Should Pastors Receive A Salary?

Read Alan Knox’s on multi part series on this question:

I do not believe that we can justify paying a salary to an elder/pastor from Scripture . . . 1. Elders specifically should “work with their hands” in order to provide for themselves and others . . . 2. “Double honor” is not a salary offered to elders because of their position . . . 3. Elders/pastors do not have a “right” to receive compensation because of their position.

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18 Responses to Should Pastors Receive A Salary?

  1. virginia Foster says:

    Pastors should not receive wages, they should work like everbody else. Each one of us is in the ministry. It is called the minister of reconcilation. The Gospel is free. We are to walk in the Spirit and let the Spirit show us the needs of others. Organized religion is all planned out in the churches. We are the body of Christ and need to build up one another. Most christians met in homes in the first century, and sometimes had gatherings in a special place .

  2. keith crosby says:

    Kindly do a little more careful exegesis. Also, spend some time reading Paul for he mentions that he chose not to be a burden but could have expected to be supported.

    Say, what was that gift the Philippians gave him? Were they supporting him financially in some way.

    Personally, as a pastor, I spend about 40% of my time in discipleship counseling (marital, premarital, life issues, etc as well as hospital visits and other forms of visitations (not to mention meetings) and the balance of it putting together 2 sermons a week (which takes real time and labor over the text) and then preaching them. This time constraint does not include caring for and discipling my first flock, my family. My wife does not work because we homeschool and because there needs to be a parent in the home.

    Now, where does the second job come in? I mean, when I get a call at 2 AM that someone is in the hospital and dying… do I say, “hey… sorry, I’m on the night shift, gotta go?

    I’d like to see a better case made for saying that a pastor has no expectation to be supported by the flock the Lord has entrusted to his care, along aside the other elders…

    So-called lay elders tend to work about 40-40 hours a week and put in about another 20 into “ministry.” As a vocational elder or pastor, I am the primary teaching elder who is freed up to be available when these men aren’t.

    Therefore, make your case exegetically. And be careful.

  3. Scott says:

    What exactly is a “lay elder?”

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  4. keith crosby says:

    “Lay elder” is a term (two words) in English that is not found in the Bible, you know–like Trinity, that is used in our context to describe men who focus their efforts in the shepherdship of the church (shephership is not found in the Bible either) primarily outside of the pulpit (come to think of it “church” isn’t found in the Bible, English terms and idioms are not found in the original languages.

    So these men in many church contexts fall into categories in English terminologies also not found in the Bible like “ruling elder” or “teaching elder.” These concepts are of course alluded to in 1 Timothy 5:17– The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

    The point of my post was that the proof texts used earlier to build the case for not supporting, compensating, giving chickens, or containers of food to (depending on cultural contexts like in the first century or the 21st) is based on proof texting rather than careful, exegetical spade work. As someone once said an idea based on a prooftext is really pretext.

    Good scholarship requires us to read from the text, in context, rather than read our ideas and prejudices into the text.

    One may assert that one cannot justify support for a so-called full time pastor (call him an outfielder, fullback, or quark if terminology and the currency of ideas–language–hangs you up) but I’d like to see an exegetical case made for your presupposition…and while you’re at it find something a little more substantive to wrestle with, perhaps infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism (just kidding).

    Grace to you.

  5. keith crosby says:

    Also, Paul said elders, pastors, evangelists–you pick the term were 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9

    8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 NOT BECAUSE WE DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO THIS, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

    I’m reminded that the earlier citing of the passage in Paul’s epistle to Timothy about wages seems to have failed to consider the context:

    1 Timothy 5:17-18 17 ¶ The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

    Now, after the kai we see a quotation from Luke’s Gospel pointing to a laborer being worthy of his wages.

    Now, we know that 1 Timothy is about the church and its operation. It is a one of the pastoral epistles. In 1 Tim. 3 we have the discussion of elders and deacons. In 1 Timothy 5 Paul is instructing Timothy about elders, particularly those who teach primarily, especially those who teach. The context immediately following mentions both feeding and wages and the idea of labor. Now, just who is the laborer who is worthy of his wages? And… just what are wages? And why do those who teach find themselves worthy of double honor and in the near context we find a mention of wages.

    What I’d like to see you do is to make your case not from a few disconnected passages (i.e. working with hands pertains to Christians in general in their daily life they are to pursue honest work–not usury for example—so they work with their hands. The passages mis-cited does not deal with teaching elders (pastors) etc…

    Remember a proof text taken out of context is a pretext for making a case for something not found in the text.

