Do You Preach Only For Money?

Tom Ascol recently wrote a post to praise bi-vocational pastors for their faithfulness. In seminary land, few of my friends have ever considered this as an option. Are we assuming we are more gifted than our partially supported brothers? Would you consider a church that offered only a small salary?

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11 Responses to Do You Preach Only For Money?

  1. As someone who is bivocational, let me tell you that I was just like that. I wanted to be able to fully devote myself to the ministry of the Word. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the venue of ministry in which I serve — Deaf ministry — makes “full-time” placement difficult if not impossible for the vast majority of those in this field.

    When I was offered my associate pastorship, I knew unquestioningly that they would not be able to afford a “full-time” salary for me. However, soon after becoming the AP, I was working at UPS [as a grunt like Timmy ;-) ] and moving towards becoming management. I had my upcoming marriage in mind, however, as my motivation for seeking promotion. In hindsight, this was providential.

    Why? Because the people group I am working to reach works in the exact part of UPS to which I am assigned. On a daily basis I have the opportunity to directly impact not only their employment, but their spiritual lives. In addition, having my marriage as the focus of this “secular” job actually helped put my priorities firmly in order; I did not care so much that my church cannot pay me to be “full-time.” It simply never entered the equation unless you think about my monthly budget.

    If I did not work at UPS, and our church gave me a “full-time” salary, I would be holed up in my office at the church writing sermons and developing lessons for a bunch of old Deaf people who don’t evangelize and mature at such a glacial pace Moses would have given up long before his 40 years was finished. (Said with tongue firmly in cheek, of course.)

    Granted, I would love to spend 40 hours a week doing nothing but study, teaching, discipling, building relationships, all that other pastor stuff in the Pastoral Epistles. That would be a dream come true. But then I would never have the fulfillment that comes not only from the sweat of my own brow (read that as “non-ministry work”) but from doing all of that stuff in the process.

    So, then, you tell me if I’m “less gifted” than our fully supported brothers.

  2. Tony:

    It doesn’t seem to me that most guys are considering themselves more gifted, or more worthy. Contrarily, I believe that most pastors understand the demands of shepherding a congregation of any size, and that while they may be called “bi-vocational”, there is nothing part-time about it. I have a great appreciation and respect for the work of those men who are able to serve bi-vocationally, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of them are perpetually frustrated and/or burned out because of the demands of doing “part time” pastoring on a full-time basis while attempting to hold down another job so the family can stay fed. I think a better area to explore, perhaps, is how do we help congregations re-evaluate their priorities so they’re not spending the little amount of money they bring in simply to keep the lights on in a building that is 10 times too large for them instead of being able to pay a man a decent wage for his pastoral care and leadership for the church? Interesting conversation, thanks.

  3. Tony Kummer says:

    Stephen,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. My question was meant to bait discussion. Clearly I’m assuming all churches are like mine. Your correction is very helpful.

    Nick,
    I’ve known partially supported pastors who have a great deal of frustration because of the issues you mentioned. Ministry is demanding. Last year in Church History class I learned that congregations larger than 80 didn’t develop for several hundred years. Paul was writing to very little flocks dispersed in home meetings. Paid Christian ministry was rarely an option. So maybe your right about all these 150 seat buildings maintained by 50 member fellowships.

  4. Bryan says:

    When I was in undergrad, my first major was computer science. Realizing that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life coding, I decided that I should be in a major that I knew I would enjoy even if it meant losing the money that I would have gotten as a programmer, so I switched to Recreation Parks and Tourism. I think the average salary for this major is about 21k, as low as 18/19k a year.

    Now I’m at Southern working on an MDiv and wanting to go into the pastorate. I never had the expectation that being a pastor ever really paid well, so the thought that I was in it for the money never really even crossed my mind. I would love to have a full-time ministry position. But the reality is, that’s only feasible if the salary I get can support the future family. If not, I have no problem being bi-vocational.

    Ministry is not just something we do from behind the pulpit. It should permeate our lives, behind the pulpit or in our “secular” jobs, in our family-life, and outside the homes as well. Just because you’re doing bi-vocational ministry does not mean you are not a full-time minister. I pray that I would have the grace and the strength that our bi-vocational brothers have!

