On Laying Up Treasures


Among the recent criticisms of Bob Jones University, one of the strangest is that the university’s teachers are poorly paid. One critic even prepared a chart showing faculty salaries from independent four-year colleges and universities throughout South Carolina, locating Bob Jones University at the bottom of the salary scale. The (anonymous) critic took this lack of munificence as such an obvious scandal as not even to require comment.

Plenty could be said about the survey itself. Comparisons of this sort are rarely as helpful (or, in this case, as damaging) as they are meant to be. The variables are simply too significant for direct evaluations to be made.

A larger issue is at stake, however. The fact is that the published salaries at Bob Jones University are not greatly out of line with faculty salaries at most Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning (especially if regional cost of living is taken into account). Professors in Fundamentalist institutions are paid far less than their peers in comparable secular colleges and universities.

This situation extends further than just Fundamentalism. Many broadly evangelical schools do not pay their professors much more. I have degrees from two large, evangelical seminaries. In one of those institutions, a tenured professor told one of my classes that, in order to support his family, he had to make $10,000 to $15,000 of outside income every year. A recent reporting instrument shows that institution paying an average salary of only $25,000 per year, less than the reported average for the Bob Jones faculty.

While average salaries are low for Christian professors, they can be even lower for pastors. Many pastors receive no more compensation than professors at Bob Jones. In fact, many receive substantially less. Smaller churches frequently offer salary packages that virtually require pastors (or their spouses) to work outside jobs.

The people who take these positions—these professorships and pastorates—are obviously not taking them for the money. Some other concern is in play. That concern can be expressed in various ways: ministry, serving the Lord, the care of souls. Jesus called it “laying up treasures in heaven.”

When I was thirteen years old, my father left his management position with a major airline to go to Bible college. Over the next several years I watched my parents live by faith, dividing time between schooling, work, family, and, eventually, ministry. In time, I saw my father take pastoral positions without ever asking what his compensation would be. He was convinced that, if he trusted the Lord, then God would supply our needs. God did.

Years later, my own college complete, I attended seminary at an institution where salaries were not only low, they were regularly in arrears. My professors went and found second jobs so that they could continue their ministries in the classroom. These were talented, bright individuals with good educations. They could have gone elsewhere and made plenty of money. But they were committed to the ministry that the Lord had given them. As they saw it, they were serving the Lord. They were caring for souls. They were laying up treasure in heaven.

Episodes like these have affected me deeply. It does something to you when you know that your professor spent the previous night working as a janitor so that he could have the opportunity to be in class teaching you in the morning. Consequently, I am aware that my education is not simply a product that I have purchased, much less an entitlement. It has been given to me as a gift by men and women who have made willing sacrifices, partly because of their love for the Lord, and partly because of their hopes for me. What I have received is something like a trust, committed to me in the hope that I would be able to communicate it to others in turn. To misuse this gift for personal advancement or worldly gain would be a betrayal of the trust.

Not that I am an ascetic. Far from it. I am grateful, not only for the daily provision of needs, but also for a fair number of creature comforts. These I take as additional gifts with which God has seen fit to entrust me. These material things are good, and I rejoice in them. They are not, however, the reason that I choose to minister.

Now, I am embarrassed to have spent these past paragraphs talking about myself. The point is not that I am a wonderful person (much as I wish that were true!). The point is that my own life has been irrevocably altered and bettered by people who did exactly what the faculty at Bob Jones University is doing. By virtue of their sacrifice, I have been made immeasurably richer in the ways that matter most.

What I am trying to do is to describe the attitude that leads highly talented and educated people to settle for salaries that the carnally-minded see as laughable. As a teenager, I saw this attitude in my parents. As a student, I saw it in my professors. As president of Central Seminary, I saw it in colleagues (both staff and faculty) who petitioned me to lower their compensation so that the seminary could prosper.

Because I have been an administrator, I also understand the responsibility that an institution bears toward such self-sacrificing people. Precisely because they can be taken advantage of so easily, they are a sacred trust. God will hold the institution and its leaders responsible for their treatment. My sympathies are with every administrator who struggles with decisions about raising salaries versus meeting other institutional concerns. Professors are not well served if they receive higher compensation (which they surely deserve) for a year, only to see their institution close its doors.

