Should pastors work or should they receive full time salaries?

Probably one of the most hated issues in the Christian church, by Christians and Non-Christians alike, is how much money pastors are paid. Even more so lately, as the average salary for pastors has risen tremendously. Pastors earning a salary from their congregation is a relatively new occurrence in the Christian church. The early church had no salaried pastors at all and up until the recent “Evangelistic” church, Christianity did not pay full time wages to pastors for their service.

I say “Evangelistic” in quotes because, the modern “evangelical” church is in fact NOT evangelical at all. The rise of “Mass Evangelists”, like Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Charles Grandison Finney, is what caused the problem in Christianity today. Now we have seminaries, colleges, and other institutions putting out “Ministers and Pastors” for the sole purpose of placing them in paying jobs within the church. It is no wonder that when you walk into the average church, the pastor has no experience in the real world and has more interest in golf stories and other irrelevant subjects.

What is the average “Mega Church” pastors salary?

The average salary of pastors in mega churches are staggering. The typical smaller church has their pastors salaried at ~80,000 per year.

The average salary for a lead pastor in a megachurch in the 2010 report was $147,000
New Report Examines Salaries of Megachurch Pastors BY LILLIAN KWON, CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER

While the average American can barely scrape by with hard work and long hours, pastors have cushy paychecks.

Meanwhile, median household income fell slightly to $51,017 a year in 2012, down from $51,100 in 2011

15% of Americans living in poverty By Steve Hargreaves

You would think todays pastors would show the fruit of their labor. Instead, Christianity is having the opposite effect and church membership is dropping.

Self-reported church attendance has varied between 37% and 49% since 1950
In U.S., Four in 10 Report Attending Church in Last Week by Frank Newport

If the worker is worthy of his wage, why are less people attending church? At the same time why is the pastor paycheck increasing so drastically?

What proof is used for paying pastors a salary?

Before I begin, I would like to point out that the Bible does NOT teach whatsoever to pay a pastor a full time salary. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite. Of course those who support pastor salaries (mainly the pastors who are getting the salary of course) will tell you,

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.
Why Do Churches Pay Pastors a Salary? By Mary Fairchild

Shepard HIS flock.” As if the pastor is the sole proprietor of God’s people. Now they claim the Bible plainly teaches this; however, when looking at the so called “Plain” passages, we find that they say no such thing.

1 Timothy 5:17-18

1 Timothy 5:17-18 is one of the best proofs they can come up with to justify pastor salaries. The passage is as follows:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
(1Ti 5:17-18 NAS)

This passage says nothing about paying pastors salaries. It says the elders are worth double honor. The word honor means:

Strongs number: <5092> τιμή, (time)
Meaning: a valuing, a price
Origin: from 5099
Usage: honor(28), honorable use(1), marks of respect(1), precious(1), price(7), proceeds(1),sum(1), value(2).

Paul is saying to give them twice the respect and value. NOT write them a check of 100,000 dollars, buy them a house, pay their bills, support their extra curricular activities and so forth. He compares it to refusing to feed an Ox while its working and not paying someone who did manual labor for you. It’s a comparison not a mandate for monetary payment. It doesn’t mean to feed them twice as much food, nor does it mean to pay them twice as much as everyone else either.

1 Corinthians 9:9 – 14

This is another passage used to justify Pastor paychecks.

For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share with the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
(1Co 9:9-14 NAS)

There is a difference between a living and a killing. The key to understanding what Paul means here is the statement “If others share the right over you, do we not more?“. Others share the right? What could this mean? Does it mean church patrons have to pay full time salaries to everyone they know? Obviously not. Paul is speaking of common courtesy and manners.

An example of this would be, say a minister pays for a plane ticket to go from Virginia to California to preach at a church. Let’s say the minister knows nobody in California and does not have much money. Would it be right for a church member to give him a place to stay? Maybe cook him dinner and give him access to a shower? Maybe reimburse some or all of his travel expenses to help him along the way. This is common courtesy and manners.

Now for the statement “If others share the right over you, do we not more?” If your mother or father flies in from another state to visit you, would you give them a place to stay, feed them dinner and offer them access to a shower? I would hope so. Your father and mother do have this right since they are your parents. Even so does the minister who brings you the gospel for your sake at your request.

Now, certainly this does not mean your father and mother can buy a house at your expense, buy a car at your expense, purchase all their groceries, pay their bills and supply all their entertainment at your expense. Paul is by no means promoting a welfare system for dead beats. That is exactly what these pastors are doing. It really digs at a nerve that Christians have the audacity to claim that God commands this.

Galatians 6:6

They use Galatians 6:6 as well. Paul states,

And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.
(Gal 6:6 NAS)

This says nothing about a full time salary at all. Somehow they seem to skip the verse directly before it that says, “For each one shall bear his own load. (Gal 6:5 NAS)”. Paul simply is, as if talking to a child that won’t share its toys, telling them to share. It’s a common courtesy and good manners to offer food or shelter to someone who needs it in the church. Certainly this passage does not say, buy him a new car, pay his rent for the rest of his life, pay his bills and entertainment.

Luke 10:7-8

“And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. “And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you;
(Luk 10:7-8 NAS)

That passage says to stay in the persons house. Not demand a house to be bought for the pastor, or to pay the pastors bills, buy all the pastors food for the rest of his life and so forth. Again, somehow these people miss the verse before that states, “Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. (Luk 10:4 NAS).” Somehow, these pastors think the apostles were rich when in fact, they were homeless people and poor.

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
(Luk 9:58 NAS)

Matthew 10:10

They also try to squeeze this doctrine from Matthew 10:10.

for the worker is worthy of his support.
(Mat 10:10 NAS)

Of course they gloss over “Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff (Mat 10:9 NAS)”. The passage states to stay at the home of those who accept them. Nowhere does this passage even come close to saying pay them a salary yearly or buy them a house, pay their bills, and give them large sums of money.

Pastors should work and support themselves

The obvious problem with paying pastors large yearly salaries for their service is as follows:

  1. Pastors are out of touch with the real problems in society:

    How are pastors going to address the real problems people face if they are not in the world struggling like everyone else?

    I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
    (Joh 17:14-18 NAS)

  2. Pastors need to delegate and appoint elders and deacons to carry out the work:

    The purpose of the church is to make disciples and set up a church infrastructure. That way there is someone to help at all times. Not just a pastor or two. The pastor is only to direct the church in the correct way to go. Not run the entire process themselves.

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
    (Tit 1:5 NAS)

  3. Pastors become dictators:

    Who’s is being followed? Why is the pastor the sole dictator of what goes on?

    Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
    (1Co 1:12-13 NAS)

  4. They are idle busybodies:

    Since when did being a pastor mean running around getting into peoples business with busy work?

    For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
    (2Th 3:7-12 NAS)

Silver, gold and so forth are not to be sought for

The model Paul taught was for pastors and ministers to work and support themselves, so as, to not be a burden on the church. The Bible actually teaches the opposite of paying salaries to pastors. Jesus told the apostles,

Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts,
(Mat 10:9 NAS)

Paul stated,

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
(Act 20:32-35 NAS)

What is really happening with pastor salaries?

The real deal is that most of these pastors are fleecing the flock. Of course I am not speaking of all pastors. There are many pastors who work hard and are sincere in the work they do for God’s people; However, the mass of pastors in the church today do not represent God as they should. They mass evangelize for a mass paycheck. They are con artists, charlatans, phonies, fraudulent, impostor’s. They are in it for the money. They want an easy fat paycheck. They have no intent in actually leading anyone to Christ. If someone does become a Christian from their preaching it was by pure happenstance. All I can tell them is the following:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.’ You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering?

Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers
(Mat 23:15-32 NAS)

For further reading, check out the following links:

Should Pastors Be Salaried? – Battered Sheep

There is no Biblical Defense for Paid Pastors/Elders

Many Seminary Grads Struggling to Find Jobs and Pay Off Loans

Summary – Should elders/pastors be paid a salary?

More preachers need a ‘day job,’ too

Pastor, Go Get a Job