Monday, December 7, 2009

Do you think pastors should get paid?

Do you think it is good for the church to have its spiritual leaders remunerated for their spiritual leadership? On what basis should this spiritual leadership be valued? Is there some quantitative standard that can be used? So and so much spiritual leadership = this amount of remuneration? Or perhaps by contract/commission – this many marriages saved = equal such and such a percentage of the weekly offering? Or are there qualitative standards? This there for instance more remuneration for those with higher degrees of knowledge, experience, or expertise? A really good preacher can get “x” amount of money for a sermon? Or the pastor with the best program at the end of the year gets a bonus?

How does that all actually work?

I suppose I should not voice these questions too loudly since I am one of those who has profited from avails of pastor-ing (oops that was a close one - I almost offended someone). Nonetheless, I am really not sure that having spiritual leadership remunerated still makes sense to me like it used to. Please understand this is not sour grapes for being relegated to the ranks of a (less wealthy) student or that I am bitter over not being able to practice in such a position. Instead this question nags at me whenever I have conversations about church systems with friends. I find nibbling around the corners of our conversations questions that few care to voice or are even actually conscious of. Whether it is discussing the politics of leadership or job descriptions or vision, this issue seems to make an appearance.

Here is what I think holds true in most cases. For most pastors, their position is not just a career. There is some sense of spiritual responsibility attached to accepting this type of mandate from a particular church body. In fact the individuals spiritual health is assumed and conveyed to be of exceptional if not at least exemplary quality. Let’s face it few churches would hire someone who would confess to being spiritually bankrupt or deviant. That means that in part the quality of spirituality is tied to the ability to secure a position within a church organization. Granted there are many establishments that do not exercise due diligence and are confronted with horrific results of impropriety and scandal. But on the whole spiritual excellence is more or less expected.

Attach to that the qualities of leadership that typically are associated with pastoral work – developing/maintaining programs, public speaking, doctrinal and theological expertise, relational skills. Now you have some measurable performance to rate the effectiveness of the pastor on. The spiritual stuff is really tricky to measure but this performance stuff is a lot easier. And coincidently there are many situations were performance in is directly tied to spiritual authority. But tying spirituality to performance means that if one of those components fails the other one does too. If it is determined that the pastor is not a good enough speaker and needs to ‘move on’ then inadequacy in the skills department becomes attached to the spiritual dynamic as well. This has to be horrific for pastors who find themsleves weighed and wanting for inadequacies that have left them spiritually wanting as well. In this light it a wholly frightening thing to consider allowing your spirituality to get tied into your ability to earn a living. Fortunately, none of my friends or family should in anyway worry about their spiritual suitability for the job they are doing but I am not sure I would want to enter into that contract again. Not because I doubt my spiritual suitability but because I am loathe to have my spirituality used as a de-facto evaluable criteria for my financial security.

I am going to try to get a job as a teacher. If at some point it is determined that I am not a suitable person to be a teacher – I will be very disappointed-even crushed. But my spiritual standing will not be called into question.

But if a spiritual leader has been discerned to be the right one for a particular context why is it still possible for that person to be fired, let-go, encouraged to leave, terminated – you know? Isn’t that in itself a problematic thing for anyone to consider? Does that not problematize the entire relationship between congregation and leadership? Is it perhaps the root of the stagnation that is all too often present in our communities of faith? I’m not sure but I think I am leaning that way…

There’s more to say on this so feel free but I am tired and I have full day ahead…

1 comment:

Sammiesoo said...

Wouldn’t it be practical to take a look at how the apostles and their associates handled financing when the Christina ministry first began? In that way we can see what methods the apostles used and then follow the examples they set. (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17)

The apostles and other Christina ministers of the first century did a great deal of traveling and like today, it was expensive. Lodging, food, clothing and sailing from one place to another—all this needed to be paid for by someone. So then, who paid for these things?

The apostles and their associates took care of expenses in two ways. The first way was by accepting the hospitality of fellow Christians. (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2) The second way was by earning their own money and caring for their expenses personally by working secularly. (Acts 18: 1-4)

It can be good to remember that in the first century there was only “one” version of Christianity; it hadn’t yet branched into the differing groups known today as “Christendom”. Sense that was the case, the first century church could function like a large “extended family” in which all the congregations looked out for each other. Money needs were readily passed back and for the between congregations. (Acts 2:44-47; Hebrews 13:16) All Christina members could ask for and receive financial help from the congregations. (2 Corinthians 8:14, 15) Then, when an individual didn’t need to be helped any longer, he or she became a contributor again: willing to share what they had with fellow Christians. (2 Corinthians 9:7; 1Timothy 6:17, 18)

The apostles and their minister companions conducted themselves in much the same way. When traveling, if they needed help, they gratefully accepted the hospitality of others. If on the other hand, they were to stay in the same area for an extended period of time they took care of their own physical needs and, like their fellow Christians, shared what they had with others (Acts 20:33-35) as Paul said, not wishing to become an “expensive burden” to fellow Christians. (1 Thessalonians 2:9, 10)

Encyclopedia check shows us that the clergy didn’t start being paid a wage for preaching until the middle of the third century which was also when a distinction between the laity class and the clergy class started. (Acts 20:28-30) So the, scriptural history combined with secular history shows us that there is no basis for ministers today to be paid for what the Christian church’s founding fathers saw as a sublime privilege—but never as a worldly occupation. (Matthew 28:18-20; Act 20:18-21; 2 Corinthians 2:17)

The notion that ministers have more stresses and more complications in their lives then did first century ministers lacks credibility when one looks at the ministry of the Apostle Paul. For despite being: stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19), shipwrecked (Acts 27:41-44), beaten and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-24) to name but a few, he had a secular occupation and still managed to be a major contributor in the founding of Christianity while write more books of the New Testament then any of the other writers. Thus within a mere three decades he could say with confidence that the gospel had been preached in all creation under the heavens! (Colossians 1:23). Hardly a feat that any of us today can say we have surpassed thus necessitating our congregation to provided us with a steady paycheck.

(The contributor of the above segment has added scriptural references so that the public will be able to follow the contributor’s reasoning and recognize the material as objective rather then subjective in nature. (1Timothy 2:3, 4)