I celebrate the professors at Bob Jones University whose lives do not consist in the abundance of their possessions. I rejoice over teachers like them in Christian institutions all over the country, teachers for whom ministry is more important than wealth. I honor and esteem pastors who sacrifice personal financial prosperity in order to shepherd souls. These people truly are laying up treasure in heaven.

Lord of the Worlds Above
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Lord of the worlds above,
How pleasant and how fair
The dwellings of thy love,
Thine earthly temples, are:
To thine abode my heart aspires,
With warm desires to see my God.

O happy souls that pray
Where God appoints to hear!
O happy men that pay
Their constant service there!
They praise thee still; and happy they
That love the way to Zion’s hill.

They go from strength to strength,
Through this dark vale of tears,
Till each arrives at length,
Till each in heav’n appears:
O glorious seat, where God, our King,
Shall thither bring our willing feet!

God is our Sun and Shield,
Our Light and our Defense;
With gifts his hands are filled;
We draw our blessings thence.
Thrice happy he, O God of hosts,
Whose spirit trusts alone in thee.


Great article.

When it comes to ministries - here is what I look for:

1. Is the ministry willing to make the same kind of sacrifices that they ask of their workers? If not, they are using people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people.

2. Are there major disparities between certain people on the staff? If so, it speaks of favortism to me. Of course there will differences in pay scales based on position and experience. However, I have been to churches where the Pastor lives in luxury and the assistant can barely pay his bills because of gross disparities in pay. I am not sure how this is done in good conscience. I have been to churches where congregations will give a guest speaker something they would never give to their own pastor and incidentally, the guest speaker lives a life luxury while the Pastor is barely hanging on.

3. I also think in Christian ministries, the whole concept of caring for needs comes into practice. If there is a millionare leader making money he could live without and a janitor that can even fix his car, then a ministry needs to seriously visit that issue.

A lot of times, it is really hard to determine values in ministries because many of them do not have open books to donors. In my mind, if a ministry asks for people to donate to them, they have a responsibility to provide financial reports that the donors can understand. These financial reports provide accountability to the ministry and the proper informaton for caring donors.

So, this article just has me thinking of the bigger issues of ministries and finances.

Fundamentalists have long been accused of “anti-intellectualism” because they haven’t written or been published enough. But how many pastors or seminary professors who could have been writing books over the last hundred years have been prevented from doing so by the need to support their families?? My own dad in two pastorates in Michigan worked secular jobs for years, which prevented the pursuit of furthering his education.

I agree with Dr. Bauder in this article about placing the Kingdom first. The real internal struggle starts when I also look at commands about providing for my family and passages that seem to place the wife’s priorities at home (please don’t understand that to mean I’m absolute on a woman not working outside the home). When I went on staff at BJU after finishing my GA position, my salary was insufficient to provide for my family while my stayed at home. Just to make sure my budget was reasonable, I did run it past one of the business faculty and he counseled I should look for work elsewhere if we really wanted my wife at home.

I could have done outside work, but that would have hindered my leading my family in the way I believe I should. I’m already tired and busy enough after an 8 to 5 job. The bottom line for me was that the only way I could balance all those commands was to leave BJU. In retrospect, I think this was just the Lord’s pushing me out since I’m not sure I would have left any other way. One confirmation of that fact is that months after I left, a similarly paid employee told me he got a 50% raise which put the final number very close to what my budget was.

I guess the lessons I’ve gleaned from that experience are:
  • The university is trying to improve salaries. It just takes a while.
  • God may use finances to move people to where He wants them.
  • If you seek the kingdom first (including all the commands of God), you might have to make decisions that look like they’re based only on financial gain.
  • Young men faced with these seemingly conflicting directives should seek counsel from older, godly men. Of course, that’s the case with any major decision.


