Do pastors owe apologies for getting rich?

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SharperIron's picture
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When ministers are asking

When ministers are asking God's people to give them money for their teachings and their songs, they do need to be cautioned not to live way above the people to whom they minister.  When they do live way above them, they create a snare for themselves and they cause other problems.

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Not a good track record

Scripture has not much positive to say about those that seek to profit from their spiritual gift (think Balaam) or profit through purchasing a spiritual gift (Simon of Acts 8 fame comes to mind).

Paul specifically addresses the issue to his mentee minister in training, Timothy, when he states in I Tim. 6:9 FF "...But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things..."

Anecdotally, I have had over my years of ministry 10 good pastor friends who became quite financially successful in business/ministry while they were pastoring; nine have had to leave the ministry for moral reasons, most of whom were never able to put their marriages back together. 

Just some observations.

.

Lee

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Rich is a relative term
  • Congregationally governed churches should provide 3 regular documents to membership:

    • A Budget: Annually ... to be voted upon by membership
    • Income and Expense statement: Monthly to deacons & all members who ask. Quarterly at business meeting
    • Balance sheet: Quarterly at business meeting
  • If Christians are personally responsible for the salary of the Pastor (1 Timothy 5:16-18), then in Congregationally governed churches, members should be able to vote on the pastor's salary
  • If a pastor has or acquires wealth outside of the ministry (examples: authoring books, inheritance, et cetera), it's his business
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Should parisioners apologize for being rich and

not serving the Lord very well with it? Should middle income Christians apologize to their church for wasting money when their church has needs? Should poor Christians apologize for not working harder?

 

Having wealth is a unique responsibility that few have to carry and be steward of. Just as ministers have unique burdens others would not realize or understand, those that are considered wealthy have things that could become "snares". The I Tim 6 text indicates that those "who would be rich" are in trouble because they desire to be rich. Few desire to be stewards. If you desire to be a steward YOU BETTER BE A GOOD ONE. It does not matter if you make $25,000 or $250,000 per year are you being a good steward?

 

Another problem lies not in the "wealthy" but those who appoint themselves to judge them. Should one that has the opportunity to obtain wealth to use for the Lord's work forgo that unique service opportunity because some would be critical? If you have ever prayed for God to meet a huge financial need for a church, missionary, Bible college, camp or other Christian cause it is hypocritical for you to be critical of the wealthy steward. How did you think God would meet those needs? Drop cash like manna? Someone had to earn it in order to give it.

Deu 8:17  Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.'
Deu 8:18  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 

 

 

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interesting topic

The OP question should eliminate "pastors" and insert "Christian". What matters is how any of us handle what we are entrusted with..if you relate to the OP. That's a broad question since so many of our forefathers of the faith were wealthy. 

As to pastors, there is a much deeper issue. For many of the readers here who are accustomed to small and medium sized conservative churches, the concept of a pastor having wealth seems very foreign. But it is very real. The issue I see with most of the wealthy pastors is that they do so by heavy double or triple dipping within their ministry venues.

How it works: Pastor takes ample study time for sermons. Then has sermons transcribed into books, bible studies, video series, etc. Pastor goes out and promotes them on ministry time. Now he comes back and says I built a house on book/video/conference revenue.

Here's another version for a pastor not well known enough to be selling books. Pastor convinces leaders he only needs minimal office time. So he only commits to about 8 hours of office time per week. He also convinces church he needs each July off for study. He also goes into cruise control 75% of the December/January holiday season while other staffers handle responsibilities. He also sets himself up as the lone church travel correspondent hopping to various continents around the globe 4 - 6 times per year. Each of these trips and expenses are billed to the church, not to mention the time off. So this pastor of a small to medium sized church doesn't need a large salary per se, when he works 20 - 25 hours per week and builds 10 weeks off into his schedule. 

It's really a corporate mindset. So many of these "pastors" are simply using the gospel as a product. Package it up neatly each week, sell to ear tickling seekers. Everybody feels good. Everybody goes home a winner. 

 

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I think the questions hinges

I think the questions hinges partially on how the pastor got rich. If he is collecting a salary from the church that far exceeds the income of the majority of the members, then yes, I see a problem. If he is living wisely, within his means, on a salary established by the church and in line with the average member's income, and he handles his finances well gaining wealth from investment, no, I don't think he owes anyone an apology. Same thing with proceeds from a book deal. If he short-changed the church in order to carve out time to write the book, there is a problem. If he burned the midnight oil and weekend hours pecking away at his book around his fulfilled church responsibilities, he cannot be blamed for working above and beyond his responsibilities and reaping the benefit.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Another Reason to be Bi-Vocational

This whole issue is another reason why I prefer to be bi-vocational. No one can complain that I'm being self-serving or making too much money when I teach / preach on generous giving, even if I make more than the average church member.

If pastors make significant money from their investments or outside activities, I'd recommend (not request) they forego their church salary to silence the complainers, but I'd not begrudge them their wealth.

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Why it's an issue
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How all too often it really

How all too often it really works these days.

