Question: Why Do Churches Pay Pastors a Salary?
What Does the Bible Say About Paying Pastors?
In a recent email, Jim writes:
I need your help to understand something that has troubled me for years ... why do churches pay preachers to preach or pastor a church? Why does a pastor even take money to preach? I pray that you can answer the question and tell me what the Holy Word of God says about this.
Answer: Many Christians are surprised to discover that the Bible plainly teaches congregations to financially support those who care for the spiritual needs of the church body. This includes pastors, teachers and other full-time ministers who are called by God for service. Spiritual leaders can best serve when they are fully dedicated to the work of the Lord—to the study and teaching of God's Word and ministering to the needs of the body of Christ. If a minister has to work a job to provide for his family, then he will be distracted from ministry and forced to divide his priorities, leaving less time to adequately shepherd his flock.
What the Bible Says About Paying Pastors a Salary
1 Timothy 5:17-18
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” (NLT)
As we see in 1 Timothy 5, all ministry work is important, but preaching and teaching is especially worthy of honor because it is the core of Christian ministry. Paul backed up his point in the verse above with Old Testament references to Deuteronomy 25:4 and Leviticus 19:13.
Again, Paul refers to this expression of "not muzzling an ox while it is treading out the grain." Even though many times Paul chose not to accept financial support, he still argued for the Old Testament principle that those who serve full time to meet the spiritual needs of people, deserve to receive monetary support from them.
1 Corinthians 9:14
In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. (NLT)
Addressing a Misconception
In conclusion, I'd like to address a common misconception about pastors and preachers. Many Christians believe that being a pastor or teacher is a relatively easy job. New believers especially, might have the tendency to think that ministers simply show up at church on Sunday morning to preach and then spend the rest of the week praying and reading the Bible. While pastors do (and should) spend plenty of time reading God's Word and praying, that's only a very small part of what they do.
By definition of the word pastor, these servants of God are called to 'shepherd the flock,' which means they are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the spiritual needs of the congregation. Even in a small church these responsibilities are numerous.
As the primary teacher of God's Word to the people, most pastors spend hours and hours researching and studying Scripture in order to rightly understand the Bible so that it can be taught in a meaningful and applicable way. Besides preaching and teaching, pastors do a great deal of spiritual counseling, they make hospital visits, pray for the sick, train and disciple church leaders, officiate weddings, perform funerals, and the list goes on and on.
In small churches, many pastors have the business and administrative responsibilities as well as office work to tend to; while in large churches, the weekly activities taking place within the walls of the church can be continuous. Typically, the larger the church the greater the weight of responsibility.
While this is merely a personal observation, it's worth noting. As I've worked for the past 20+ years on the staff of large and small churches, I've come to realize that the pastoral calling is one of the hardest jobs there is. In actuality, almost every pastor I've known was not paid nearly as much as he deserved.
As with all topics of study, there is wisdom in taking a balanced biblical approach. Yes, there are many churches financially overburdened with the expectation to fully support their ministers. Yes, there are numerous false shepherds seeking material wealth at their congregations' expense. Sadly, we can point to endless examples of this today, and these abuses greatly hinder the gospel.
The author of The Shadow of the Cross, Walter J. Chantry, aptly stated, "A self-serving minister is one of the most loathsome sights in all the world."
So, with that in mind, I'd like to recommend additional perspectives on this topic for you to consider: