Do pastors owe apologies for getting rich?

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Pastor Joe Roof's picture

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.

Lee's picture

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

Jim's picture

  • 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
Ken Woodard's picture

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. 

 

 

dmicah's picture

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. 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

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?

T Howard's picture

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.

Larry's picture

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?

Jim's picture

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 

 

T Howard's picture

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.
Wayne Wilson's picture

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.

Larry's picture

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.

Wayne Wilson's picture

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.

T Howard's picture

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.

Jim's picture

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 

Larry's picture

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.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

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?

dmicah's picture

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.

T Howard's picture

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?

Wayne Wilson's picture

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

T Howard's picture

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.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

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?

Lee's picture

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

Wayne Wilson's picture

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.  

 

 

T Howard's picture

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.

T Howard's picture

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.

dmicah's picture

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.

 

Wayne Wilson's picture

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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