Out of curiosity, Wayne, how often does it work like this? Can you give an us idea of how many pastors are doing this? Maybe a percentage or something?

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I don't think I've ever known an overpaid pastor

I don't think I've ever personally known an overpaid pastor

It seems in most cases either the church is very tight with raises or otherwise nickels and dimes him

In my mind the pastoral compensation should:

  • Enable him to buy a house (get a mortgage ... 30 year)
  • Have sufficient funds for his needs - be considerate about his family size and the extra needed for a larger family
  • Have an auto allowance (or mileage allowance)
  • Allowance for other expenses
  • Provision of a nice laptop and printer - with replacement plan every 36-42 months)
  • High speed internet to the church for his office
  • Either and IPhone or Android phone
  • 3-4 weeks of paid vacation
  • Church side of Social security paid
  • Plus perhaps another 3% matching for an IRA
  • A book allowance of $ 50 per month
  • Et cetera
  • Also pay a substantial amount toward his health care insurance

it would be good for the deacons to appoint a subcommittee to work with the pastor on his pastoral compensation package. These men should be sympathetic and generous of heart

And here's a good tradition: take up a love offering for him and his family every Christmas

Consider providing your pastor a Christmas gift every year! These are God's servants and should be honored 

 

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Stewardship Services Foundation

When it comes to the benefits package for pastoral staff, I've found this site tremendously helpful: http://ssfoundation.net/

Under the "The Pastor and His Benefits Package," SSF recommends the following:

  1. Pay his salary based on a fair and livable wage (the principle of generosity).
  2. Fringe benefits should include:
    Full family medical insurance
    Retirement plan (403b)
    Disability insurance
    $100,000 of term life insurance (add value of $50,000 as income)
  3. Reimburse pastor for all professional expenses out of general fund category not compensation.
  4. Church should pay portion of pastor’s social security obligation as a taxable bonus.
  5. Help pastor buy his own home.
  6. Give pastor and wife opportunity to attend three church conferences a year at church expense.
  7. Church should give pastor four weeks of vacation per year including four Sundays.
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Larry wrote: How all too

Larry wrote:

How all too often it really works these days.

Out of curiosity, Wayne, how often does it work like this? Can you give an us idea of how many pastors are doing this? Maybe a percentage or something?

 

As a percentage of all pastors, I would imagine it is a tiny fraction.  In terms of celebrity mega-church pastors, it is becoming the way to do things.  Furtick, Noble, Young, MacDonald, Jakes, etc. etc.  That matters, because those are the names in the public eye.

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The $ 88,000 salary package

T Howard wrote:

When it comes to the benefits package for pastoral staff, I've found this site tremendously helpful: http://ssfoundation.net/

http://ssfoundation.net/pastors/?qa_faqs=the-pastor-and-his-salary-package

I've seen few churches that provide a salary package this generous

 

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As a percentage of all

As a percentage of all pastors, I would imagine it is a tiny fraction.

Then it would probably be best not to say that it happens "all too often," when it fact it happens very infrequently.

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Larry wrote: As a percentage

Larry wrote:

As a percentage of all pastors, I would imagine it is a tiny fraction.

Then it would probably be best not to say that it happens "all too often," when it fact it happens very infrequently.

You will have to forgive me for completely disagreeing with you.  When it is widely known and in the media regularly, and the enemies of the Lord can point to many well known examples, it is beyond "far too often." I was being measured in my expression earlier. It is worse than that.

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Jim

Jim wrote:

http://ssfoundation.net/pastors/?qa_faqs=the-pastor-and-his-salary-package

I've seen few churches that provide a salary package this generous

 

Jim, that doesn't surprise me. However, in the churches I've attended, I've always challenged the "powers that set the salaries" whether they themselves would accept a position at a company where they were given minimal health insurance, no HSA, no retirement, and an additional SS tax on a modest income. Most guys acknowledge that they would not accept such a position, yet they still want their pastor to "live by faith." This is hypocrisy and stinginess. If you want a faithful fulltime pastor, you need to be willing to compensate him fairly and adequately.

Again, another advantage of being bi-vocational is that you don't have to deal with these shenanigans and have it literally endanger your family's livelihood.

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@Tom Howard

I really agree with you. I just haven't seen (personally) Baptist churches that pay this well.

I was bi-vocational for several years and liked it. Now post-vocational ministry I make as much as I am able and no one complains 

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You will have to forgive me

You will have to forgive me for completely disagreeing with you.  When it is widely known and in the media regularly, and the enemies of the Lord can point to many well known examples, it is beyond "far too often." I was being measured in my expression earlier. It is worse than that.

You don't need my forgiveness. You are welcome to disagree with me.

You are correct that that it is "far too often" that a pastor makes the news in some fashion like this. But that's not what you said. You said "all too often," and turns out it is very infrequent, though often public. I think your comment sounds like you are piling on a lot of pastors, most of whom have never written a book. I am sure you don't intend to do that, which is why I suggest that it would be best to say it differently.

