Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who should the Church Pay to Serve?

This is a very critical question for the church to ask today. In order to approach this subject with cooler heads and calmer hearts, may I suggest we commit ourselves to addressing this from the New Testament rather than from our traditions, practical challenges and emotional bias. Can we read the New Testament as if we never read it before? Can we consider this question as if we did not have 2000 years of history weighing in on our perspective? Can we ask this question divorced from the concern of where our next paycheck will come from or worrying about career choices and educational investments? Probably not, but we should at least try.

It is my personal belief that much of our theology of church financing is dictated by two things. We are heavily influenced by the Old Testament principles of supporting a centralized religious government, and by our own need to support a new centralized religious institution. Frankly, I believe we draw much from the Old Testament for the very reason that we need to support a centralized religious institution and the New Testament is found lacking in that regard. Not that the New Testament is lacking in content about finances, in fact principles of financial stewardship is voluminous in the New Testament. Jesus spoke more about money than about heaven and hell, but the New Testament does away with the centralized religious institution. All of us are priests. All are servants empowered by the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the work of the ministry.

As I have studied the New Testament with this question in mind I have discovered that there are only two roles that are expected to make their living being supported by the church. If we could only pay two roles in the church today, which would we choose? Senior pastors and missionaries? Pastors and worship leaders? Denominational executives and pastors? Push comes to shove, I’d probably want to include a gifted secretary in the mix, but that’s more reflective of my own weakness than of any understanding of the Bible. I am confident that whatever two roles we would choose, they would not be the two mentioned in the New Testament.

In the next few blog posts I will examine this issue and share who is supported "full time" in the NT.


Tremonti said...

You posted an interesting as well as thought provoking question/ issue at hand. No opinion yet but I will surely wait until the next post.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your take on this subject. It's true that the tendency remains to erect/maintain a religious system akin to the Old Covenant tabernacle.

As far as the two roles, I'm interested to hear your take on the topic. Lately, I've been considering traveling, itinerant ministers as those who can receive support from the Church. These would be people who travel around, encouraging the Body of Christ, equiping them to function under the Headship of Jesus. They would not be people who assume leadership over a group long-term.

I'm looking forward to being challenged and provoke to thought by your posts. Keep them coming, Neil!

Neil Cole said...

Matthew, I think your idea may fall under the role of an apostle.

Bob said...

I have been on both sides of the pulpit. As a youth pastor, my family and I depended on my salary to make a living. Years later when I left professional ministry to work in the when I worked in the Social Services field My ministry was free to blossom without the nagging issue of money, which at times, sorry to say constrained my call to teach. I have many friends who are pastoring and I do not once begrudge them their career choice. Nor have I any ill will toward the traditional church. For me though I have been moving along the path outside the traditional church and more into a simple model where there is no divide between the professional priest and the lay priest. We are gift driven abd not staff driven. Your book Organic leadership is one of many books that have confirmed this journey. God bless you Neil for lovingly discussing this topic.