    Now… all those Christians not doing manual labor (working with hands) like teachers, typists, or announcers on Christian radio—are they in violation of Scripture? Of course not… so let’s avoid bending texts to make fallacious arguments about men who pour out their lives for a flock and say silly things like “now you can’t receive support because you are supposed to work with your hands.” Should we all be farmers? It’s an honorable professoin.

    My point is make your case for this prohibition you’ve concocted from Scripture. Show me a text where it says, unmistakably, that there are no circumstances where pastors, elders, qarks, whatever terminology you wish can’t receive wages and reconcile it to these passages:

    1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

    2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this…

    Some try and make this for apostles only but the we (1st person plural) renders this interpretation untenable as Paul is refering to his party, his group, which included Timothy and this verse says that although they had a right to compensation they chose otherwise not because they had to but because they wanted to do so to illustrate something.

    Remember, do the spade work before you make haphazard observations which are not supported by either the near context of your passage, nor the wider context of Scripture.

    By the way do you work with your hands, as a Christian? Do you make tents? Do you drive cars. I see nothing in the text about driving automobiles… should we manufacture a proof text for that, or depend on an argument from silence.

    Well, I’m done. Grace to you.

  6. keith crosby says:

    Oh and I almost a forgot…. not that we want to read into the text, but historically speaking, assuming you believe in the historicity of God’s word, the Bible…

    How did the Levites earn their living… were they in full time vocational ministry and living off the tithes and offering of the congregation of Israel (take a look at where a portion of the offerings went)?

    How about the rabbis? Granted as members of the New Covenant Community, we can’t base all our precedents upon the Old Covenant. However, the church (ekklessia) is based upon another assembly, the synagogue… there were leaders, elders, etc… there were teachers and while some rabbis could not afford to serve full time, others did.

    God’s pattern does in no way prohibit full time vocational ministry, or paid, or supported, pastors, elders, or whatever term you like the most from receiving a living wage. By the way, they are working with their hands as they read the original language texts, parse and decline, pick out the exegetical outline and develop an homilectical outline and then write out, or type out their message.

    Next I suppose you’ll say that seminary training is a sin because the disciples didn’t go to seminary and neither did Jesus. I can’t find a warrant for a PHD program in the Bible.

  7. Scott says:

    Wow. Quite the lecture. Thanks. So, is there a difference between “lay-elder” and “professional elder?” Be careful to follow your own exhortation and not read into the text but provide clear concise contextually rendered reasoning. I am not looking to stir controversy but would like to know if there is a difference that is real or if it is something introduced post-apostolically.

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  8. keith crosby says:

    Post apostolic is an interesting concept. We don’t get the word Trinity from the apostles. In fact we don’t even get the word church from the apostles since they didn’t speak English.

    As for a professional elder… I don’t remember employing that word. In fact that was your word. I hope it’s not perjorative.

    You know Scott, if I was in it for the money, as seems to be implicit in som eof the commentary (criticizing people for trying to feed their sheep and their first flock, their family) I’d have stayed my previous employment where I made about twice what I make now and then dabbled in ministry on weekends.

    There are a lot of good men in bivocational ministry. I’ve known more than a few. Trouble is… our culture really doesn’t allow for it and it has a nasty habit of pulling us in two directions as we try and serve two masters, our secular employer and the Lord.

    I think the direction of your discussion is misguided and your “exegesis” is faulty. Now, I noticed you selectively employed the question of “professional elder” while ignoring the issue that I pointed out with regard to Scriptural indications where Paul points to the “right” to compensation to the Church of Thessalonica and where he writes to Timothy about same.

    Can I assume you have conceded the point (and therefore may succumb to playing word games)?

    I don’t have a lot of free time because I’m busy ministering. I worked three jobs, went to seminary, and cared for a family. I write as I read what you write and in between breaks I comment.

    with all due respect, your distinctions are artificial and try as you like, the flaws in your exegesis and reasoning are flawed.

    Grace to you.

  9. keith crosby says:

    Now, is it acceptable for there to be elders who teach and who “govern?” The Bible would indicate yes. Is it acceptable for some elders to receive support (like Paul received his gift from Philippi, or like Paul wrote to Timothy, or Thessalonica–it would appear so. Is this always the case? Apparently not. Is this always wrong? Apparently not. If it is wrong, then prove it exegetically, chapter, verse, in context with supporting cross references, not proof texts.

