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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic

Introduction: Financial Support for Ministers

The Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 1)
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 2)
Introduction: Financial Support for Ministers
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 1)
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 2)
Church Leadership and Authority Conditional
Communal Living

Before we get into the trenches on this issue, we want to humbly say a few words on our behalf to avoid any potential ad hominem argument against us. We are about to embark on a study that will disprove the doctrine that pastors and ministers should be paid any form of regular (particularly full-time) salary. This study will also attempt to show that such salaries are, in fact, an abuse of their authority (whether they know it or not). Furthermore, this study will show that Paul believed (perhaps somewhat prophetically) that such excessive practices would hinder the Gospel.

Because of the topic, many might suppose that we are simply selfish people who are unwilling to financially support those who devote their lives to full time ministry. First of all, every Christian should devote their life to full-time ministry. Second, we believe that becoming a leader in the Church is a personal choice, not a secondary calling from God. (See our article "Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling.")

But we also want to state up front that as people who grew up in the Church, from the time we were first employed, we paid the tithe and gave offerings with every paycheck. For a time we even embarked upon tithing our time to God. In part, this lead at different periods of our life to devoting large chunks out of our schedule and free time to involvement in various local church ministries. We do not reject the practice of salaried, full-time ministers because we are selfish or lazy, but because it is not Biblical as we will now demonstrate.

And it is also necessary for us to preemptively avoid any straw men arguments against us. So, we will clearly state our position (which we will prove by the scripture.) First, there was a different mechanism and level of support for Christian leaders doing missionary work than for those doing local ministry to their home congregations.

Second, missionaries had the right to forbear work because "the laborer was worthy of his reward." The Gospels themselves demonstrate that missionaries had the right to expect support from those they were ministering (particularly from a single household) and the rest of the New Testament also shows that it was also acceptable (and advantageous) for missionaries to receive support from other Churches NOT the ones they were going to "plant" by doing missionary work. The goal of this was so that they could minister the Gospel without charge to those they were ministering to. But in either case, their entitlement was "full" rather than partial, due to the fact that their displacement, and thus their ability to secure livelihood, particularly consistent livelihood, was itself so complete. As we will see, this axiom, "the laborer was worthy of his reward," was also applied to local leaders, but for only partial support, since compared to missionaries, their livelihood was only partially disrupted.

Third, the entire Church of this time participated in an economic system described for us in Acts (2:44-45, 4:34-35) in which members at times sold their possessions and brought the proceeds to the leaders who then redistributed them among the entire Church according to need. This system was universal for the whole Church, but it was supplemental and there was a rule (II Thessalonians 3:10.) He who did not work did not eat, which meant that if a man did not do what he could to support himself, he could not draw from the redistribution of the Church.

Fourth, it was from this weekly distribution that LOCAL Christian leaders were to receive "double honor" or "double their regular distribution" IF they did their jobs well particularly labor in the word and doctrine. So, by this we understand that LOCAL Christian leaders could only receive SUPPLEMENTARY income because the entire system was only supplementary in nature. The distribution was according to need. And, we have no reason to assume that the rule of II Thessalonians 3:10 would not apply to leaders as well. To the extent they could provide for themselves they should. Their reward (or wage), according to I Timothy 5 was nothing more than being able to take a double portion of the supplement from the weekly Church distribution.

Fifth, since the modern Church has long since abandoned the communal and supplemental economy of the first century Church, there is no basis for using these passages as a basis for paying local Church leaders full-time salaries. At most, the could receive supplementary income as a reward for their labor to the Church. But without that system in place, it is entirely out of context to maintain only a portion of it. And not to mention that the portion they want us to maintain has been greatly elaborated since local Church leaders no longer receive a double supplement for support, but a full-time salary that excuses them from working to meet their own needs as much as possible.

That being said, we do believe that the Bible does support giving financial support to leaders but the particulars of the Biblical protocol are quite different from the system at work in the Church today. So, let no one set up a straw man argument by asserting that we do not believe any form of financial support for Church leaders. That is not true. We do believe the Bible provides for some forms of support, just not the form we have in the modern Church today.