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To Jim and T Howard, I am

To Jim and T Howard,

I am sure any pastor would be thrilled to receive the compensation you describe. As a lay member of the church, I would be thrilled to receive that kind of compensation, but I don't (and neither do the majority of the people attending my church). While I believe in making every effort to provide for the pastor, I don't think it is necessary for the church to provide compensation for the pastor that far exceeds the compensation of the average church member.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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bridge

To bridge the gap between Larry and Wayne...

What I've experienced is that although most pastors don't get the big book deal, there's a whole crop of guys out there aspiring to that kind of scenario. It's very similar to aspiring athletes or entertainers. Millions dream, but only a few get there.

So Wayne's "all too often" is incorrect as applied to book deals, but not incorrect as it applies to the common mentality among a growing number of young celebrity wannabes. I've been at the heart of the CE explosion over the last decade and it is that arena I'm critiquing. 

In the modern CE church there is a major problem with a franchising church growth model. It's not complicated. But make no mistake, it's a business model. A calculated formula.

One of the extruded byproducts of the modern church franchise movement is corporate windfall for the key leaders. Again, whether the pastor pens a bestselling book or not is inconsequential, the aspiration of "American Dream Church" dilutes the original mission. The provision for staff becomes emphasis number one. And not simply provision, but excess. 

Note that I'm not implying pastors and church staff should live as misers. Their people should see the value of caring for them. I'm explaining that the pastors themselves are building into their church model a "me first" mindset as it relates to finances. It's part of the program. As a church grows, suddenly the courageous founding pastor assumes he should be rewarded lavishly for all of the entrepreneurial risks he took. 

If your only context is small independent churches where finances are a constant struggle, then this may seem foreign. But it's happening every day.

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Why Not?

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

To Jim and T Howard,

While I believe in making every effort to provide for the pastor, I don't think it is necessary for the church to provide compensation for the pastor that far exceeds the compensation of the average church member.

Chip,

What part of the compensation recommendation from SSF "far exceeds" the compensation of the average church member?

Additionally, why do we think the compensation of the average church member is the right guide for the pastor's compensation? Does the pastor have an advanced theological degree? Has he been faithfully serving for a number of years? Shouldn't this factor into his compensation more than keeping him at the "average"?  If two doctors and their families start attending the church, do you then up his compensation?

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Much better

Micah, you said it much better than I did.  And you're exactly right.  

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dmicah wrote: Note that I'm

dmicah wrote:

Note that I'm not implying pastors and church staff should live as misers. Their people should see the value of caring for them. I'm explaining that the pastors themselves are building into their church model a "me first" mindset as it relates to finances. It's part of the program. As a church grows, suddenly the courageous founding pastor assumes he should be rewarded lavishly for all of the entrepreneurial risks he took.

 

Should a portion of the pastor's compensation be based on church membership? If a pastor starts a church with 15 families and God blesses the church and it grows to 100 families, should a pastor be compensated accordingly? If that church grows to 500 families, should the pastor be compensated the same as if the church only had 15 families?

While I'm not advocating a "me first" mindset, I am advocating that a pastor should be compensated fairly based on his education, tenure, skills, and his scope of responsibilities. When a church grows in size, the pastor's scope of responsibility grows as well. It's not a "me first" mindset for the pastor to want additional compensation that reflects the new reality of his situation.

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T Howard wrote: Chip Van

T Howard wrote:

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

To Jim and T Howard,

While I believe in making every effort to provide for the pastor, I don't think it is necessary for the church to provide compensation for the pastor that far exceeds the compensation of the average church member.

Chip,

What part of the compensation recommendation from SSF "far exceeds" the compensation of the average church member?

Additionally, why do we think the compensation of the average church member is the right guide for the pastor's compensation? Does the pastor have an advanced theological degree? Has he been faithfully serving for a number of years? Shouldn't this factor into his compensation more than keeping him at the "average"?  If two doctors and their families start attending the church, do you then up his compensation?

Tom,

I have more education than anyone else currently attending my church, including my pastor. Yet, just looking at your compensation list, I don't have the disability or life insurance you list under point 2, nor do I have points 3, 5, 6 or 7 (nor does almost anyone else in the church). I don't have a problem with the pastor making more than I do. However, my family already stretches to make ends meet, and asking us to stretch even more so the pastor can live substantially above the level of my family (and that of everyone else in the church) is unwarranted.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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dmicah wrote: ... What I've

dmicah wrote:

...

What I've experienced is that although most pastors don't get the big book deal, there's a whole crop of guys out there aspiring to that kind of scenario. It's very similar to aspiring athletes or entertainers. Millions dream, but only a few get there.

So Wayne's "all too often" is incorrect as applied to book deals, but not incorrect as it applies to the common mentality among a growing number of young celebrity wannabes. I've been at the heart of the CE explosion over the last decade and it is that arena I'm critiquing. 

In the modern CE church there is a major problem with a franchising church growth model. It's not complicated. But make no mistake, it's a business model. A calculated formula.

One of the extruded byproducts of the modern church franchise movement is corporate windfall for the key leaders. Again, whether the pastor pens a bestselling book or not is inconsequential, the aspiration of "American Dream Church" dilutes the original mission. The provision for staff becomes emphasis number one. And not simply provision, but excess. 

...

If your only context is small independent churches where finances are a constant struggle, then this may seem foreign. But it's happening every day.

Of the 4 things Paul, under inspiration, specifically instructs the believing church, and, even more specifically, the believing minister to "flee" is the matter "...flee also youthful lusts...[II Tim. 2:22]."  After studying this some I am entirely convinced that this instruction has little to do with moral entanglements (those are adequately addressed in I Cor. 6--"Flee fornication...") but rather addresses other desires peculiarly definitive of the young and immature.  It is not rocket science to observe in any culture, and particularly in western  culture, that those "lusts" are largely defined by perceived success, influence (acclaimed leadership), and notoriety (celebrity, if you please).  

If what you have described is true, and what I have stated is the purpose of the Scripture imperative, then there is a serious problem in the church of Jesus Christ that needs to be Biblically addressed.  The next question is how.

Lee

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Tom, you're very reasonable

T Howard wrote:

Should a portion of the pastor's compensation be based on church membership? If a pastor starts a church with 15 families and God blesses the church and it grows to 100 families, should a pastor be compensated accordingly? If that church grows to 500 families, should the pastor be compensated the same as if the church only had 15 families?

While I'm not advocating a "me first" mindset, I am advocating that a pastor should be compensated fairly based on his education, tenure, skills, and his scope of responsibilities. When a church grows in size, the pastor's scope of responsibility grows as well. It's not a "me first" mindset for the pastor to want additional compensation that reflects the new reality of his situation.

Tom what you are describing is perfectly reasonable.  I went through that process myself.  Started with seven people, worked bi-vocationally, grew the church over the years. Eventually went full time.  Naturally they paid me more as it grew and became self-sustaining.  I have no complaints.  But what you're describing is not what's in view here.

There is a reasonable top level of compensation that simply reflects to the community in a tangible way that the pastor is not a lover of money, but is "temperate, prudent, respectable..."  Even if the church becomes, by God's grace, very successful, and very large, the pastor should not live far above his people. He is not a CEO, though he may have all the gifts and skills of one.  If something in him thinks he needs big dollars to go with his church's success, something is very wrong.  The corporate model for compensation in the church seems completely contrary to everything the New Testament says about ministry, let alone possessions.  

I think John Piper is a healthy model in this area.  I understand that for all his fame and "celebrity" status in Evangelicalism, and the large size of his church,  he would only take a modest salary, lives in the same basic middle-class home he started in, and has his book money go to the ministry.  There is no reason ministry "success" should elevate a man above the common lot of the people he serves.  Fair compensation for his faithfulness, hard work, education, etc.?  Absolutely!  He doesn't need to live "below" his people.  But living in the best house in town without a financial care in the world? I think not.  

 

 

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Chip Van Emmerik

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Tom,

I have more education than anyone else currently attending my church, including my pastor. Yet, just looking at your compensation list, I don't have the disability or life insurance you list under point 2, nor do I have points 3, 5, 6 or 7 (nor does almost anyone else in the church). I don't have a problem with the pastor making more than I do. However, my family already stretches to make ends meet, and asking us to stretch even more so the pastor can live substantially above the level of my family (and that of everyone else in the church) is unwarranted.

Chip,

Life insurance is a pretty common employee benefit now a days (especially for people in important roles) and is really a benefit to the church as well as the pastor's family. This is also a relatively minor expense for the church (for a 40 year old, $0.10 / thousand / month). My company pays for 1.5x my salary and it costs them almost nothing.

Disability insurance is also a benefit to the church as well as the pastor's family. While my company doesn't automatically provide it to me, they do offer it at a substantial discount. Again, this protects the church as well as the pastor's family should the pastor become incapacitated.

3) Reimbursement for business expenses is a standard business practice and one that doesn't penalize the pastor. The IRS looks at a pastor as a business man and recognizes that he incurs reimbursable professional expenses that allow him to perform his duties and should be paid by the church (automobile mileage, conferences, entertainment, supplies, anything pertaining to his responsibilities).  In reality these expenses are incurred for the benefit of the church not the pastor.

5) Getting the pastor out of the church parsonage is one of the best things a church can do for itself and its pastor.

6) Most businesses send employees to business and training conferences at the business's expense. Why? Because the business knows that what the employee does / learns at these conferences will directly benefit the company. Again, this benefit not only benefits the pastor but benefits the church as well.

7) I've worked for only one stingy employer who only gave his employees 2 weeks of paid vacation (regardless of tenure). The other employers I've work for started me out at 3 weeks, with the potential to earn up to 5 weeks based on tenure. Giving the pastor 4 weeks of paid vacation (including Sundays) is not excessive.

