I’m working through a few posts on the topic of discussing the “vocational pastor” – that is, I’m looking at the connection between elders/pastors and salaries in Scripture. In the first two posts (“The Vocational Pastor: an interesting discussion” and “The Vocational Pastor: keeping on topic“), I primarily wrote about why this is a difficult topic to discuss. The topic is personal and emotional for almost everyone involved. In the third post (“The Vocational Pastor: the definitions I use“), I explained what I mean by the phrase “vocational pastor.” Then, in the previous post (“The Vocational Pastor: tradition, background, and perspective“), I suggested that it is important to know a person’s background in order to better understand their perspective on this topic (or any other topic, for that matter).
So, what’s next? If we’ve carefully considered how to approach the topic, we’ve defined our terms, and we understand each other’s perspective, what do we do next? Well, we examine the evidence – all of the evidence. Since my desire is to examine the connection between salaries and elders/pastors in Scripture, then my evidence would primarily come from Scripture. Secondary sources, experiences, etc. would only be helpful in explaining Scripture. (Now, it might be beneficial to examine this topic based on other evidence besides Scripture, but that’s not my goal here.)
The difficulty is that there is no specific passage in Scripture that either commands or forbids salaries for elders/pastors. There is no “smoking gun,” if you will. (Someone could disagree with me on this point, of course.) Thus, any position that someone might hold on this topic would be derived from many different passages. And, that’s why it is important to study all of the evidence.
Plus, each passage would have to be studied in context to determine if and/or how it might relate to this specific topic. Is the passage related to salaries or some other type of benefit (financial or otherwise)? Is the passage related to elders? If either salaries or elders is not directly addressed in the passage, then an argument must be made to connect the passage to salaries and/or elders in spite of their direct absence. Furthermore, once you have determined that a passage of Scripture does (or does not) connect salaries with elders/pastors, you still need to figure out how the topics are (or are not) connected within that passage.
Finally, it’s important to understand the argument and position of those who disagree with you. At what point do they disagree? What evidence do they use? Are you examining the same evidence (even if you come to different conclusions)? If not, then you will probably end up talking past one another.
So, when discussing a topic like this, it is not generally helpful to throw your favorite Bible verse – even if you feel it is the lynch pin in your argument. Instead, it’s much more helpful to carefully consider and examine all of the available evidence, and carefully and thoughtfully consider the positions of those who disagree with you.
So, this is the end of my series on how to discuss the topic of the connection between elders/pastors and salaries in Scripture. The point of this series was NOT to present my position (although I do have a position, which is that Scripture does not support the practice of paying someone a salary in order for that person to be an elder/pastor). Instead, the point of this series was to help us all discuss this topic.
What would you add to this? What can we do to make this a topic that is easier to discuss, especially between those who disagree?