the weblog of Alan Knox


Posted by on Dec 28, 2009 in elders, office | 7 comments

Employment” is a post (really an observation and a set of questions) that I published three years ago after a conversation at work. This short post triggered some good discussion. Hopefully, it will do the same this time.



A few days ago, we were discussing employment at work (of all places). I asked some of my coworkers the following question: If this company stopped paying you, would you still come into the office and do what you do now? (This assumes that they are working.) No one would continue doing their job if they were not paid.

So, I asked the follow-up question: Would your pastor continue to do what he does if he were not paid?

So, I ask this to my readers… What are pastors responsible to do because they are believers and followers of Christ? What are they responsible to do because they are pastors – examples, teachers, and leaders to God’s flock? And, what are they responsible to do because they are employed by a church organization? Which of these responsibilities does God allow them to stop doing if the pay stops?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-28-2009

    That is an important question. If the church you pastor had to stop paying you, what would you do? I am guessing most pastors would fing themselves “called” to pastor somewhere else.

  2. 12-28-2009

    I had this same conversation with a pastor friend of mine the other day. I can’t say that I would stay working in IT if I wasn’t paid. I think this question reinforces the importance of having a vocational job. Not only does it portray a better example to the body of ministry, but even in the case that you are a “vocational pastor”, if/when the church stops paying you, you theoretically could stay there and continue doing what God has given you the ability to do.

    Very important point. We have to ask ourselves, does God “call” someone who has been leading as an elder/pastor in his local body to just step in to some other body as an elder/pastor, without even knowing the people? I think not. Doesn’t seem to me that God meant, (based on the Scriptures), for church bodies to hire out their help.

  3. 12-28-2009

    Hi Alan-

    Your post reminded me of this from Ketchersides Royal Priesthood, A Profane Priesthood:

    Almost without exception the men of God who were sent to declare the burden of God’s people, included the priests in their condemnatory pronouncements. Micah said, “Its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us.'” (3:11). It needs to be remarked that God had provided for the sustenance of his priests. They were entitled to a portion of the offerings made upon the altar. “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?” (1 Cor. 9:13). The condemnation by Micah was not because the priests were financially supported in teaching, but because they had professionalized the God-given task and were doing so because of the money they got for it. No longer satisfied to trust in God and their brethren to supply them with voluntary gifts at the altar, they were now hiring themselves out for wages and teaching for gain. It is not injurious to say that the apostle declares in the verse following the one where he reasons that the priests get their food from the temple, “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). Will God be as certain to condemn those who today “teach for hire”?

  4. 12-28-2009

    The more and more I observe and study about church/body life the less I see the viability of paid professional elders/pastors/overseers. The bottom line, we men are responsible for providing for our families and too many times the family of God suffers because men are chasing down better “pastorates” and pay.

    Would your pastor continue to do what he does if he were not paid?

    The pastor at our church has had his pay cut because of low finances. He has been trying to go bi-vocational. It would not be possible for him to continue with his ministry without money coming in.

    What are pastors responsible to do because they are believers and followers of Christ?

    They should edify, encourage and provoke one another to love.

    What are they responsible to do because they are pastors – examples, teachers, and leaders to God’s flock?

    They should oversee/protect, equip and feed the flock.

    What are they responsible to do because they are employed by a church organization?

    I don’t think they should be employed by a church organization, but if they are, they are beholden to the corporate board or whoever signs their paycheck. And….that is the crux of the whole professional ministry issue. Can men who are dependent on a paycheck from an church organization really do the ministry that they are called to do?

  5. 12-28-2009

    One way to answer the question is by assessing what a person currently does for no compensation, altho that’s not always clear, either. If you agree that a wage earner is expected to be on task for 40 hours a week and an exempt is expected for 50 ( more or less depending upon the corporate culture), then what do they do after that?

    Now, official elders may be compensated with with status rather than dollars, so it’s harder to determine what they do free. But they may be doing things below the radar, which could be counted as free.

    Having said all this, the best analysis would be directed at self: what do I do without external compensation?

  6. 12-30-2009

    This is a fair question, and the answer is not simple. I think a lot of responses have avoided the question. What is biblical pastoring and what is in the full-time salaried pastoral position job description?

    Wear nice clothes, teach eloquently in discourse in front of crowds, provide the services of marrying and burying ceremonies, visit the hospital bound as an official representative of the church, etc. Those are things I think people pay for (extra pay for being a good fund raiser and crowd gatherer).

    As far as doing the work of the shepherd. I honestly could work as a garbage man and be happy and still be capable of doing the work of pastor or missionary. I don’t have the courage to do it, but the idea is still appealing.

    I’ve been a missionary for 8 years and lately, I really am ready to return to Baton Rouge with my family, and live close to my parents and sister’s family for a while. So, I am struggling right now with how that is going to happen. Serving as a paid pastor seems to fit the bill very nicely, but we will see what God has for us.

  7. 12-30-2009

    Hmmm? Today’s “Pastor.”
    Is this a “Title” or “position” even in the scriptures?

    In the Bible, How many people are… called pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people have… the title pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    If “Pastors” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His shepherds; Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.

    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    Think we might have a problem here?
    70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out. Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show. “Pastors?”
    That’s who is abusing God’s sheep.

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 18,000 a year, leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.

    In my experience…

    Titles become idols.
    Pastors become masters.

    And the “Traditions of men” make the word of God of none effect.

    Jer 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep:
    their shepherds have caused them to go astray…