As I look at the list of benefits you said you don't get (and don't think a pastor should get), in reality most of these are for the benefit of the church. Except in really small churches, these benefits certainly don't require families in the church to "stretch to make ends meet" to provide them to your pastor.

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Wayne Wilson wrote: There is

Wayne Wilson wrote:

There is a reasonable top level of compensation that simply reflects to the community in a tangible way that the pastor is not a lover of money, but is "temperate, prudent, respectable..."  Even if the church becomes, by God's grace, very successful, and very large, the pastor should not live far above his people. He is not a CEO, though he may have all the gifts and skills of one.  If something in him thinks he needs big dollars to go with his church's success, something is very wrong.  The corporate model for compensation in the church seems completely contrary to everything the New Testament says about ministry, let alone possessions.

 

Wayne, 

I don't think Piper is the model for which we should strive. His is self-imposed, not something that was imposed upon him by the elder board.  I think the model that best communicates generosity to our pastor(s) is the model for which we should strive. In other words, each person in the congregation needs to honestly answer the question, "Is this how I would want to be compensated (or my family taken care of) at my place of  employment?" Why is it that we begrudge providing things like dental/vision/medical insurance, 403(b) contributions, ministry expense reimbursement, etc. to our pastor, but expect those same benefits from our employers?

Why do we feel it's our responsibility to make sure our pastor only makes an "average" salary? Would you work for a company where your boss made sure you never made "too much" money? That's ridiculous. So why do we feel that we have to police the pastor's compensation package to make sure it's "acceptable" or not "too much"? If the man is a faithful pastor (e.g. Piper), that will be reflected in how he handles his finances.

It ultimately comes down to treating your pastor and his family how you would want to be treated.

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T Howard

To address your comments to me and to Wayne...

I completely agree with your main points. I've been a pastor. I'm for a very strong compensation plan. Call it a "worry free" plan. Church staff should not be constantly worried about supporting their families. The staff should be paid well. Median salary arguments are moot. We live in an overindulged culture anyway, so comparing the pastor to a first world middle class body is not the appropriate litmus test.

I'm more concerned with the emerging mindset of many pastors who assume that the church is a business. They seem to think Jim Collins is a late addition apostle. This mindset says a church should be run like a business, and the leaders should reap heavily in the financial windfall. In scenarios like this, I see limited accountability for financial resources. The pastor pretty much sets his salary with the "wink wink" oversight of a couple of close buddies. 

First, the church is of course, the body of Christ and thus distinct in how it operates. It is not subject to "get bigger pay more" mentality. That's capitalism, not Christianity. The only way churches grow is with the assistance of volunteers and other staff. So the financial compensation dedicated to staff comp/beni's should be broadly shared commensurate to clear internal metrics/parameters. Excess financial resources should be for the ministry of the gospel. What I keep seeing is that "me first" pastors lump their salary into "ministry" expenses. Then they beg and cajole givers to be generous for ministry purposes. Bait and switch.

Second, even if you make the mistake of bringing a corporate mindset into the church, at best it should be one of a non-profit volunteer run organization. Volunteer non-profits have very strict rules about funds, compensation and reporting.

Again, i'm not looking for average compensation, whatever that is. I'm not looking for control over a pastor's financial life. I'm looking for men who recognize how dangerous it is to be controlled by personal aspirations and the allure of middle class success as a result of packaging the gospel like a product. I'm looking for guys who invite balance and accountability into their financial life, just like any of us should.

 

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Not a business

Why do we feel it's our responsibility to make sure our pastor only makes an "average" salary? Would you work for a company where your boss made sure you never made "too much" money? That's ridiculous. So why do we feel that we have to police the pastor's compensation package to make sure it's "acceptable" or not "too much"? If the man is a faithful pastor (e.g. Piper), that will be reflected in how he handles his finances.It ultimately comes down to treating your pastor and his family how you would want to be treated.

 

Well, it has to be someone's responsibility. People like Steven Furtick have a panel of mega-church buddies outside his church who set his compensation package, and the church isn't allowed to know what it is.    When you use words like "police" ---who are you talking about? We are talking here in general terms.  The local church, of course, should make the determination.  The elders or congregation should naturally make sure compensation is reasonable, not according to a business model, but a spiritual one.  I'm not advocating poverty for the preacher, but I am saying he should not be living far above most of his people.  His role is a servant, not a king.  In what kind of world does a servant live in the best house in town?  Piper's compensation may indeed be self-imposed.  I think it's a model of servant leadership.  If all mega-church pastors imposed this on themselves, the world would not think Christianity was just a business to fleece the gullible, which they do now...and with good reason.

I'm not going to respond to the business model approach regarding what companies do (although my bosses never asked me how much do I want for my family!).  I think a pastor's spiritual qualifications, and the message his life represents to the community transcends business practices.  

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I don't think Piper is the

I don't think Piper is the model for which we should strive. His is self-imposed, not something that was imposed upon him by the elder board. 

Actually, I think that Piper's mindset is something we should strive for and keep in mind as we call pastors to our churches.