    Virginia’s misguided comments, “they should work like everyone else…” ignores the fact that it takes no less than 15 hours to put together a good sermon, that we are on call 24/7, and that the concept of a 40 hour week is a myth…that people need counseling, discipleship, and guidance…

    I remember one poor soul mentioning that her brother wanted to be a pastor so he could only work weekends—imagine that.

    Make your cases from Scripture. There is no prohibition and Scripture supports both single vocational elders and bivocational elders. It’s not a job, its a calling and we should tremble as we incur a stricter judgment.

    The notion that its more spiritual to work with two priorities (forgetting family flock for the moment) is biblically unsupportable and ludicrous.

    Well, I stumbled across this blog by accident. So I’m signing off. I’ll check to see if you can produce a credible, in context prohibition… if you choose not to, then it means you can’t.

  10. Scott says:

    Thanks, Keith. “then dabbled in ministry on weekends.”

    Now you are getting to the crux of the argument. Does one have to be paid to minister? I’m not talking about the two week mission trip. Hands on, real life, 24/7 ministry.

    Being seminary trained (2 Timothy 2:15) myself I do understand the concepts you employ. You see, I’ve only asked of you a simple question. In reading through your comments I can’t find a simple answer.

    I have addressed these very issues in three posts on my own blog. It is under the heading “theological explorations” subheadings “church” and “how then to lead a church” (a three part series). So, kindly stop assuming first I choose not to, I have, and thusly, yes, I can and did.

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  11. keith crosby says:

    Nice try… but your question here doesn’t address the larger question, “should pastors receive a salary?”

    You keep injecting other topics. Believing the best, I am assuming you are not now dodging the issue by avoiding the topic “should pastors receive a salary (support).”

    No I’m not suggesting that a Christian cannot minister without support. All callings are holy. You can minister in the workplace, the classroom, or to the man on the street, or even lead a Bible study.

    But that’s not where this topic is…

    It’s a shame that you missed the opportunity to correct those poor ignorant men and careless exegetes of previous generations: Calvin, Luther, Knox, Spurgeon, Edwards, Lloyd Jones, Boice, etc…

    One wonders what they would have made of your “exegetical” (eisegetical?) insights.

    I guess “church buildings” are a sin as well since there is no formal mention of them and we should all meet in house churches since they didn’t appear to have them in the apostolic era.

  12. keith crosby says:

    Was it wrong for Luther, Calvin, et al to receive support (ie salary, pay) for their labors among their people. Lazy old Calvin, preached over 5 times a week, instituted schools, etc. in Geneva… Luther, well, he’s another story… Jonathan Edwards studied 12 hours a day, typically… visited his congregation when they were sick, and catechized them as well as caring for a large family. I guess we’d have been better off if he had worked with his hands.

    I guess these men weren’t as well informed, or didn’t study as hard as some…

    Should pastors receive a support from their congregations? You bet. Are they entitled to it? Well, the only thing that any of us are entitled to is death and hell… but we do serve a gracious God who gives us all better than we deserve.

    Speaking of professional pastors/elders/qarks… you might find John Piper’s “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” enlightening.

    The term professional is often, subtly, used in a perjorative sense to imply that someone is “in it for the money.”

    Given the hostility of the culture, of the world to the gospel, the fickleness of congregations, etc… I doubt anyone in their right mind would respond to a call for money. If they did, or had, and I’m sure there are some (take Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, etc… for example) it is doubtful they had a call to begin with.

    By the way, I’m still waiting for you to make your case exegetically and respond to the passages someone attempted to dismiss earlier, when they took them out of context.

    They are in the thread above.

  13. Scott says:

    You misunderstand me. I understand what you are saying. I am more award of the history of the church than you give me credit for (nonetheless, I will not hold that against you — again) I only asked a question — what is “lay-elder? How do you differentiate “lay” vs “non-lay” when there is not a biblical distinction? History? Tradition? Culture? OT derivitives?

    I must apologize at this point because I did not mean to throw you into a crisis of belief. But, hey, simple questions still deserve simple answers.

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  14. Scott says:

    Oh, yeah…you mentioned “lay elder” first and I only see fit to try to understand you. One can only hope you are clearer in other venues.

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  15. Once my indignation at #1 died down, I was able to calmly type a response to it. Here it is:

    To suggest that a pastor not receive wages is similar to suggesting we preach the Gospel to wild boars and whitetail deer.

