Tuesday, October 16, 2012
What Is Ministry?
Pastors need to be paid, but the instant they work for their salaries is the instant the church is lost.
I’m not advocating the idea that every pastor should take a vow of poverty. I suppose the point I’m making is that statistics prove that pastors in our culture tend to make more money than the average working family in the communities they serve. My fear is that pastors making a lot of money produces the idea that pastors should expect to make a lot of money! How long will it be before congregations, in these difficult economic times, begin to stand up and take notice that the pastors called to wash their congregation member’s feet are getting their own pedicured on a regular basis, while mama’s toes back at home are startin’ to look a mess?
I’ll admit, that was probably a little mean. I’ll give the podium to G.K Chesterton for a moment:
“He that serves God for money will serve the devil for a better wage.”
To focus this rant a bit, I would say that the danger in paying pastors a high salary is that they will not only fall in love with money, but become slaves to those who give the most, in terms of dollars. If you have a pastor who tells you, “I don’t know who gives what amount in this church. I don’t want to know.”, then friend, your pastor is telling you a story. And I use the phrase “telling you a story” not meaning to indicate that he is relaying details of an incident, but instead in the Southern sense of the phrase. In the intended context, “telling you a story” means he is flat-out lying. Having been a pastor for years, and served with every personality type of pastor you can imagine, in tiny churches and in a mega church, I can tell you, they know who the big givers are. They may not know how big, but they know who to call when the church van breaks down, or the church can’t make this month’s mortgage payment.
Much of the problem here is US corporate and employment law. There needs to be contracts, terms of service, all sorts of things that make the relationship be something it is not. We minister and serve because God demands it of us - Some part time, some full time, some paid, some volunteer. All ministry and service brings compensation - some financial, some emotional, some spiritual, some psychological.
What there is not is a link. The instant a certain activity must, through contract or other mechanism, result in a specific defined compensation, the compensation now no longer is what God grants us in His boon and is instead some earthly obligation. What was ministry is now simply employment.
We are and must be utterly dependent on God. Law may mandate employment contracts for staff, but that staff must be mature enough to ignore that fact and rely on God. All compensation is a gift.