Pastors and Salary

Pastors and Salary

It is very likely, despite the admonition to the Ephesians to support their pastors, that the New Testament church elders covered their needs principally through other means as they led house churches. Surely, as Paul appointed elders in nascent churches, he did not arrange a salary package along with the assignment. Only a few hundred years later, as church life was institutionalized, did churches with buildings and larger memberships have enough funds to give salaries to some of their pastors (usually called elders). This led to two tiers of elders and eventually to a more fully corporate view of leadership, including staff, which we see now. This became much more developed after WW2.

Those who traveled, such as missionaries and their workers after the pattern of the first Apostles, and some teachers and evangelists and prophets, would receive support from the gifts of various churches. Paul preferred to add tent making to that in various places until more funds were sent, for good reasons, as he explains. Churches however were to give to elders to help ease their burden, and to show esteem. Since many job schedules at that time were not dictated by others as became true from the Industrial Revolution onward, help from the church an elder served could provide him with more time for ministry and family.

Even in the US, the large denomination of the Southern Baptists report that over a quarter of their pastors support themselves by other jobs. And this pattern is true, only more so worldwide. To lead overseas pastors to think that full support is the goal creates frustration. Rather they may be better served to pursue multiplying small churches and elders. I find that they are always surprised that so many among American pastors work other jobs just like they do. All of this frustration is created by one’s ecclesiology. More thought should be given to better perspectives on how churches can meet without huge expenses on buildings and personnel. By this, I am not acting as though I have all the answers. But I do believe that the NT can provide answers.

That pastors have been supported by their jobs mainly has been, and will always be the case, despite what people wish. And, in many ways it is to be preferred. Multiple elders will be necessary to meet the needs together. That provides much strength to churches. And, frankly, many small churches do not require such time commitment.

In our church, we have several equal pastors, all of which derive their main support from other sources, but are also given help as a matter of a esteem and encouragement from generous voluntary gifts of the people in the church.

Here is some more explanation and reasons: