understand the idea of take what you need (I embrace it) but that teaching was from Jesus only for a mission trip.

Looking back, I don't think it would have been so wrong for those who chose to support me to have chosen as well to put a little grain in the silo for my retirement. Perhaps this would be a great time for a double blessing :)

I know that God will provide for me but "to whom much is given" resounds in my heart for if the church is true to the Bible, even though they did not plan for my retirement, the church at large might find itself meeting my old age needs under a different Biblical idea of helping those who have nothing.

Just thoughts.

Doug said...

From a lifer - there are times when the work one is personally called to do takes more time that he/she has to do it.

There should not be a problem with the church (local or dispersed) catching that vision and supporting him/her. There is too much simple Biblical evidence and really God logic to do so.

However, this neither relieves the ones supporting his ministry of their calling to do ministry and be the church to each other nor does the support mandate that the church manage his or her calling.

Those who work in "full-time" ministry should not supplant the work of others but find themselves like Paul and Peter with the time to equip, lead, challenge, and build up the body of Christ.

On a side note, 20 years into full-time ministry and I have always taken only what I need. Our leaders now question if that is wise as in the next 15 years I will watch those who served with me retire and I will have no retirement. I understand the idea of take what you need (I embrace it) but that teaching was from Jesus only for a mission trip.

Looking back, I don't think it would have been so wrong for those who chose to support me to have chosen as well to put a little grain in the silo for my retirement. Perhaps this would be a great time for a double blessing :)

I know that God will provide for me but "to whom much is given" resounds in my heart for if the church is true to the Bible, even though they did not plan for my retirement, the church at large might find itself meeting my old age needs under a different Biblical idea of helping those who have nothing.

Just thoughts.