In my previous post “The Vocational Pastor: an interesting discussion,” I said that whenever I’m part of a discussion about the relationship or connection between salaries and pastors/elders in Scripture (or when I just read other discussions), it seems that the discussion rarely (if ever) stays on that topic. Instead, the conversation seems to automatically drift into other topics and almost always ends in extreme rhetoric.
In fact, in that previous post, I asked my readers to comment only by answering these two questions:
1) Do you believe that Scripture supports the concept of paying a salary to someone in order for that person to be an elder/pastor (or other kind of leader) for a group of believers (i.e., a church)? (Simple a statement of what you do or do not believe concerning this, please.)
2) Why do you think people who agree with you (NOTE: people who AGREE with you) sometimes immediately jump to other issues that are not related to salaries and pastors/elders? (Do not turn this into a defense of your position.)
Now, like I said in that post, I know that we all come into this discussion with certain biases and presuppositions. That’s true of almost any position. For example, my own position is that it is not possible to support the practice of paying someone a salary in order for that person to be an elder/pastor. I know that my belief in that area affects the way that I interact with other people concerning this topic.
However, because of various aspects of this issue, this particular topic is extremely personal and causes emotional responses on both (all) sides of the issue.
Those who agree with me that Scripture does not support paying someone a salary to be an elder/pastor often assume that a person who is paid to be an elder/pastor is controlling or abusive or that the person is greedy.
Those who disagree with me and instead believe that Scripture does support paying someone a salary to be an elder/pastor often assume those who disagree want to do away with any kind of leadership or do not care whether or not people are shepherded/discipled.
Are the assumptions above true in some cases? Yes. But, none of the assumptions (or the actions/beliefs involved) are actually related to the topic of the connection between salaries and pastors/elders in Scripture.
Then, of course, the rhetoric gets even stronger. In fact, I’ve heard people on both (all) sides of this discussion suggest that those who disagree are out to destroy the body of Christ.
People on all sides of this issues are followers of Jesus Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, growing in maturity in Jesus Christ, and helping others grow in Christ. Obviously, people on all sides of this discussion think that their position is God’s desire for his people and supported by Scripture, and, in the same way, people on all sides of this issue think that those who disagree are somehow harming God’s people.
But, we must learn to stay on topic, friends. And, we must remember that the brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with you are NOT your enemy, that God loves them just as much as he loves you, and that God is using them to further his kingdom.
So, how do we help one another keep this discussion on topic? (I will be a little more lax with these comments than I was with the comments on the previous post.)