I think that MacArthur does something very similar to Piper as well, and if there is anyone who could get rich off of his work, it would be him.  The fact that he chooses to give so much of his stuff away for free (via GTY and the church website) is a real credit to him and a very tangible expression of the heart of any pastor worth the title.  It's also a delineator that sets MacArthur aside from the self-promoting Driscoll and their ilk.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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T Howard wrote: Chip Van

T Howard wrote:

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Tom,

I have more education than anyone else currently attending my church, including my pastor. Yet, just looking at your compensation list, I don't have the disability or life insurance you list under point 2, nor do I have points 3, 5, 6 or 7 (nor does almost anyone else in the church). I don't have a problem with the pastor making more than I do. However, my family already stretches to make ends meet, and asking us to stretch even more so the pastor can live substantially above the level of my family (and that of everyone else in the church) is unwarranted.

Chip,

Life insurance is a pretty common employee benefit now a days (especially for people in important roles) and is really a benefit to the church as well as the pastor's family. This is also a relatively minor expense for the church (for a 40 year old, $0.10 / thousand / month). My company pays for 1.5x my salary and it costs them almost nothing.

Disability insurance is also a benefit to the church as well as the pastor's family. While my company doesn't automatically provide it to me, they do offer it at a substantial discount. Again, this protects the church as well as the pastor's family should the pastor become incapacitated.

3) Reimbursement for business expenses is a standard business practice and one that doesn't penalize the pastor. The IRS looks at a pastor as a business man and recognizes that he incurs reimbursable professional expenses that allow him to perform his duties and should be paid by the church (automobile mileage, conferences, entertainment, supplies, anything pertaining to his responsibilities).  In reality these expenses are incurred for the benefit of the church not the pastor.

5) Getting the pastor out of the church parsonage is one of the best things a church can do for itself and its pastor.

6) Most businesses send employees to business and training conferences at the business's expense. Why? Because the business knows that what the employee does / learns at these conferences will directly benefit the company. Again, this benefit not only benefits the pastor but benefits the church as well.

7) I've worked for only one stingy employer who only gave his employees 2 weeks of paid vacation (regardless of tenure). The other employers I've work for started me out at 3 weeks, with the potential to earn up to 5 weeks based on tenure. Giving the pastor 4 weeks of paid vacation (including Sundays) is not excessive.

As I look at the list of benefits you said you don't get (and don't think a pastor should get), in reality most of these are for the benefit of the church. Except in really small churches, these benefits certainly don't require families in the church to "stretch to make ends meet" to provide them to your pastor.

Tom,

I didn't say they were bad, or even that they were not desirable. What I said was they were not realistic in many churches. Speaking as a former pastor who has been both bi-vocational and fully compensated by the ministry, I would not accept these offerings from a church if the the majority of the members were as limited as I have described to you. I would feel uncomfortable accepting the great sacrifice of the majority of the members in order for me to live so far beyond their level of subsistence. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Jay wrote: ... I think that

Jay wrote:

...

I think that MacArthur does something very similar to Piper as well, and if there is anyone who could get rich off of his work, it would be him.  The fact that he chooses to give so much of his stuff away for free (via GTY and the church website) is a real credit to him and a very tangible expression of the heart of any pastor worth the title.  It's also a delineator that sets MacArthur aside from the self-promoting Driscoll and their ilk.

My rule of thumb: if you wouldn't provide it without profit it is not ministry; it is business that caters to a Christian demographic. 

Nothing wrong with a business that caters to a Christian demographic--book stores; music producers; etc., do it all the time and it is a valuable, honorable commodity.  But that is neither the purpose, or even a legitimate practice, of the church or the pastor through the church. 

 

Lee

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Thu, 10/1/09
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There is a wide gulf between

There is a wide gulf between desirable and realistic in many churches. What "should" happen is not always possible. I don't see the point in defining a list that the church must provide or there is something wrong. Why not just let capitalism take care of it? If the pastor is willing to work for the salary, he does. If not, he finds something else. If the church cannot pay enough to get a pastor, they either close or find a pastor who will be bi-vocational.

It seems to me like that is healthier in the long run. Maybe we will have fewer churches and fewer pastors, but based on what I see around where I live, we would not be hurting with fewer churches.

T Howard's picture
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Wayne Wilson wrote:Well, it

Wayne Wilson wrote:

Well, it has to be someone's responsibility.

Who oversees the lay person's finances to make sure they are not getting paid "too much"? Who polices the "average" congregation members to make sure they aren't buying "needless luxuries" or getting "excessive compensation" from their employers? Who in the church scrutinizes their purchasing decisions?

Wayne Wilson wrote:
The elders or congregation should naturally make sure compensation is reasonable, not according to a business model, but a spiritual one.

What is a spiritual compensation plan, Wayne? Does it include health insurance and 403(b) contributions? Let's not dodge the issue by creating a false dichotomy between "spiritual" and business compensation models. And, let's also be honest that there are a lot of things that churches and ministries could / should learn from business, particularly as it relates to operations, accounting, and finance.

In almost every church I've attended, the church was in some way violating the tax code. In one church it was in how they were classifying their pastoral staff. In another it was in how they handled designated giving. Overall, I'd have to give most of the churches I've attended a 'D' in their operations, finance, and accounting capabilities. Of course, where did they learn these bad practices? From a business model? Nope.  From the "spiritual models" of other churches and pastors...

I say stop the shenanigans and the business model dodge and start operating your church / ministry properly, and that includes generosity to your pastoral staff (even if that means providing the pastor a benefit you don't enjoy but would personally want).

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Chip Van Emmerik

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Tom,

I didn't say they were bad, or even that they were not desirable. What I said was they were not realistic in many churches. Speaking as a former pastor who has been both bi-vocational and fully compensated by the ministry, I would not accept these offerings from a church if the the majority of the members were as limited as I have described to you. I would feel uncomfortable accepting the great sacrifice of the majority of the members in order for me to live so far beyond their level of subsistence. 

Chip,

I think it says a lot about the church and you that  1) they would give beyond their means to make sure you and your family were taken care of through a generous compensation package and that 2) you VOLUNTARILY (key word!) set aside those benefits to minister at that church. However, let me remind you of two things:  First, the benefits that you and I have been discussing are for the most part a benefit to the church and don't really add a lot of expense. Second, the Apostle Paul didn't reject the generosity of the churches who gave beyond their means. He praised them for it because he knew God would ultimately reward their generosity. Don't rob your church of a blessing because of your self-imposed guilt.

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GregH wrote: Why not just let

GregH wrote:

Why not just let capitalism take care of it? If the pastor is willing to work for the salary, he does. If not, he finds something else. If the church cannot pay enough to get a pastor, they either close or find a pastor who will be bi-vocational.

The problem is that many pastors are fearful of asking for more money / better compensation packages because 1) the church has stingy elders / deacons and/or 2) people start complaining that the pastor is in the ministry for "filthy lucre's sake." Meanwhile, they go off on their Disney World vacation, buy their new bass boat, get that promotion at work, upgrade their house, buy their winter home in Florida, etc. On the other hand, the pastor and his family are stuck with a "spiritual compensation plan" that includes a 50-year-old parsonage, 2 weeks of vacation (if lucky), no retirement savings plan, no/poor health/vision/medical insurance, no life insurance, and with the expectation that the pastor must take ministry expenses out of his salary.

Yep, sounds about right to me.

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Tom, I never said it was

Tom,

I never said it was guilt. I am moved more by decorum and justice. I am reminded here of 2 Samuel 23:14-17. That's what would cause the discomfort that would keep me from accepting such a situation. I hope I would be gracious and express true love and thanks at the offer, but ultimately I would decline.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Wed, 6/3/09
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Tom,

Tom

Who oversees the lay person's finances to make sure they are not getting paid "too much"? Who polices the "average" congregation members to make sure they aren't buying "needless luxuries" or getting "excessive compensation" from their employers? Who in the church scrutinizes their purchasing decisions?

You must have been part of some horrible church experiences, Tom, that are outside my knowledge.  It's hard to discuss because you keep changing the subject. We aren't talking about members of the congregation.  They can earn whatever they can, and be as rich as the Lord blesses them in their business as long as they are honest. We were discussing people in the ministry becoming rich through the church.  That's what the thread is about, not comfortable...rich.   It has nothing to do with scrutinizing anyone's purchasing decisions.  It's about excessive (usually hidden) compensation for men who are "servants of all."

Wayne Wilson wrote:
The elders or congregation should naturally make sure compensation is reasonable, not according to a business model, but a spiritual one.

What is a spiritual compensation plan, Wayne? Does it include health insurance and 403(b) contributions? Let's not dodge the issue by creating a false dichotomy between "spiritual" and business compensation models. And, let's also be honest that there are a lot of things that churches and ministries could / should learn from business, particularly as it relates to operations, accounting, and finance.

In almost every church I've attended, the church was in some way violating the tax code. In one church it was in how they were classifying their pastoral staff. In another it was in how they handled designated giving. Overall, I'd have to give most of the churches I've attended a 'D' in their operations, finance, and accounting capabilities. Of course, where did they learn these bad practices? From a business model? Nope.  From the "spiritual models" of other churches and pastors...

Apples and Oranges...again.  Churches not complying with the law has nothing to do with the subject of this thread.   When I say spiritual, I mean biblical, not "what churches do."   Of course there is some overlap with compensation packages in churches and in the world.  Human needs are similar. But there are huge differences in perspective as well because the two, business and the church, exist for entirely different reasons.  

Simple question:  Should a servant live in the master's quarters of the manor house, or in the servants quarters?  Why?

I say stop the shenanigans and the business model dodge and start operating your church / ministry properly, and that includes generosity to your pastoral staff (even if that means providing the pastor a benefit you don't enjoy but would personally want).

I think this is aimed at someone else.  

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No horrible church

No horrible church experiences, just enough experiences with compensation committees that felt they needed to keep the pastor humble and living by faith. (I speak as a lay person myself).

