Barna research: A Rapid Decline in Pastoral Security

“New Barna data shows that pastors’ confidence and satisfaction in their vocation has decreased significantly in the past few years, and two in five (41%) say they’ve considered quitting ministry in the last 12 months.” - Barna


Aaron wrote:

Respect is important, but I never believed I was owed more respect than the truck driver in the pew.

Aaron, the truck driver and everyone deserves respect if they are serving the Lord, but I have to disagree with you. I believe the Scriptures clearly teach that elders, and particularly elders who work hard at preaching and teaching (presumably what we call pastors) are told to be given double honor (respect). If such is the case, a pastor should certainly not discourage his flock from obeying this Scripture. You should expect your flock to follow the Scriptures, including this one, IMO.

I Timothy 5:17-20 is very relevant to this discussion, and I feel like it has been lost in this discussion:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

This “double honor” may play out as remuneration (as implied in the text), but I don’t think it refers to ONLY remuneration. For some, perhaps the use of the title “pastor” before one’s name is a way to show honor, for others, not; or as a double vote on the elders’ board. Those are attempts to apply the principle of double honor; whether we agree with the attempts or not, the motive is good and is something church members should pursue in a balanced way (we have seen the cult of personality destroy churches when leaders are not just honored but practically worshipped and people are more excited about their pastor than they are Jesus).

On the other side of the equation, besides added respect, they have added accountability. James also makes a similar point, though not necessarily addressing only pastors (teaching elders) in James 3:1,

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed, I can’t deny you may be right.

It may be that the point there is a contrast between elders who excel vs. elders who, as we say in the workplace, underperform.

A couple of commentaries I found interesting, though they don’t clearly argue for my pov.

The commendation Paul directed for the dutiful elder was “double honor.” The term “honor” does not refer merely to an honorarium, but the failure to give proper pay would imply a lack of honor. The idea of “double” may refer to the double portion the oldest in the family received (Deut 21:17). It probably consisted of the twin benefits of honor or respect and financial remuneration. The fact that pay was at least included shows that those who gave leadership to spiritual affairs could expect financial support from the church (cf. 2 Cor 11:8–9; Gal 6:6).

Lea, Thomas D., and Hayne P. Griffin. 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. Vol. 34. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

Those who performed their functions well were worthy of “double honor.” Since the word for “honor” (timē) was used in the sense of a price paid for something, it has been suggested that here it might be translated “honorarium” (BAG). But that raises the problem of “double”—double what was paid to the widows, or double what the other elders received? The NEB has: “reckoned worthy of a double stipend.” Williams softens it a bit perhaps by translating it “considered as deserving twice the salary they get.” Bernard’s suggestion is helpful: “Double honour, i.e. ample provision, must be ensured for them; diplē is not to be taken as equivalent to ‘double of the sum paid to widows,’ or in any similar way, but without any definite numerical reference” (p. 85). Perhaps we should allow both “honor” and “honorarium,” as Paul may have intended both.
Highest honor is to be given to “those whose work is preaching and teaching”—literally, “those laboring in word and teaching.” Some have found here a distinction between ruling elders and teaching elders. But this is doubtful. Probably it means that some elders gave themselves to preaching and teaching in addition to their regular duties. Such was the case with Stephen and Philip as deacons (Acts 6–8).

Earle, Ralph. “1 Timothy.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 11. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981. 380. Print.

In any case, I think it’s inherent in the concept of respect that one of its forms—maybe it’s most common form—is role related. That is, if I have a meeting with a judge, I call him Your Honor. If I meet with a U.S. President, whether he’s Joe Biden or Ronald Reagan doesn’t matter; I call him Mr. President.

But neither of these is meant to say “what you do has ultimately more value to God than what I do.” Even less does it imply “You are a superior class of human being.”

So we probably agree more than it may have seemed. There is respect of tone and interaction with the office/role and this is how we value its place in the scheme of things. In the case of the local church, it’s how we value its place in God’s design for the body.

But—I paraphrase—can the foot say to the eye, am I worth less because I’m not an eye? It’s an important job. In practical terms, it’s a more important job than vacuuming the sanctuary. Is it in eternity, though? And should the elder who rules well think he is worthy of double honor as a human being? I don’t think that’s the point. He’s not a better human. We are attaching value to his work. (But I think it’s the diligence there that makes the value higher, ultimately, not the role.)

