by Michael Avery and Johnathan Arnold
We’re not in ministry for the money (there’s not much to go around). If our basic needs were met, we’d be willing to serve somewhere without pay. If we thought that we could be effective in ministry, we’d even work as bivocational ministers. Most pastors feel the same way. They love the church and aren’t in it for selfish gain. But the overwhelming emphasis of Scripture is that pastors should be paid well, at least a living wage:
- 1 Cor. 9:14, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”
- 1 Tim. 5:17–18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’”
- Gal. 6:6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.”
The Lord commanded. “Double honor” means “paid well.” Are we obeying these commands to pay our pastors well, let alone giving them a living wage? If pastors are expected to work a second job or are paid so little that being bivocational is necessary to support their families, the answer is “no.”
The overwhelming emphasis of Scripture is that pastors should be paid well, at least a living wage.
It’s easy to cast shade on pastors, insisting that because ministry is not about the money, they shouldn’t care about their paycheck. But if a church doesn’t pay their pastors well (or they aren’t sincerely working to increase their pastor’s pay), then it says something about that church: they likely don’t support their pastors in other ways. A qualification for elders is that they are “not greedy for dishonest gain” (Titus 1:7), not that they “don’t think at all about money.”
What needs to change so that we can obey these commandments? A few suggestions:
- Teach on this subject so that churches understand their God-given duty to generously support their pastors.
- Make tithing (or at least generous giving) a clear expectation for members. Prepare lessons on the subject as part of your discipleship plan.
- Build it into the pastor’s contract that the worthiness of his compensation is reassessed each year (suggestion from David Fry in his “Example Senior Pastor Contract/Covenant”).
We love and honor our precious pastors by obeying Christ’s command to pay them well, at least a living wage. We dishonor them and disobey Christ’s command by expecting them to eke out an existence. Is your pastor, or the pastors in your denomination, paid well? If not, what are you doing to be part of the change?