    That is, you’ve made God’s Word and his servants of no account. The only difference is that the wild boar and the whitetail are dead after you shoot them. The pastor and his family has to suffer.

    In the interest of full disclosure, lest anyone accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about; in 2007 I was denied a previously promised raise and later in the year my salary for 2008 was cut 50%. And that cut was only after I was able to persuade our trustees to come back from their original proposal, which was to eliminate my salary entirely.

    These decisions were made knowing that there was a previous promise and that we had a child on the way. I am bi-vocational — and that voluntarily for the church’s financial benefit — but my secular salary alone is only enough to keep a roof and utilities. If we want to save money, not worry about food, pay off student debt timely, etc., we need the church to provide me a decent salary.

    To suggest I don’t need a church salary is to suggest the church throw my newborn into the street. Such an attitude is callous, un-Christian, and quite frankly un-Biblical. If you have that little respect for those you have called to pastor your church, may God have mercy on you.

    Stephen Newell’s last blog post..Urgent Prayer Request

  16. Keith Crosby says:

    I do not believe that we can justify paying a salary to an elder/pastor from Scripture . . . 1. Elders specifically should “work with their hands” in order to provide for themselves and others . . . 2. “Double honor” is not a salary offered to elders because of their position . . . 3. Elders/pastors do not have a “right” to receive compensation because of their position.


    I am clearer in other venues. However, I didn’t create this blog, I just stumbled over it. I have been sufficiently clear to point out the above assumptions about pastors, elders, qarks–pick the name not being supported by their congregations as they minister 60+ hours a week in our time is well—stupid. Take Virginia’s comments for example.

    I remember spending several mornings in the life of a dying man sitting with him hour after hour. He was saved, born again, regenerate (let’s not parse terms like elder, pastor, or qark) but he’d never died before and at times the pain got to him and he needed someone to sit with him. If I was working at a second job because my congregation was too stingy to pay me (not a poke at small congregations who can’t afford to support their shepherds yet) then I’d have been unavailable to him.

    What’s a lay elder—it’s an illustrative term I have employed in order to communicate that some elders are police officers, dentists, etc… that is to say in certain contexts they are not vocational elders, like say a Spurgeon type, and for ease of differentiation one might say Spurgeon was a vocational elder and this man was a lay-elder. It’s a similar priniciple of distinction one uses when one uses words as a currency of expression, like in the case of the inspired writ when Paul speaks of ruling elders, those who rule, and those who teach.

    I’m not fabricating an office but making a distinction between a man who works at a job 40 hours a week and then spends another 20 hours or so in “church” ministry.

    The problem with the postings I have responded to, Scott, is that they are not clear:

    I do not believe that we can justify paying a salary to an elder/pastor from Scripture . . . 1. Elders specifically should “work with their hands” in order to provide for themselves and others . . . 2. “Double honor” is not a salary offered to elders because of their position . . . 3. Elders/pastors do not have a “right” to receive compensation because of their position.

    Now if you are using this posting above to market your blog for growing readership… you should have employed another posting…as one only gets one opportunity to make a first impression… then leaving Virginia’s posting unaddressed (bless her heart–a demonstration of 1 Tim. 2:12-15) you lend credence to an absurd proposition with proof texts that some poor joe included to prop these pretexts up… and then torturing the text to try and redefine “work.”

    No need to respond… I am truly done… I can only echo my brother’s disappointment above–


  17. Scott says:

    Thanks, Keith. I haven’t heard your terminology employed before. Sorry if you took offense to my question. I wish you well in your pastorate.

    Keith actually brings up another facet for discussion — is it a “job” that is 24/7 or a “ministry” that drives you (third person plural as in ‘ye’ in KJV) passionately?

    Can one’s job be a ministry? Can a ministry become such a drudgery that it seems like a menial job?

    Scott’s last blog post..And the Glory of the LORD

  18. Tony Kummer says:

    Keith, Scott, Virginia

    I was just reading over a little of this discussion. This is a somewhat older post so I didn’t keep up closely with the comments.

    I should make the clarification that the indented content in the post itself is from Alan’s blog. I wrote this post to send traffic over there for discussion. He actually makes his point over several long articles.

    My point in posting was to alert people to an idea that I haven’t heard much about. Alan is a Ph.D student at Southeastern Seminary and is doing serious research in the topic.

    In general I disagree with him, but he is trying to make his point from the practice of the early church (aka the Bible) so I’m gald to see what he has to say.

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