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.

Aaron Blumer wrote: In any case, I think it’s inherent in the concept of respect that one of its forms—maybe it’s most common form—is role related. That is, if I have a meeting with a judge, I call him Your Honor. If I meet with a U.S. President, whether he’s Joe Biden or Ronald Reagan doesn’t matter; I call him Mr. President.

Yes, that’s what I was getting at by “respect for the office.” It definitely applies to pastors, and as you mention above, I would use those titles as well — even with President Biden, for whom I have no personal respect. He’s the president, and I would address and treat him as such.

Dave Barnhart

The godliest pastor I've been blessed with over a long period (almost 20 years), always went by his first name only and would refer to himself that way. If folks called him "Pastor (Last Name)" or "Pastor", he would certainly respond. He was humble that way.

There is a biblical injunction to esteem those in spiritual authority. I take that to be about renumeration (vocational spiritual leaders), prayer for them, and otherwise being both easy to shepherd while also personally vigilant. Ultimately, congregants need to be following the scriptures and follow Christ. Sure, Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ, but Christ is the one to focus on.

The notion of "they should call me Pastor ..." disturbing and a long way from the humility of Christ. The tenor of Paul's writing in 1 Cor 3-4 is encouraging. It wasn't about him, his apostle title, etc.. It was about this terribly flawed local assembly submitting to Christ and finding their identity in Him.

The godliest pastor I’ve been blessed with over a long period (almost 20 years), always went by his first name only and would refer to himself that way.

John, if that is his preference, that is what you should do. What is wrong, IMO, is to refuse to call a pastor, “Pastor Tom” if that is what he prefers. I know physicians that preferred to be called by their first names, too. But, unless directed, I respect them by referring to them as “Dr. So and So.” Okay, I don’t say “so and so.” I use their name :)

As far as humility goes, humility is seen by focus. By that, a man can be proud that he is humble enough not to be called by an appropriate title because he is so humble. Lots of fake humility in the Christian world. It is a sin to be arrogant, and it is another sin to lie about being arrogant. The test is focus. A proud person wants attention and focus, even if the attention is about how humble he is. So, IMO, humility and titles bear no correlation. A humble man can choose either, and so can a proud man.

You mentioned his example of humility, and that is great (if it permeates his life). Humility is so undervalued, IMO. Consider James 4:6, But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Wow. If we want God to be especially gracious to us, we need to cultivate humility. But real humility goes way beyond tokens, but comes from an accurate assessment of ourselves before God compared to His holy character. Pride sneaks into our lives in so many ways. We are cutting ourselves off from that additional grace if we are proud. Arrogance and pride are insidious sins, often masquerading as anything from conviction to concern for others. I try to remind myself of Jeremiah 17:9a, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” That includes my heart, too! So I am glad you appreciate humility; it is something we need to value more than many of us do, I think.

"The Midrash Detective"

Matt, I want to read that book. It sounds similar to "The Honest Guide to Church Planting" that I recently read.

I was actually planning to comment along those lines as I was reading through the other comments. I fear that our culture has redefined the role of pastor even though the scripture has a clear definition for us:

Eph 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

That is primarily done through the teaching and preaching of God's word accompanied by prayer. Today, however, a pastor is expected to be a program director and an entertainer/salesman who gets the people in the door. If a pastor is free to teach the word of God and not worry about how many people are there- if he is free to regularly share the gospel without feeling pressure to manipulate decision- if he is free share the truth of God's word without pressure to conform to a political ideology, then pastoral ministry is very fulfilling. I am ministering in a very small church. Some would walk away from such a small ministry thinking it was not big enough and might even call it a failure, but this is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. We are a small but unified group and the people are growing spiritually and so am I. I call that success and it brings amazing fulfillment. I wish we would teach our next generation of pastors that success is equipping the saints for the work of the ministry no matter how few those saints might be. If you pastor a church with hundreds of people and it is growing but those people are not being equipped for the work of the ministry, the world will still call that success, but it cannot bring the same fulfillment as fulfilling the Biblical mandate of what a pastor is supposed to do.

Let us encourage men that it is a high calling to pastor a small congregation, even if it means having to be bi-vocational to do it. We are the only church in a town of about 1000 people and we get to shine a light and minister to people throughout our community- even those who never come into our church building. It is our job to do the work of the ministry as we go out of the church and live our lives. Too many pastors are expected to be coordinators of ministries so that the congregation can check a box and say ministry is being done by our church instead of coming to church to learn how to live like Christ so that they are better able to minister to those around them. Our people need to know God's word and how it applies to our lives so they can help their unsaved neighbor answer the hard questions in their lives.

I can see why pastors would be frustrated if they were directed away from their Biblical calling to do busy work that just made their congregations feel better about themselves.

First Timothy 5:17-20 isn't about titles or double votes on the elder board. The passage itself tells us what "double honor" means = financial remuneration. This is consistent with what Paul says elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 9, Galatians 6, etc. Titles came much later when the church started establishing ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Those who insist on being called Pastor X need to check their ego at the door. Those young pastors who insist that their way is the best / right way just because they are a pastor also need to check their ego at the door.

I just celebrated my first year as the teaching elder at my church. I'm still bi-vocational at this point, but Lord willing I will transition into full-time pastoral ministry at the church this year. When I was speaking to the elders before they brought me before the church, we had several conversations about my title. I told them that I didn't want the title "senior pastor." I told them I believe that title belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. The pastor I'm replacing is retiring after serving the church for over 30 years. His title was senior pastor. I have no desire to ever have that title. "What about lead pastor?" they asked. I told them I prefer either teaching elder or teaching pastor.

When I introduce myself to visitors and guests, I tell them I am one of the four pastors at our church.

Some of this, I admit, is a reaction against the pride and spiritual abuse I've either witnessed myself or read about from guys who think the title pastor or senior pastor means they "cast the vision," they "run the show," and that the other pastor/elders are just there as their advisors. They will say they believe in elder plurality and shared authority among the elders, but that is only true as long as their vision, their decisions, and their preferences are followed.

I want nothing to do with that mentality or philosophy of ministry. My desire has been this first year to help our people view me firstly and primarily as their brother in Christ. That is the relationship that is primary. That means I'm not above them or below them, but serving alongside them fulfilling Ephesians 4:11-16.

T Howard wrote:

First Timothy 5:17-20 isn’t about titles or double votes on the elder board. The passage itself tells us what “double honor” means = financial remuneration.

I Tim. 5:17-20 is not about titles or double votes. What I said was that these things were attempts to implement or apply the principle of these verses, and I think they are reasonable attempts to do so, IMO. But that is a matter of opinion. The point is that Christians are commanded to doubly honor elders who work hard at preaching and teaching, and that teachers who teach the whole counsel of God will instruct their students to doubly honor teaching/preaching elders. Whether misguided or not, most Christians do not even give thought to doubly honoring teaching elders. Yet the Word commands it. Ignoring Scripture in the name of humility is an arrogant thing.

Nowhere does the passage say that double honor means ONLY financial support. I think most commentators will agree with me (as Aaron pointed out) that this is one specific way to grant double honor. It could mean that this is all that is meant, but it reads a whole lot more like a principle with two specific applications. One is financial support, the other is special care when elders are accused.

Those who insist on being called Pastor X need to check their ego at the door.

I agree that those who INSIST on this have a problem. But not those who prefer it, which is different. A lot of false humility is common here, IMO, which is nothing but ego in disguise.

I just celebrated my first year as the teaching elder at my church. I’m still bi-vocational at this point, but Lord willing I will transition into full-time pastoral ministry at the church this year.

Congratulations on your service, and may God bless you. And may the people of your church grant you double honor, as is commanded. I have just retired from 43.5 years of full time ministry myself. You have a challenge. It is more difficult now than ever to be a faithful pastor.

I would caution you, though, pride and arrogance seeps from facades within ourselves, of which we are often unaware. Being proud of being humble or being unashamedly proud are both equally evil. We need sober self-judgment, as Paul admonishes us in Roman 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

"The Midrash Detective"