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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your Pastor and His Salary

Most people and churches want to know how much to pay their pastor. I have an easy answer: pay him according to the community you are in. Take those who have the same number of years of experience in their field with similar education and pay him accordingly. 

But this is not what this blog is about. I want to address what his attitude is toward his salary. I have been around so many pastors who had such an ungodly attitude toward their salary that it has made me sick. 

Jesus had a treasury. He obviously accepted money from some sources. Paul writes that one who teaches and preaches the Word is worthy of a double honor. This is an "accounting" type term to say that those who do this are worthy of a double salary. I think this is why Paul also warns of those who will get into the preaching of the Word for the sake of the money. We have all met a silver tongued preacher who worried more about the money he was making than the souls that were being affected.

A pastor who demands more salary is not one who can honestly preach a message of God's provision. He might argue that God provided after he threw a fit but I find that a thin excuse for his demands. God's provision may come because we have worked hard. God may provide because we have prayed hard. But God's provision hardly comes because we have extorted it out of the people He has sent us to serve.

I served with a pastor who threatened to leave the church every year around the time the church projected its next years budget. He was an amazing communicator and felt that the church's growth was all about him. I admit, much of the church's growth was because of his communication skills. It also had something to do with the problems in other local churches and the miraculous working of God that did not take his preaching into account. Eventually, the church let him go. He thought they had done him wrong. I thought about all his threats. I don't think he realized the message he was sending each year. I wished he had repented of his attitude toward money, but that never happened. Yes, he reaped what he had sown.

A pastor demanding more money cannot serve God fully. Jesus said we can't serve both God and money. It is a hard lesson to learn but we must truly "seek Him first and His Kingdom" if we want Him to add to us all the things we need. A pastor serving money is evident in the way he lives. He serves to the point of the money. He exacts his time to the value of his salary. He works to that point and not one more moment. That is, unless the person who needs ministry is a wealthy giver to the church. Then, he will be found on the doorstep of that member any hour of the day or night. 

The money grabbing pastor will run when things get tough. He does not desire to protect the sheep. He does not desire to truly feed the sheep. He wants to gather the sheep, count the sheep and determines an acceptable amount to let the wolves devour. He will not stand up when the time comes to protect the sheep. He will go to another church as soon as the heat is turned up. 

I know of a church where the pastor led the church to build a new sanctuary. He had no plan for paying for this new sanctuary. They only paid the interest on the debt for many years. He also led the church to refinance the loan several of the years that the debt existed. He took the money generated by refinancing to do huge programs in the community. The church grew but continued to pour more money into its ministries while allowing the debt to grow.  Eventually, the new building was no longer new. It required maintenance which could not be afforded. He left soon afterwards to allow the subsequent pastors to clean up this debt mess.

Money is the primary motivation for this type of pastor's calling. He knows he can't ask what a new church will pay him to early in the search process but he is salivating to know. He will listen much more attentively when you talk salary. He will not come unless he knows the salary. He doesn't truly believe that God can provide for him. He is looking for the church to do that. He is always called to a "higher salary." There is no higher calling in this.

My church pays me well. They are truly great. I don't like talking about salary when a church has considered me to become their pastor. My present church insisted that I tell them what my previous salary was. I put them off as long as I could. Eventually, I told them it didn't matter. I gave them a number. I didn't try to lie but I was under what I was making at the time. They pretty well matched that salary. I was and still am happy with what they did. I know that God takes care of me. He has done so extremely well even though my smaller house cost me about $120k more than my previous one. God has a way of taking amounts of money and laughing at them.

One of my church members noticed the old car I drive. He put a prayer request in that I get a better car. I went to him and told him that this doesn't matter. I asked that he not do put the request in again because I am very happy with what I drive. I was, however, very pleased that he was concerned for me. I love this attitude in church members. I love telling them that I don't need more when they want to want to give me more. (Yes, this is bragging and I will have to repent!)

You just can't serve God and money. It's in the Bible, you know.

Luke 16:13 (ESV) 
13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 

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