You’re absolutely right in that pastors and professors that have to work two jobs don’t have time to write and publish, but I also think that part of it is a very serious bias against any kind of study and scholarship. Look at the flack that Bauder gets for writing out things like these “Nick” articles, which are largely aimed at those “inside the camp.”

One of the reasons, I think, why BJU Press books sell well to Fundys is because they don’t actually challenge any Fundy norms. There’s no real self-evaluation or criticism going on. Look at the http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-sword-of-lord-blasts-new-bju-press-…] ruckus http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-jaegglis-christian-and-drinking-vs-…] regarding http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-robert-sumners-biblical-evangelist-…] Dr. Jaeggli’s http://sharperiron.org/filings/7-29-09/11418] book when someone dared to suggest that total abstinence from alcohol was actually biblical.

"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

One critic even prepared a chart showing faculty salaries from independent four-year colleges and universities throughout South Carolina, locating Bob Jones University at the bottom of the salary scale.
I’m not clear on the value of knowing salary ranges of a school.

There are 3 salaries / wages a Christian need to be concerned about and have knowlege of:
  • A direct subordinate or someone hired, where one can influence. Examples
    • A manager. (Biblical support: Colossians 4:1, “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair”)
    • One who hires a laborer (the painter, the lawn mower, etc). I Tim 5:18, “The laborer is worthy of his wages”
  • One’s own.
  • If a Christian is responsible for the salary / wage of a Pastor (1 Timothy 5:17), he needs to have some knowlege of the amount.
I’ll add one more: the special case of an elderly parent. For example, I have a knowlege of my Mother’s (92 years of age) income and expenses. Biblical support: 1 Timothy 5:4, ” But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God”

Where I work, no one talks about one’s salaries. I’m sure we have a general knowlege of the range of various positions (because of job postings, etc).

I’ll add one more. For an investor / stock owner, the salaries of top executives are known and may be voted upon at at shareholder meeting (not all companies permit the voting on salaries). An example ( http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=VAL+Profile] Valspar … a Minneapolis company)
In partial response to David Lowry:
If you seek the kingdom first (including all the commands of God), you might have to make decisions that look like they’re based only on financial gain
Agreed: And some of those commands are:

1 Timothy 5:8, “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”


Ephesians 4:27, “let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. “

One flip side of what Kevin rightly observes is that many prefer employment security and will not leave ministries even when perhaps they should. In other words low pay trumps no pay.

I confess that I often worried about how I was going to support my family when we moved back into Philadelphia to plant churches and we no longer had any churches supporting us. I lost sleep over thinking about how we would pay the bills. I was not full of faith or particularly courageous although I tried to put on a brave face. However God provided ministry friends whose giving to our church plant provides a housing stipend, a full-time job for me and two part-time jobs for my wife. I kid my wife that if she finds a third part-time job I could quit mine. She didn’t think it was funny either.

I don’t mean to sound cynical but I hate to admit how many people I’ve known on church staffs or missionaries overseas who stay in their present ministry because it is secure. Jobs are scarce and moving challenging. Sometimes staying put when you won’t be put out appears to be the smart option.

The Lord has graciously enabled us in our 37 years of ministry to serve in three churches. In each case, our initial salary package was lower than what we had left, and in each case, the church was concerned to provide adequately for their pastor. In one place, we were small, and the funds were simply not there, but they wanted to help us and appreciate us, so they added an extra week of vacation. Money was tight, but we loved the ministry with our people.

I could have made more money had I stayed in secular work, and secular work is honorable labor, but God had called us to ministrty, and we look back and both marvel and rejoice at the Lord’s gracious provision.

Like Kevin, I am deeply grateful for the godly men who joyfuly serve in teaching, and long for the day when we will be able to give them a higher salary.

