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.