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Pay the Pastor

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Question #1:   It was great to find your website. I have two questions that I am seeking an answer to.

1. I need scriptural references on the Church's responsibility (financial, etc.) to their pastors. It is my convictions that the local Church is obligated to care for their pastor. However, there are individuals in our Church who feel differently.

2 Guidance in learning how to use Hebrew and Greek in doing some translating for Bible study myself. I think what I need is basic, simple reference materials for beginners.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer.

Response #1:

On the issue of financial assistance to pastors, scripture is crystal clear: congregations are most certainly responsible for providing them with a living.

1) before the nation of Israel, the most prominent example we have is Melchizedek, a "priest of God most high", to whom Abraham gave a tenth of what he had won from his recent victory - a significant amount (Gen. 14; cf. also Gen.28:22).

2) in Israel, not only the priests, but also the Levites (i.e., everyone whose full-time job was serving God directly), were to be supported through a system of tithes, some given in the form of produce, some in the form of currency; the priests also received a portion of most of the offerings that were made to the Lord (see especially Lev.5:13; 7:6-10; Num.18:20-32; Deut.14:22-29; Amos 4:14; Lk.18:12).

3) in the Church, there is no tithing per se, but the principle of those who minister the Word of God for a living earning their living from their ministry is still applicable. In 1st Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul vigorously defends this right in great detail. Although he personally chose not to make use of it from the Corinthians (and worked also himself in support of his ministry), he did obtain financial support for that ministry from others as well, most notable the Philippians. Paul applauds their godly efforts in Philippians 4:14-19, and notes that such things are well-pleasing to God. In 1st Timothy 5:18, Paul makes the point in reference to support of ministers that "the workman is worthy of his wages" (repeating Christ's point that his apostles were to be supported: Matt.10:10; Luke 10:7). The clincher is Galatians 6:6: "Let anyone who receives instruction in the Word share of all good things with the one who instructs him."

Now the Church is much different from Israel. Rather than having a situation where a hereditary few are chosen to minister to God, all believers are given gifts to minister in some way to and for God (1Cor.12:7 etc.). However, ministering the Word is the one gift still operative in the Church which carries authority and so demands particular respect (1Thes.5:12-13), for it incurs a stricter judgment from God (Jas.3:1). In the Church of Jesus Christ, we all pull together for the goal and we all have equal access to the Father, but we cannot all devote the first-fruits of our time and energy to learning and teaching the Word of God (and learning those things necessary to learn and teach the Word of God: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, systematic theology, ancient history and culture, etc.). That is the job of the teacher (call him pastor or elder or pastor-teacher or whatever you will). Preparation for this job is long and arduous - if done correctly. In my own case, it involved eleven years of higher education beyond my first B.A. and much work "off the academic clock".

Translation and interpretation of the holy scriptures is an art that is acquired through years of study and preparation. For the Bible, it requires a precise knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek - and also importantly the theology behind the words. Put it this way, if you knew French and wanted to translate a book on Calculus into French, not knowing Calculus would render your effort questionable, because you wouldn't understand the meaning, even if you understood the words. There is also the important issue of being schooled in the historical and cultural milieu of the ancient world.

Personally, I don't regret a minute of my preparation, and I am happy to have a ministry that does not require external contribution. But for most people, it is impossible to prepare to the degree necessary and spend the time necessary to truly TEACH the Bible in person to a receptive group on a regular basis without having this be a full-time occupation.

As to "how much" of an income should be provided, all that the Bible seems to indicate is that a reasonable living should be offered to anyone a Church is planning to call as a pastor. What that means is open to interpretation, of course, but the best comment on the subject I ever heard came from an ancient and particularly humble seminary professor who was of the opinion that a church should pay the salary of its median full-time working members. That way 1) supporting the minister is not a burden if people are really serious about having one; 2) no one can gripe that the minister is doing better than he should because his income is truly average for the church community; 3) the minister is thus neither in a position of superiority (where he is tempted to look down on his charges), nor, importantly, in a position of inferiority, where the better off will more often than not have a tendency to try to bully him into seeing things their way on a wide variety of issues. This position seems to me to be the essence of wisdom on the subject.

As to personal study of the Bible, I highly recommend it, but, of course, it is no substitute for taking advantage of the work of those who have devoted their lives to such things. There are many, many commentaries available (some on-line) that will give information about specific verses, but to really know what is meant in the original inevitably requires the skills mentioned above – or access to Bible teaching that makes such things clear (the goal of Ichthys). For the vast majority of Christians, a good Bible translation with which they are comfortable and the commitment to reading it daily is an essential which needs to be supplemented by Bible teaching that is based upon the original languages, orthodox theology, and historical perspective. Add believing the truth learned, persistent, consistent prayer, a walk that responds to what is being learned from God's Word, and faithful service via the gift one has been given, and you have the whole formula for spiritual growth.

I hope this response will be helpful for you. I do like to think that all of the Ichthys studies are profitable for spiritual growth (that is the purpose for which they have been written).

Please see also the following links:

How much should we pay our pastor?

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.

Pastoral Authority, Popes, Pat Robertson, and Pelagianism.

How important is education for a pastor?

Some Questions on Church Polity.

Is the local church meant to be a patriarchy?

Church Polity and three other passages.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

Dysfunctional Churches.

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill  

Question #2:  

Dear Bob,

Thank you ever so much for your expedience. I am a 50 year old man that has been on the side lines for 38 years. Incidentally, I, like Jonah, have been avoiding God's call to a special work all of this time. He has basically put me in a place where it is obvious that He wants me to step up to the plate - a brand new Congregation. Thus, the questions on supporting our pastor.

I am not the pastor. He is a great young fellow with a tremendous amount of zeal and a very close walk with God. However, there are those in our number that claim that it is not Biblical to pay the Pastor. You have helped me here.

God has shown me that I should have known exactly where to find the scriptures that I needed to support my convictions. Thus, the questions about the aids and tools. Biblical commentaries are exactly what I need. However, I was fumbling with the right way to ask the questions.

If you have any suggestions about how I should begin my study of God's Word, I would really appreciate them. Currently, I have only very basic knowledge of the Bible. I think that it was no accident that your website was where I landed in my search for help - you will hear from me again.

Thanks again and again,

Response #2:

Glad to help. Contact me whenever you'd like. You have my best wishes and my prayers for the success of your efforts and your church. As to where to get started, my thoughts are outlined in the last e-mail:

1) read your Bible aggressively.

2) seek sound and solid Bible teaching and drink it in persistently.

3) pray consistently.

4) walk righteously.

5) serve faithfully.

There are volumes to be said on each of these, but together they bring spiritual safety, spiritual growth and eternal reward.

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill

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