Dick Dayton

I fear that too many Christian ministries escape their true responsibility to provide for those whom God sends to them to labor in ministry. I have been a Christian school educator for nearly 30 years. As time went on, those promises of better pay in coming years never materialized and often stagnated or even decreased. The disparity was driven home to me when my son desired to attend a Christian college and my wife and I could do little to help him financially. Yet the pastor of our church (as well as other pastors we had served under) had sufficient funds to put all their children through Christian college, sometimes even qualifying for pastoral discounts. Those same pastors pay the teachers in their own schools such a low wage that those teachers must work additional jobs, or have a spouse who has a high paying secular job to support the family. Sometimes those same faculty qualify for public assistance. Some use it, but many do not because it would be frowned upon if word got out that their teachers had to live on government assistance to make ends meet.

Those same pastors would never entertain the thought of taking a church for the salary paid to their teachers in their school. Yet, the idea of their teachers or church staff having to work additional jobs to support their families is viewed as part of the price of serving the Lord in ministry. Should any teachers even bring up the issue of pay … [ I did once and was officially reprimanded that whether I was paid much, little, or even nothing, I should be willing to accept it in order to invest in the lives of my students in Christian education ministry. I should consider myself fortunate to even be allowed to serve in such a capacity as in being paid nothing.] Any “minister” in Christian service who was not willing to work without pay was not only disqualified to serve in Christian ministry, but undeserving and not right with God.

I never understood how that worked for the teachers in the Christian school, but it never went that way for those on pastoral staff or those in school administration. Maybe that explains why so many Christian schools now focus hiring on those who are very young and inexperienced, those whose spouses have well-paying secular jobs, or married couples who are both willing to work in the school … . The equation does not balance out with the Biblical directive that the workman is worthy of his wage.


I must agree fully with the previous post. I have always advocated for better salaries for those who are in what are considered supportive roles, whether that be at a camp or a church.

In one Christian school with which I am acquainted (There are quite a few here in the Des Moines area), a person could make more at fast food or a grocery store than teaching at the school. I know that tuition is a burden for parents, having sent our children through Christian school, but, if you can’t afford the tuition, don’t expect the school to function by underpaying the teachers.

The concept of a worker worthy of his pay should go to all areas of employment, and, as was pointed out, appropriate pay helps a person be a good steward to their family.

Dick Dayton

I can’t speak to the Bob Jones situation - I just don’t know enough. But it does break my heart when ministries, whether they be colleges or churches, build multi-million dollar facilities while they expect their staff to scrape along poverty level salaries. People first, facilities later.

To me, the salary question relates directly to whether an institution sees itself as building something they want to to be increasingly influential across multiple generations or whether they want to run an institution that does the best it can for a little while longer until Jesus comes.

I’m torn as to which perspective is best. (It’s really not obvious. Believing in the immanent return of Christ is not the same as believing in the “next few decades” return of Christ).

But if you believe we’re only going to be here for a little while longer before it’s all moot, it makes sense to prioritize short term results over long term influence… and that means go for the best short term bargains you can get in faculty, etc.

But if you think we might be here a while longer yet, a few generations longer, the implication is that you want to investing in something that grows stronger, deeper and wider over time. Can’t be done on the cheap.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

[sbradley] I can’t speak to the Bob Jones situation - I just don’t know enough. But it does break my heart when ministries, whether they be colleges or churches, build multi-million dollar facilities while they expect their staff to scrape along poverty level salaries. People first, facilities later.
I agree with the sentiment; the reality, however, is significantly different.

With educational and camp ministries primarily in mind: Let’s be honest, in our culture to have credibility in either one of these endeavors requires both sufficient (even “elaborate”) facilities and people. The problem is that, except for the rarest occasion, the funding limitations will demand prioritizing one before the other. Facilities require absolutely hard funding. People, on the other hand, due to their commitment to the cause, pioneer spirit, or other factors, can, and many times must, be funded “softer.” The trick is to balance them properly and in a timely manner. And postulating “that’s not the way it should be” is not going to change the reality. It’s like sunrise—that’s just the way it is.