For these individuals "comfortable" meant "excessive" or "too much"; unless, of course, it referred to their standard of living.

So, it's not apples and oranges... it's called defining terms.

 

As for your servant, if he serves his master faithfully, he should live where ever his master provides for him. If a lay person, in your words, "can earn whatever they can, and be as rich as the Lord blesses them in their business as long as they are honest," then so can a pastor.

BTW, the key words are faithful and honest. As you pointed out, Steve Furtick is neither.

So, back to the OP, do pastors owe apologies for getting rich? No. And, churches should be generous to their pastoral staff instead of trying to keep them "humble" and "living by faith."

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What I've experienced is that

What I've experienced is that although most pastors don't get the big book deal, there's a whole crop of guys out there aspiring to that kind of scenario. It's very similar to aspiring athletes or entertainers. Millions dream, but only a few get there.

How broad can your experience be for you to possibly know how big this "crop of guys" is? How in the world can you the hearts of enough pastors to pass this kind of judgment on them? Might this say more about the few you know than great many that you don't?

Let me cut to the chase with this, and just for the sake of putting some reality to it, let's take T4G, which I believe had around 8000 people last time. Let's assume that represents about 10% of gospel-centered/CE pastors. Which means there are about 80,000 "gospel-centered"/CE pastors (an absurdly low number).

I don't know how many of these you know, but let's say it's a 1000 (probably a bit of a high number). And let's say you are right ... that the thousand you know are aspiring to "that kind of scenario." That means you know just over 1%, but you are comfortable attributing your perceptions to the other 98.7%. And that's assuming that you know 1000 of these pastors, and that every single one of them are as you describe, and that there are only 80,000. Isn't it true that you probably don't know 1000, at least enough to know their hearts on this matter, and there are way more than 80,000. Which perhaps means that your broad brush statement is at best ill-advised.

I have no doubt that there are some as you describe. But "all too often," people are willing to attribute crass motives to people they don't even know based on a few people that they do know (or have read something about), based on what might not even be an accurate perception of the people they do know.

I don't know if you are right or wrong. My guess is that you are pretty far off the mark, but I don't know that for sure. I don't doubt that there are some people with crass motives, but I don't suspect that everyone who is desirous of reaching more people with the gospel has some sinister desire to be the next ministry multi-millionaire. It may well be that there are more John Piper's and Francis Chan's than you know about.

My point is that it seems wrong to me to pass these kinds of judgments on pastors you don't even know. It might work well for rhetorical purposes, but it is a pretty broad brush with some pretty ugly paint. If you have some kind of evidence, the let's consider it. But short of that, talk about the fact that there may be "some" who do this. But don't paint it as if it is every other person.

In the end, it's just a word of caution.

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My rule of thumb: if you

My rule of thumb: if you wouldn't provide it without profit it is not ministry; it is business that caters to a Christian demographic.

So how does this reconcile with Paul's "rule of thumb" (under inspiration) that those who preach the gospel should live of the  gospel? Was he teaching that pastoring and preaching was not really ministry but a business that caters to a Christian demographic? Paul thought men who did this well were not just worthy of honor, but of double honor, by which he meant financial care, among other things.

While I understand and agree (at least somewhat) with the sentiment, to me it seems overstated. Pastors can't work for no profit. And the Bible doesn't require them to.

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pure limited anecdote

I have met a lot of pastors. I know some pastors personally. I know more as acquaintances. I have never met a rich pastor. I know they are out there. I have met a lot of underpaid pastors. I have met few "comfortable" pastors. My take away...Churches do a poor job generally speaking providing for their pastors. I assume this was also the case in Ephesus. Paul does not use the principle of "average" pay of the members (but he could have if that was the standard God had intended). The Holy Spirit uses the principle of ethics, equity, and liberality by comparing two secular examples. One from Moses, one from Jesus (1 Tim 6). It is not the church's job to "provide" for their pastors. That is God's job. Much danger is found when a church begins to think that their pastor "owes" them because they are providing for their livelihood and much danger to the pastor who begins to tailor his ministry because he knows that the church has that attitude. It is the church's responsibility to obey the Scripture and use the principles of ethics, equity, and liberality to paying their pastor. They have no spiritual right to provide oversight to the pastor's financial habits. They have every responsibility to choose godly men who fit the qualifications which would include such spiritual disciplines as hard-working, honest, servants, and good stewards. A church who does not pay their pastor ethically, equitably, and liberally is guilty of sin and can expect chastening by God. A pastor who is a lover of money, who longs to be rich, who uses people to gain is in sin and can expect chastening by God. 

Should we not view the relationship of pastor and church similarly to the commands of husband and wife. God never commands the husband to make his wife reverence him, nor does God command the wife to make the husband love her. But he gives equal commands to each to obey as they have been called. God give us churches who are more than willing to liberally pay their pastors. And God give us pastors who are more than delighted to serve the church with the Word and prayer. And each one stop being so concerned about what the other one is doing wrong.