Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Should the Church Pay: What about pastors?

Should we pay pastors to shepherd the church? We have so many godly people who would be without income if we put a stop to this. So many have spent lots of money and went deep into debt to be prepared professionally to be pastors. What would become of this investment if we no longer paid pastors?

In the context of most organic churching, where churches are intentionally smaller, more intimate and rapidly reproducing, there is no need to pay someone to pastor. The bar for ministry is down low enough that it is easy to shepherd 10 to 20 people without needing to be paid to do so. In such a context, the whole body is more easily mobilized to serve and ministry is not as dependent on a single professional leader.

While it is not a sin for a church to employ someone, I do think it may not be the best investment of kingdom resources. It is investing in our weaknesses and throwing more fuel on the separation of the clergy and laity. A huge pool of anointed, under appreciated and certainly underused servants are sitting in pews every week. When we invest more resources in our weakness perhaps we end up yielding greater weakness.

A More Important Question: When Are People Supported? And Why?

The question of whether or not people should be supported is not as important as when do we support them and why. When we approach church like a business, and look for employees to hire we have already started down the wrong path in my opinion. Job descriptions, office hours, performance reviews, raises, bonuses, vacation days, sick days are all things that belong in a business, but we should think hard if this is the way the church operates.

I once heard a Church consultant instruct a room full of high powered pastors and Christian leaders not to use the vocabulary of “family” when talking about church but instead use the language of “team”. He said the reason why we should make the shift is because you can fire someone who is on your team for not performing well, but you cannot fire someone who is in your family. This sounds much more like a business then a church. The New Testament uses a great many analogies for the church. Family is used arguably more then any other. Business is not used much at all, and only when highlighting the value of buying in and investing in the cause. Never is it used to describe our relating to one another.

Weakness Evangelism

When Jesus sent out the disciples to do kingdom work he said, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” (Luke 10:3-4 NIV). Whenever my wife asks me to hold her purse for her at the mall while she tries something on, I always quote this verse and say, “No, Jesus said, ‘Do not take a purse.’”

“Purse” is translated in NASB as “money belt”. It is your wallet. When Jesus sent out the disciples He instructed them to not raise money or take any surplus. Not just surplus, but do not take any money at all! They were to go out completely dependent upon God and the kindness of strangers.

There are books out today on a variety of ways to do evangelism. There is servant evangelism, prayer evangelism, prophetic evangelism and even power evangelism. Jesus’ method was what I like to call “weakness evangelism”. It is actually quite the opposite of most of our strategies. The disciples were not to come in strength and rescue the people who are in the world, but rather, to be completely in need.

Not that they were to be helpless bums, they did have strength. They were to “preach the Gospel of the kingdom, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead.” Yes, there is a place for power in your evangelism. But do not miss the point that they were totally dependent upon the hospitality of those they were reaching out to.

We usually sweep in with some sort of hero complex. We host a huge crusade in a football stadium with professional musicians and speakers. In our best efforts we build hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, halfway houses and exercise our strength in an attempt to impress the community with the compassion of the church. The results are, in the best-case scenario, that we may impress a few people that end up saying, “Those Christians are really nice.”

Do not hear me wrong, all those things are good and we should do them. I think we should be salt to the world with good works that glorify our Father in heaven. We should do all of those things and much more. The question isn’t if we should do them, but when. My point is that we never come in weakness. And there are good arguments for why that is the first way we should come in. Tomorrow I will post 7 reasons why Jesus' instructions are a better place to begin in serving as a leader in the church.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts. I've been thinking through the idea of weakness as well. Though I will make one clarification. The early church appeared to be dependent on the hospitality of others, but their true dependence was on the Lord.

Anonymous said...

been struggling with this for a while. especially with a wife and 3 children. dont want to rely on the church for a salary but what then?

Anonymous said...

My thinking is that something major has to happen to break the culturally entrenched cycle of persons going into full time Christian service and expecting a salary. Not only is it a question of "How would a trained institutional church leader make a living?" but also for all believers, "Does the church have a respoonsibility to encourage each other in following the example of Jesus and Paul in having a marketable trade?" Along with this, here in North America, is a culture that is making new professions and making others antiquated at a dizzying pace.

Anonymous said...

I pray mercy over all of you. Twisting the Holy Scriptures is dangerous. Repent, and turn back to God! You may want to re-read the writings of the Apostle Paul...this time ask for revelation of truth and not rebellion.
May Jesus search your hearts and minds and fill the dark places with the Holy Spirit!
The Bible is very clear on these matters. What I see here is man taking away the clarity.
There will come a day when men will no longer put up with sound doctrine.....I am seeing it on this site.
Truth come to you in Jesus Name

Timothy Wright said...


Jesus lived off the financial support of other people. Luke 8: 1-3.

Neil Cole said...

Yes, Jesus was supported while in ministry, but two things to consider:

1. He waited until he was 30 and already had a career in Carpentry. He did not live on a salary but the kindness of followers He had first ministered to. And He had no bed to lay his head.

2. He put their bank account under the care of the thief (knowingly?). His sort of financial management looks a whole lot different than ours.


Angel said...

I agree with you. Very well written.

Joe B said...

re: anonymous
"The Bible is very clear on these matters. What I see here is man taking away the clarity."

Since what you are referring to is so clear in scripture, perhaps you would be so kind as to cite it?

Anonymous said...

REPENT ! Judement is waiting for you. Peter spoke of those who would twist the complex writings of The Apostle Paul. "Destruction awaits you." I beg you...repent and turn back to God. Rebellion is as witchcraft...those who practrice witchcraft WILL NOT enter The Kingdom of God. Even if this post isnt put on the site, let me say this.
Even this day has your condemnation been set. For as you have given falsely, and even of yourselves, a revealing will be laid at the feet of those with understanding. That thing which blesses you, or fulfills you, will be taken from you. Heartache will fill those areas, and you will watch as a mourning will rise from the depth of your belly. I pray that through this humbling you will return to God. Ephesians 5:11

Neil Cole said...


First let me say I welcome your comments, both of them. I've read back over this post and do not see where I have twisted scripture. I am open to the Lord's teaching and rebuke...are you?

Honestly, I am not sure what you thought I was twisting, In fact I can't tell if you think I am wrong for allowing for some pastors to receive support or for saying that it is not a good idea to hire professional leaders untested. In either case, I am confident that I have not been abusive with the Scriptures.

Why not include your name if you want to be so straight forward and heap condemnation on me...its the least you can do for us both.


Twinkle014 said...

Anonymous: what you are doing is spiritual abuse. Perhaps you are the one twisting scriptures and heaping condemnation on yourself. Perhaps you should consider the plank in your own eye. It pains me to see you so steeped in fear and hatred. I pray that some day you will know the loving Jesus who died on a cross for all us sinners and He who gives to those who ask in His name. I pray that he will relieve you of this daemon of hatred and superstition.
Cole: I have thought many times along your same lines. I don't know what the final answer is, but I know that God will lead you to it. I trust that the questions you ask are for His benefit- to rid our religion from all of the cultural baggage it carries, but still keep the good stuff. I thank you for your efforts.