Thanks again for another great article reminding all of us that we are the recipients of such wonderful benefactors. I have two degrees from BJU and two degrees from DBTS. Your article reminded me of the gratitude I should have toward those institutions that invested so much into my life. I still call my professors on the phone and ask their advice on thorny theological issues. Not only do they unselfishly give of their time, they give of their friendship as well. Of course, the same is true of pastors, school teachers, missionaries. I appreciate the effort that these institutions exert in order to make their schools as affordable as possible. Otherwise, many of our students would not be able to attend our schools, colleges, and seminaries. I know ministries that regularly gives generous Christmas gifts to their teachers, provide free schooling for the children of their teachers, and even provide substantial tuition help for their teachers to send their children to a Christian college. May their tribe increase.

Pastor Mike Harding

I find it strange that Dr. Bauder finds this a “strange” criticism. Many institutions, corporate or other, have been criticized for unfair treatment of workers. Clothing and electronic manufacturers, for example, have been under fire for farming out jobs to other continents, where they can use native labor to produce cheap goods while circumventing labor regulations, even those that have to do with safe and respectful working conditions.

An American analogue of yesteryear is the mill town (or coal town). In the mill town, the owners owned the housing, printed the currency, and ran the shops. The system was designed so that after the millers/miners had been paid for their work (in company money), they would pay their rent to the company and buy their goods in the company stores. Many times, the pay was not even sufficient to break even, thus leading to the famous coal miner saying, “another day older and deeper in debt.” Then, when the company was done with the area, it would just pack up and leave; the employees were left homeless, indebted, and unemployed.

The mill town is a case in which the free market is only a hypothetical reality. They tried to establish an employment monopoly in an area, and then kept their employees tightly under their control, limiting their economic options. I believe that Bob Jones University operates similarly to a coal town. The majority of their students come from Christian schools. BJU sends representatives to these schools, who preach sermons or give presentations telling the students that they ought to go to Christian school, at least for one year. Many students are strongly pressured by parents and mentors to go to BJU or a BJU counterpart. Thus, this early in life, their options are already highly constricted.

Next, when the student arrives at BJU, she may complete a semester or year before finding out that the school’s credits will not transfer easily to many other institutions, due to lack of accreditation. In fact, students who express thoughts about leaving will be told this in order to discourage them from leaving. They may also have to endure spiritual counseling and other forms of pressure to stay. So, many will.

After a student graduates, of course, there are many options. But if the student wants to go to graduate school (or seminary), she faces a problem. BJU does not prepare people well for graduate school. It does not push students to write theses; it does not have an honors program; it does not do much study abroad; it does not sponsor many academic conferences and opportunities to present and publish; and of course, faculty at top institutions have no idea who the BJU faculty writing letters of academic recommendation are. Beyond that, the accreditation issue means that many institutions will simply not consider BJU graduates. Thus, many students will simply do graduate school at BJU.

When a student gets through graduate school at BJU or at a third-tier SC school that takes BJU grads, where will that graduate teach? In the highly competitive world of higher education, the graduate is likely to be near the bottom of the applicant pool. Thus, she will turn to the place that (perhaps) will accept her, BJU. She may even live in BJU housing, which may be very affordably priced, since her (lack of) pay is subsidizing it. She will attend a BJU-approved church. If she starts a family, she will be required to send her children to BJ’s various lower-age schools. Thus, her whole life—work, family, friends, church, school—will be inextricably connected to BJU.

If at some point she feels as though she is not being well-treated by the administration, the administration can simply shrug. It’s a free country, and if you don’t like the way things are done here, leave. But they’re smiling inside, because they know that’s like saying, “Fly to the moon.” Finding another job in education would be difficult, it may mean finding a more expensive place to live, and it could result in shunning from or at least strained relations with family, friends, and church.

Thus, it is quite conceivable that at no point in an adult’s life will her decisions really be free. There will likely be, throughout the process, overt pressure labeled as spiritual guidance. Any deviation from the “correct” life path calls one’s spiritual status into question. As such, BJU strikes me more as a mill town with only the appearance of free market choice than as a legitimate corporation, which would pay fairly, or a voluntary ministry, which would not employ such tactics of coercion. From my personal experience, I find it disturbing that BJU positions itself as a ministry when it wants something from you (i.e., you should send money, you should be willing to sacrifice), but as a corporation when employees want something from it (hey, you know what your contract states; live with it).

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin