Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Should Pastors Be Paid?

How does the New Testament answer this question? In this post I want to start a discussion as to whether pastors should be paid or not. I will offer my thoughts as the discussion progresses, but I would like to hear from you first.


Alan Knox said...

I see instances in Scripture where apostles and other travelling believers were supported financially by various churches. However, I do not see any indication in Scripture of pastors/elders/overseers being regularly supported by the church. Of course, the church shared with those who were in need. So, if pastors/elders/overseers were in need, then the church shared with them.

Anonymous said...

Theron and Alan,

I am glad you have started this discussion. I believe it is a much needed and profitable topic (no pun intended).

While not fully convinced, I do believe that there may be some implications that pastors/elders/overseers were regularly supported (See observations below).

1 Cor 9:3-15
3My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9For 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? 10 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. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 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 from the altar?
14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.

A couple observations
1. In v. 5 it seems possible that Peter and the brothers of Jesus are being differentiated from the apostles (although it could be appositional). Since in the context Paul is using these people as examples of those that do exert the right to refrain from working (v. 6) and take along a believing wife (v. 5), this may be a reference to someone other than apostles and travelling believers receiving financial reward.

2. As noted, Cephas is metioned in 1 Cor. 9:5. He is an apostle as is evident from his self-designation in both his letters (1 & 2 Peter 1:1). However, he also considered himself a pastor/elder/overseer. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter calls himself a fellow elder (Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed...)

3. In light of these previous observations, is it possible that Paul's comment in 1 Cor. 9:7 about tending a flock is alluding to pastors?

Even in light of these observations, I must say again that I cannot yet conclude one way or the other. However, if these and other texts (1 Tim 5:17) do support the payment of a pastor, it is in no way grounds for a pastor to demand a $ quote before taking a church. These texts also do not demand that a pastor accept payment. Paul, although not a pastor (even though I do believe he functioned as one in many of the places he stayed), sets a great example for pastors in not accepting (or demanding) pay for the sake of the gospel.

Thanks for the oppurtunity to write and dwell on such a difficult subject. Through this discussion, I hope that we can all grow together in our understanding of God and His will for His Church.

In Christ,

Alan Knox said...

1 Corinthians 9 is an interesting passage. It certainly indicates that churches supported some people. However, I think there are a couple of indications in this text and others that those who were being supported were apostles and others who travelled from place to place - not elders who remained with a church.

1) In 1 Cor 9:1-4, Paul refers to his rights as an apostle to receive support - not from his rights as an elder. Actually, Paul never refers to himself as an elder, even when staying in a church for two years.

2) In 1 Cor 9:5, Paul uses the verb περιάγω to refer to those who "take along" a wife. In the NT, this verb seems to be used to indicate travelling around, not going to one place in order to stay there. Those who take along (or travel with) a wife included the apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Cephas (Peter). As travellers, they deserve to be supported by the churches.

3) In 1 Cor. 1:12, Cephas (Peter) is included with Paul and Apollos as those whom the Corinthians were following. Since Scripture indicates that Paul and Apollos travelled around from city to city, it is likely that Peter did the same at this point in his life.

4) In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter certainly included himself as an elder. However, most believe this letter was written later in Peter's life. Tradition tells us that Peter was living in Rome at this time. As he settled in Rome, the church there would surely recognize him as an elder as well as an apostle.

5) All instructions for elders in Scripture include warnings about fulfilling their responsibilities for money or the love of money. The same instructions are not given for apostles or other travelling teachers. Instead, the churches are encouraged to support travelling teachers (3 John 1:6).

6) Churches are required to give honor to elders (1 Tim. 5:17). Elders who rule well deserve this honor just as laborers deserves their wages. By the way, this would be a perfect place for Paul to instruct the church to give monetary support to elders, but he does not.

Finally, much of my understanding about financial support for pastors comes from my understanding of the relationship between pastors and the church. I believe that pastors should be chosen from those in the church, not from outside the church. I can't find any indication in Scripture of a pastor/elder who moved from one church to another. Since a pastor is already part of a church before accepting his role as pastor, he is probably already working to support himself and his family. Therefore, there would be no reason for the church to support him financially.

I am enjoying this conversation. I look forward to reading and learning from many more comments - especially if they disagree with my view!

Matthew Rondeau said...

I don't think the question is, "should pastors/elders be paid," rather, the question should be, "should churches have official staff members?" I think it is difficult to find the existence of staff members in the NT. However, we do see the church caring for the apostles. Undoubtedly elders should be provided for when they have need, but not salaried as staff members.
One problem in our contemporary context is the professional education many pastors/elders are receiving. A seminary education severely limits a man's ability to provide for his family while teaching a church. What is happening is that the seminaries have inhibited a biblical ecclesiology from the beginning. As Alan pointed out, pastors should be recognized from within the church, not interviewed and sought out from seminary. Not only is the seminarian operating from an unbiblical training paradigm, but he usually has no other training or education and therefore cannot support his family any other way than via local church salary. Is seminary training wrong? Surely there is much valuable and godly insight to be gained at seminary, but the paradigm is unbiblical. Pastors should be trained from within the church and thus have other trades/skills/modes of income. The problem now is that many are believing the lie that a man without an M.Div is not prepared for eldership. This lie is present even in the degree descriptions on the SEBTS website. Why can't a man seeking eldership pursue an M.A. in ethics? "Taken alone, the M.A. (Christian Ethics) does not provide adequate preparation for ministry positions involving preaching, church administration or pastoral responsibility." The presupposition here is that the M.Div DOES provide adequate preparation.
To conclude, I think the problem is our entire ecclesiology, not just the question of whether pastors should be paid. One of the primary problems in answering the question is the professionalization of the ministry which the seminaries have accomplished. Let me close by saying that I think the intentions of the many godly men in the seminaries have been pure and honest for the protection of the church. However, I have to believe on the authority of the NT that they are misled.

Theron said...

Alan, Rob, and Matthew,

I am enjoying the discussion around this question as it is one that I think needs to be answered. I agree with Matthew that the issues we are seeing are much larger than the question being addressed in this post. I am open to exploring those questions as well.

One other Scripture I would throw into the mix is Acts 20. In this passage Paul is directly addressing the elders from Ephesus. He says in verses 33 - 35, "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.'"

Paul clearly sets himself up in this passage as an example for the elders at Ephesus. He gave them the pattern of working hard in order to help the weak and give to others.

The issue then becomes how to understand this passage in light of the others that have already been mentioned. Was Paul only speaking of apostles in 1 Cor. 9? How does Paul's usage of misthos in 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Tim. 5 come into play? Alan, I would love to see some of your thought on the relationship of koinonia to this question posted here. Thanks for the thoughts guys, I am really enjoying the discussion.


Matthew Rondeau said...

I appreciate this discussion, and I think the relationship of koinonia to this topic is invaluable. The pastor/elder is a part of the body (koinonia) like everyone else, and though he has a special function (teaching regularly), he is on the same level as everyone else. Just as we should provide money/food/clothing to other members in need, we should provide it to the elders.
I just glanced at 1 Timothy 5:18 in my UBS. We must take into account the variant for "wages." The itala and Clement support the reading "food" in the place of "wages." Therefore, we must consider this as a viable archetype, but maybe you wouldn't agree with me on that considering that the external evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of "wages." Maybe the copyists had a stake in a paid clergy and emended the text! :)

Alan Knox said...

I agree that seminaries perpetuate the problem. But the seminaries would not operate the way they do if the church "operated" the way it should. I agree that the problem is ecclesiology. I am excited to see more and more people questioning the traditional understanding of the church.

Κοινωνία certainly plays a big part in our understanding of ecclesiology and the role of pastors/elders. Because of kοινωνία, I desire to serve my brothers and sisters in any way that God provides - whether they give me money or not. I'm not sure this is always the case. For example, I have heard many pastors say that the great thing about being a pastor is that they get paid to do what they want and like to do. Some ever go as far as saying they would do it for free. But, I wonder if this is true in many cases. I would suggest that if someone stopped doing something because they stopped getting paid, then they were doing it for the money, regardless of what they say about being called by God. I'm sure there are many pastors who would continue to serve the people without being paid, and I thank God for them. I'm sorry for rambling...

Matthew Rondeau said...

In addition to the pastors who desire to be paid, I think there are local assemblies who want a paid pastor. If a paid pastor begins teaching something that they don't like, then they vote him out and hire a new pastor. It is convenient for both parties. It would be a different story if an elder who was receiving no pay began to teach difficult and biblical things (as he should.) There is an added level of credibility to an elder who is providing for his own family, and there is a greater sense of belonging and genuine koinonia. Thats just my 2 cents.

Theron said...


I looked at the variant and yes, I would probably lean towards the reading of misthos. However one thing I noticed is that misthos is used in Luke 10:7 where the same phrase is used. But in Matthew 10:10 trophes is used in place of misthos. Maybe the scribes were trying to harmonize with one of the two Gospels.

I agree that there are some assemblies that want a paid pastor. They probably want this for a couple of reasons. First, it is the only way of "doing" church that they have ever known. Second, if they do understand they scriptural teaching that they are ministers just as much as a pastor, then they are refusing to accept their responsibility as the ministers that God has called them to be and instead choose to pay someone to do that for them. There may be other reasons but these two came to mind.

I also see a pastor as serving in a distinct role in the body though I am still trying to define what that role precisely is (beyond equipping and overseeing if there is anything beyond that) and how that role is to look in everyday life.


Alan Knox said...

Hello again, all!
Thank you again for the great conversation... oops... I was warned not to use the word "conversation" or I would be labeled as "emergent." Therefore, thank you for the great discussion!

Now, seriously, getting back to the topic of paying pastors. My main concern is that I cannot find a normative description in Scripture of pastors/elders being paid. Were there instances where a pastor was given financial support by the church? Probably. But, there were probably many more instances of other members (non-pastor members, for lack of a better word) being financially supported by the church.

However, today, it seems to be normal for a church to pay not only the pastor but also many other "staff" members. In fact, it is now abnormal for a pastor to fulfill his role without being paid.

Why have we made something normative which is not normative in Scripture?

Matthew Rondeau said...

Alan, what text is in that graphic next to your name? I couldn't zoom in enough to actually read it.

Matthew Rondeau said...

Alan, your last comment also made me realize that we like to make things non-normative which were normative in the early church. Examples would be: the consumption of alcohol in the form of wine, the sharing of a meal as the Lord's Supper, the practice of discipline by members for other members. I know there are a lot of other issues at stake here, but these are all examples of a departure from normative church practice in the NT.

Alan Knox said...

The image is an excerpt from codex Sinaiticus. The passage is Heb. 10:24-25 (the focus of my blog). I had to cut and paste because v. 24 was at the bottom of one column while v. 25 started the next column.

I am going to nominate this blog post as having the longest comment section relative to the original post.

Anonymous said...

Well Theron
This post has definitely been the starting block for many great thoughts and discussion. Thank you again for opening up this "can of worms." I have been driven to the Scriptures to seek out God's will for His Church, and that is never a bad thing.

Thank you for your prompt and thorough response to my comments on 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Pet. 5. God used your comments to persuade me that my understanding of 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Pet. 5 are by no means conclusive, and that I need to continue to study His word concerning this issue.

Just wanted to say Hey! I haven't seen you in while, hope all is well.

Theron, Alan, and Matthew,
I would now like to begin a discussion of 1 Tim. 5:17. Let me say first that I cannot see in this passage, a justification for "salaries" for elders. However, I believe that the word translated "honor" may mean more than just respect, homage, or a double portion of food at the church meals (a suggestion made by I. Howard Marshall and some others, which by the way Matthew would offer some contextual support for the variant reading of "food" in v. 18). My reasons for believing money may an aspect of honor are as follows;

1. Paul spoke of "honoring" widows in v. 3. Surely, financial support is Paul's intention here, especially in light of what follows in vv. 4-16. The only problem with this argument is that Paul's use of "honor" in 6:1 seems to be speaking of "respect." Although, even here, "respect" is not the required interpretation.

2. V. 18 gives the grounds for the Paul's comment in v. 17 ("for"). Paul's says his statement is true because it is based upon Scripture. Assuming that "wages" is the original reading in v. 18(and I believe that it is based on overwhelming external and internal evidence), we have further evidence that Paul means more than just "respect" in v.l7. I believe by making reference to these words of Jesus and by intentionally choosing the tradition (Luke) that more generally references "wages," Paul is telling us that he has more in mind than just respect, a.k.a something tangible. Perhaps, it is respect in SOME form of "compensation" or as some have suggested, an "honorarium."

3. Finally, the suggestion of George Knight III that "honor" has a "double" meaning may carry some weight. He writes that the word "is used here in the same double sense as the related verb was in v. 3, i.e., 'honor, reverence," but more particularly in the sense of 'hororarium' or 'compensation'..." (p. 232). So in his understanding the word "double" indicates a "two-fold" meaning of "honor". This interpretation has much to offer because it eliminates the idea that elders who rule well are to recieve double the honor widows or "other" elders recieve.

Let me wrap up by saying again in my understanding that "compensation" does not equal salary. Rather, as the elder works hard in the world and with the church, we are to honor them by showing them respect and doing so in tangible ways (lit. double honor). This may be having them over for a meal, giving them produce, working on their house, or even giving them money. But it is not just need-based. It is honoring that person by going above and beyond the need, a tangible recognition of their labor in the word and doctrine.
So, salaries are not normative in scripture, but 1 Tim 5:17 does open the door for honoring an elder in a material way.

I continue to look forward to our ongoing discussion. Thanks again for the oppurtunity, and praise be to God for His continued work in our hearts and lives through His word, His spirit, and His children.

Alan Knox said...

Thank you for the comments and continuing this discussion. I also appreciate that this discussion has continued in a Christ-honoring tone.

First of all, I agree with almost everything you said, especially the paragraph that starts with "Let me wrap up..." I agree that Paul uses the Lukan phrase "the laborer is worthy of his wages." However, Paul seems to be comparing the honor (τιμή) due elders with the wages (μισθός) due laborers. Paul's Lukan use of the phrase "the laborer is worthy of his wages" does not necessarily mean that Paul must also use the normal Lukan meaning of τιμή. Specifically, Paul uses τιμή in the sense of "honor or value" 3 other times in 1 Timothy. 1 Tim. 5:18 would be the only use where τιμή equals wages.

Now, having said that, that type of honor would probably include material support - I would not say "monetary" support, "compensation," or "honorarium" because of the implications of those words. The sense of τιμή in Acts 28:10 is similar to what I mean here: They also honored (τιμή) us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed (ESV).

Again, I think we are very close on this issue, especially since you said you don't believe 1 Tim. 5:17-18 points to a pastoral salary.

As a pastor, I appreciate the honor that you and B. show me and my family! You constantly encourage us! I did not say that to demonstrate my authority, but to show how I see you and others giving "honor" to pastors/elders.

Theron said...

Rob and Alan,

Thank you for continuing this conversation (there I said it... :) it has continued to be profitable. One connection I would like to draw out of 1 Tim. 5:17 is the relationship between honor and laboring hard in word and teaching.

Elders are to labor hard in word and teaching for a purpose. Obviously it is for their own edification. In addition it is to be able to teach that word to those God has placed under their care. The desire of the elder then is for their teaching to result in a change in the lives of those believers. Therefore, one response of the believer in honoring the elders is to submit to the truth of God's Word and be changed by it. This humble submissive spirit in response to the work of the Word in someone's life is, I think, one of the ways that Paul is teaching us to honor the elders, especially those who labor hard in word and teaching.

I must say this conversation has driven me to the Scriptures to try and understand God's design for this aspect of the church. Thank you all for continuing to challenge me. I will continue to study and will post what God is teaching me through his word. I look forward to hearing what God is continuing to teach you.


Theron said...

Good afternoon brothers,

It has been a busy day, but I wanted to add another Scripture passage into our discussion. I think it is another example of how all believers (including elders) are to conduct their lives by working hard so as to not be a burden to anyone. I think this passage gives more evidence that elders in the first century were not salaried since the passage was written to all the belivers in Thessalonica (elders included). Let me know what you think...

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 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 would 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, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 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."


Alan Knox said...

I suppose the passage that you quoted leads to another question: Are pastors considered the same as other "members" of the church? If so, then it seems that this command - "work in quiet fashion" - would apply to them as well. It would be interested to see if the terms for "work" here are ever applied to study or preaching...

J. Glen said...

Wow, this truly is a long "conversation." Please understand that I am just as conservative in my view of scripture as anyone here, but is there not room in this conversation for approaching this question of paying pastors from a cultural perspective that does not violate the basic principles of the Word? Is paying a pastor a modest salary un-Biblical simply because we can not clearly and normatively see the practice in the New Testament Church? It looks as though the argument is being made against the practice from the foundation of silence.

I certainly agree, as Alan and others have pointed out, that some passages thought to be supporting the practice are probably not exactly referring to that practice, but is that grounds to suggest that it grieves the Spirit for a congregation to provide provision for one of their own to spend the majority of his time reading, researching, networking, ministering, edifying, and counseling? Quite simply, the majority of people in our culture do not have the time to spend in study that would help them clear up huge ethical, relational, and spiritual issues in their lives. Thus the reason the apostles shoved the whole "waiting tables" responsibility onto someone else.

I agree with most of what has been said here, I would just caution you guys to reflect on how one's particular cultural circumstances and specific cultural needs can effect the way that knowledge and ministerial duties are disseminated throughout the Body of believers.
If we had this same long textual commentary on the issue of head coverings I'm sure we would all feel better about why we don't think it is necessary for us to follow such a literal interpretation. Has anyone had a medium rare steak recently? What about the occupation of teaching in general; why is that validated? Is there a list in scripture of services that must not be compensated for? If a man has a wife, 4 kids, and a great amount of spiritual giftedness in the area of "eldering," must the congregation insist that he keep a full time job when they approach him about becoming an elder in the church, thus taking on another “full time job” (as many bivocational pastors can attest to)? Please excuse my sarcasm but I thought some was needed to bring about some reflection on how consistently we zealously pursue various principles found in the Word of God.

Please do not suppose that I am defending the current tradition of a fully salaried ministerial team or the one salaried pastor tradition (those who have read my blog or have spoken with me know that this is not the case), I just like to try to view things from the more complicated perspective that I think they deserve. I have wrote a great sermon here and will be awaiting compensation.