  5. i am a pastor at a small rural church about 30 miles north of louisville. we have less than 20 each week, with only one member besides my wife and i who has a job. the rest are all on a fixed income being older than 65.

    when i acknowledged my call to pastor and was licensed, what i imagined when i pictured my first church was a small (in my mind “small” meant 200 or so) church where my wife could stay at home if we cut back on luxuries while i spent all day each day in sermon prep, planning, meetings, and visiting members.

    instead, my days are filled with class, work at a second job, homework, and a feverd pace to get ready for sunday before sunday gets here.

    it is not what i had imagined, but i love it.

    at my ordination, when most of my 20 member congregation attended a much larger church for the service, i was greatly humbled at the percentage of my little church who showed up to support in spirit their pastor that they are unable to support financially.

    so while i do hope to one day see my church’s sanctuary with full pews that will allow me to not work a second job, my hope is more for more members with the precious humility and desire for the lord that my handful of retired grandparents have now.

  6. Bryan, what “grace and truth?” I find myself lacking in both more each day! Ministry shows you just how depraved you really are.

    Stephen, that describes my church to a T. The youngest couple in our church — before us and one other couple — was in their early 40s, and they were the only parents with school-age children. Now that couple as well as my wife and I will be the youngest parents and the only people under 35. Everyone else is over 50 or else retired and on a fixed income. AARP discounts and “early bird” specials are the norm. ;-)

  7. I would certainly consider a bi-vo position given the right circumstances. I think at certain times it is called for in new churches that are still small or in very rural churches where there just can’t be enough members to support a full time salary.

    However that said, I think that Scripture is clear that pastors deserve a wage that will take care of them and their families (double honors, don’t muzzle the ox, and all that).

    I think to often churches use their pastors and squeeze as much productivity out of them for as little as possible.

    I would be willing to work bi-vo until the church was capable of doing more, or if it were a situation where the church was incapable of growth in a rural area and they paid what they could.

    Perhaps this sounds like the wrong attitude to some, but I’ve served in a church where the love of money was very great. I don’t preach for money, no way, for God’s glory. But the willingness of a church to pay it’s pastor a fair salary I believ is a direct indicator of the healthiness of a church and it’s congregation.

    Pastor’s shouldn’t live in great excess, but congregations should meet their needs for food, shelter, and the ability to breathe without worrying about how to pay their bills.

  8. Tony Kummer says:

    I like getting paid. But I don’t think I can call it my ‘right.’ It should amaze us that God would give us any part in serving his Gospel.

  9. Tony,

    On one hand I agree with you, on the other I do not. I will preach the word of God regardless of pay. However, to some extent, I think a pastor does have a “right” to expect pay. Why? Because the Scripture teaches that the “laborer is worth his wages.” And that he who laborers in the ministry of preaching and teaching is “worthy” of a “double honor.”

    So God himself expects His people to pay their shepherds a fair wage for ministering to them. So I think a pastor should expect to paid as much as he expects his congregation to submit to the authority of God’s word.

    Again this is not to say that there are circumstances where it’s not possible for a church to meet the pastors financial need as I said above. That’s different.

    Although I would point out that in some of the poorest countries in the world where Christianity is now thriving, even though they may not pay a pastor a wage as far as cutting a check, they seem to do quite well in meeting he and his families needs by giving food and goods. I think this fulfills the spirit of the text.

    The problem is that there are to many churches who could pay their pastor a fair wage, but due to their love of money, they do not.

    If a church is in any way capable of supporting their pastor, they should. I think this is what Scripture says.

  10. Tony Kummer says:

    With Christ we give up our rights, along with our very lives for the sake of the Gospel.

    But clearly churches ought to support the ministry of the Gospel and its laborers.

    Thanks for your comments.

  11. Todd Young says:

    This is an interesting discussion. Consider ministry where you get paid $0. I volunteer as a “minister of education” (you get what you pay for), and I am pursuing the role of elder as our church rewrites the constitution. I work full-time in information technology, attend Southern part-time, and I serve as a father and husband not-enough-of-the-time.

    And I feel like I am exactly where God wants me to be. It is stressful and frustrating and limiting, but I get to be a part of a team of ministers that may possibly be accomplishing more than a single, full-time pastor could accomplish at our church.

    Not only that, all the volunteer ministers help to support the ministry, not the other way around. We’re earning dollars in the work force that we get to use for God’s glory. Not that ministry shouldn’t support pastors/staff, but turning around our churches might require more bi-vocational/volunteer ministry teams that infuse dead/dying churches with spiritual and monetary resources.

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