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The Vocational Pastor: tradition, background, and perspective

Posted by on Jun 7, 2012 in elders | 2 comments

The Vocational Pastor: tradition, background, and perspective

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. As you can probably tell by now, I’m not actually presenting an argument for my position, although I do have a position. Instead, I’m trying to help us all think through how we can discuss this topic.

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.” (Of course, someone else could be writing about this topic using a different definition, but if I didn’t know that, then we would be discussing or arguing about different things.)

In this post, I’d like for us to think about something a little different: tradition, background, experience, and perspective. As much as we would all like to think that our position is built only on Scripture or what is revealed to us by God, in reality many aspects of our lives work together to form our understanding of the connection between salaries and elders/pastors. (This is true for all of our beliefs and actions, of course.)

In order to understand my position, it helps to understand where I’ve come from as well as how I’ve arrived at where I am now. For example, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, and I’m still highly associated with Southern Baptists. Until a few years ago, I’ve always been part of churches with vocational pastors.

That’s part of the story. Another part of the story is that I have never been hurt by vocational pastors, and I still have friends who are vocational pastors. I respect many of these people for many different reasons.

Another important aspect of my background (to this topic, anyway) is that I attended seminary in order to become a vocational pastor. I have the educational credentials to be a vocational pastor. Before attending seminary, I was actively pursuing a job as a vocational pastor. I’ve even been asked to be a vocational pastor.

Similarly, if you know how I came to the position that I hold, it would help our discussion. My position on this issue changed while I was in the middle of seminary. My belief about what Scripture says about the connection between elders/pastors and Scripture changed through studying Scripture. It did not change because of my job or because I was angry with anyone or because of a book or author that I read.

Also, if someone is discussing this topic with me, it’s probably important for that person to know that I am currently an elder, but I am not a vocational pastor. I am currently an elder, but I also work full-time to support myself and my family.

All of this background information can help someone understand my perspective on this topic. And, the more that we know about each other, the easier it is to discuss the connection between salaries and elders/pastors from the perspective of Scripture.

The Vocational Pastor: the definitions I use

Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in elders | 21 comments

The Vocational Pastor: the definitions I use

This is the third post in my series on “The Vocational Pastor.” 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.

Whether someone believers that Scripture supports or does not support paying a salary to someone in order for that person to be a pastor/elder, almost everyone has a story or experience to bring into the discussion. Almost everyone has a personal stake in this discussion – some have a bigger stake than others.

So, when we are discussing this topic (or any other topic such as this), we must understand the emotional and personal nature of the topic. This is a difficult issue to address in the abstract because of the real consequences involved.

It helps, though, to define exactly what we’re talking about. When I use the phrase “vocational pastor,” what do I mean? Some use the phrase “professional pastor” or “paid pastor” or something similar.

When I use the phrase “vocational pastor,” I’m talking about someone who has accepted and carries out a certain role among a group of Christians (church) because that group has agreed (beforehand) to pay that person in exchange for carrying out that role. For the “vocational pastor,” if the money was not available (for whatever reason), then that person’s role and function among the church would change drastically.

The fact that a person is or is not a “vocational pastor” is not related to the person’s relationship with God, or the person’s ability or effectiveness at helping others follow Jesus, or the person’s motivation or work ethic.

For example, I am currently employed as a web developer for an educational institution. In exchange for my work, I am paid a salary that we agreed on beforehand. If I did not receive that salary, I would not do this work for them. The salary, however, does not affect my relationship with God, my work as a disciple-maker, my work ethic, etc.

Also, when I say that I believe that Scripture does not support the idea of paying someone a salary in order to be an elder/pastor, I’m talking about the connection between a salary (as discussed above) and the role of elder as found in Scripture. In making that statement, I am not (yet) assigning a value (good or bad) to “vocational pastors.” I’m simply stating that the practice cannot be supported from Scripture. (The question of the value of “vocational pastors” is a separate question that should be dealt with separately.)

(Note: I use the term “pastor” in this post and others because it is used so widely among the church today. I prefer the term “elder.” To me, pastoring/shepherding as found in Scripture is a spiritual gift like teaching, prophesying, serving, etc. An elder is instructed to shepherd, but that does not necessarily mean the elder has the spiritual gift of shepherding, just as an elder and all other Christians are instructed to serve, but that doesn’t mean that they all have the spiritual gift of serving.)

The Vocational Pastor: keeping on topic

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in elders | 16 comments

The Vocational Pastor: keeping on topic

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.)

The Vocational Pastor: an interesting discussion

Posted by on Jun 4, 2012 in blog links, elders | 20 comments

The Vocational Pastor: an interesting discussion

A couple of weeks ago, in my post “Do pastors have their cake and eat it too?” I linked to a post by Eric (and “A Pilgrim’s Progress“) called “Cake.” In that post, Eric suggested that the work of being a vocational pastor is easy or “cake.”

I’ve followed various posts that have been written in response to Eric’s post, some agreeing with Eric and some disagreeing. (You can find links to those responses in the comments on my post, in the comments on Eric’s post, and in the comments on some of those other posts.)

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for very long, then you probably know that I do not think that Scripture supports the idea of paying someone a salary in order for that person to hold the position of pastor/elder for a church (i.e., a group of believers). However, that does not mean that I believe that all vocational pastors are evil or that they have chosen their position for personal gain or in order to control others.

That said, I have been surprised by the rhetoric involved on both sides (or all sides, I suppose) of this discussion. It has been interesting to notice how intricately people automatically associate being a vocational pastor with many other things. Some automatically associate being a vocational pastor with very positive things, while others automatically associate being a vocational pastor with very negative things.

It seems that it is almost impossible for people to discuss the concept of salaried pastors/elders without venturing into those other topics. (Again, I’ve noticed this on all sides of the discussion/argument.) Granted, we all have a bias in this discussion – and, since I’ve already stated my bias, you know that I’m including myself when I say, “We all have a bias.”

I’ve noticed that automatically associating the concept of vocational pastors with other aspects of our relationship with Christ and with one another often leads to extreme rhetoric. (Yes, I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of this same thing in the past.)

Is it possible for believers to discuss this concept without the rhetoric? I honestly don’t know. I know that it is a very personal issue for people on all sides of the argument.

Over the next few days, I plan to write a series of posts looking at various aspects of this discussion. I do not plan to present my own case. That’s not the purpose. Instead, I want us to look at the state of the discussion itself.

I want to ask you to help me get this discussion started. This is what I’d like for you to do… answer the following 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.)

For this post, I’m asking you to stick to the questions above. There will be other opportunities to discuss other aspects of this question in the later posts. (I will be strict with the comments on this post.)

So, what’s the deal with all this pastor stuff?

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in discipleship, elders | 2 comments

So, what’s the deal with all this pastor stuff?

Over the last few days, I’ve written several posts related to pastoring, pastors, and “pastors.” By pastoring, I’m referring to caring for God’s people, helping them, serving them, sharing your life with them. By pastors, I’m referring to people who spend time pastoring others. By “pastors,” I’m referring to people who have been given (or who have assumed) a certain title in a church organization.

(By the way, some “pastors” are pastors. Some pastors are not “pastors.” Are you confused yet? I hope not.)

Some of the posts this week were planned – posts such as this one, and “The dangers of ‘pastoring’ hundreds or thousands,” and “A little about my pastors.” Some of the posts this week were unplanned – that is, they were links to posts that I’ve read recently that happened to touch on the same subject, such as “But he has an MDiv and ordination papers,” and “What pastoring is NOT.”

So, why have I spent this week writing about pastoring, pastors, and “pastors”? Am I angry about church leadership? Do I have a grudge against people with the title “pastor”?

No, I’m not angry, and no, I don’t have a grudge against anyone with the title “pastor.” Some of my good friends have been given the title “pastor.”

So, why have I spent this week writing about pastoring, pastors,and “pastors”?

I care about the church, and I love to see God people grow and mature in their faith in God, in unity with one another, and in their walk with Jesus Christ. From my experience, the different between someone who pastors others and someone with the title “pastor” often causes problems in Jesus’ church – problems that hinder the kind of growth and maturity that I mentioned earlier.

So, I wrote these posts for two audiences:

1) I wrote these posts for those who have been given or who have assumed the title “pastor.” You have the title, but do you actually spend time caring for and serving other people? I know your initial answer is, “Yes.” But, I’m asking you to look deep down, into your own life and into the lives of those around you. If you do not know them well enough to look into their lives, then you are probably not pastoring them. Start caring for God’s people – even if it means that you can’t do the things that people expect from a “pastor.”

2) I also wrote these posts for those who do not have the title “pastor.” Guess what? You are still called by God to pastor others. God desires all of his children to spend time with one another, to share their lives with one another, and to help one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ. This is pastoring, and God will do this work through you if you will allow it. Do not wait on people with titles to start caring for others. Start caring for God’s people now.

It really is that simple. Oh, it won’t be easy, and you will probably face opposition – even from those who should be your friends.

But, start pastoring God’s people anyway. Then, watch in amazement what God does through you. The people are his flock anyway. He wants to work through you (and others) to care for them. Give him the opportunity.

What pastoring is NOT

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in blog links, elders | 15 comments

What pastoring is NOT

Continuing my (unintentional) series on pastoring, I want to link to a new blog site (for me). I noticed this site because of a link to my post “The dangers of ‘pastoring’ hundreds or thousands.”

The post I’m referring to was written by Reuben at “Phoenix Preacher” and is called “Christ is the Head of the Church. Period.

While Reuben’s post focuses on one particular (celebrity) church leader, I would like to point out a more general section where he discusses what pastoring is NOT:

This needs to be clarified by maybe discussing what a pastor is not. A pastor does not lock himself in an office and study for 50 hours a week while “elders and deacons” or simple pew pigeons are out doing the ministry. That is what you call a paid theologian. Case closed. A pastor does not spend his days in the back of a coffee house running up the church credit card while blogging and facebooking all week. A pastor does not take off on 6 month book tours, speaking at every church in the country but his own. These are bloggers, or professional speakers, but not pastors. A pastor does not cut out the kind of crowd he wants swamping the church every Sunday, building prejudice, stereotypes, mockeries, and foul theology to cut people from the herd because of their clothes, weight, or choice of TV shows.

I think there are many activities and examples that could be added to this list, but it’s definitely a good start.

Pastoring is about caring for people – actively caring for and helping people.

(Note: I removed the quotes for “Dan”… who is apparently allergic to them.)

A little about my pastors

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in community, discipleship, elders | Comments Off

A little about my pastors

In my last two posts, I’ve talked about “pastoring” people. In one, I suggested that it is impossible for someone to shepherd hundreds or thousands of people. (See “The dangers of ‘pastoring’ hundreds or thousands.”) In the other, I suggested that we often consider the wrong things when we look for leaders among the church. (See “But he has an MDiv and ordination papers.”)

Given the topic of those posts, I thought this would be a good opportunity to answer a question that I’m asked fairly often: What are our pastors like? Well, thank you for asking. (And, if you didn’t ask, thank you for reading anyway.)

We’re a small group of believers by almost any standard. We typically gather with more than 2 or 3, but much fewer than 100. Even among a small group like this, we’ve recognized five mature brothers that we refer to as elders.

Each of these men have a family – with two, three, or even four children – and each of them works at least one full time job. (Since I am one of those recognized as “elders,” you can assume that everything after this refers to the others recognized as elders.) And, they are awesome at caring for other people!

Are they perfect? Of course not. Do they sometimes make mistakes? Yep. Do they have family, relational, work, financial, emotional, etc. struggles? Yes. But, I still say that they are awesome at caring for other people.

They spend time with others. They give of themselves over and over again. They serve. They teach. They help. They encourage. They constantly point people toward Jesus Christ. And, by the way, I’m not talking about them doing these things on Sundays when we gather together as a group of believers regularly. I’m talking about what they do daily.

But, guess what? While these men are great at pastoring others, these are not the only pastors in my life. God has placed many people in my life who are constantly caring for me and pointing me toward Jesus Christ and helping me walk with him. These people are my pastors as well. They teach me. They disciple me. They shepherd me.

Some of these people are students; some have been out of school for a long time. Some of them are younger; some are older. Some are men; some are women. Some are new believers; some have been following Jesus Christ for longer than I’ve been alive. Some meet with us weekly; some do not.

But, all of these people are pastors, and they all have one thing in common (besides being brothers and sisters in Christ): they spend time with me and my family in order to help us trust God.

These are my pastors. I wish I could share them with you. I know that they would be an encouragement to you just as they are to me.

Tell us about the pastors that God has placed in your life.

The dangers of “pastoring” hundreds or thousands

Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in community, discipleship, elders | 6 comments

The dangers of “pastoring” hundreds or thousands

For most of my 30 plus years of experience in the church, “pastoring” was a function relegated to one or two (perhaps a few) and towards hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of people. So, on the average, one person was responsible for “pastoring” hundreds of others, while those hundreds were primarily responsible for being pastored.

From what I’ve seen in seminary and from the books and articles and blog posts that I’ve read, this is normal. Pastoring is seen as something that is done to hundreds or thousands of people at a time.

There is a huge problem inherent in this system: it teaches people to “care” from a distance in an impersonal and general way. This is not the way that Jesus cared for people or that we are instructed to care for people in the pages of Scripture.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Jesus or Paul or Peter or others did not speak to large crowds. They did. But they also made a distinction between the crowds and the disciples. Jesus spoke of the few “sheep” who heard his voice. He was their shepherd (pastor); he was not the shepherd for the crowd.

So, yes, we can and should proclaim the gospel to large crowds of unbelievers – whenever and wherever we have the opportunity. That’s not what I’m talking about, and it’s not what the authors of Scripture are talking about when they call for us to shepherd and care for one another.

So, what are the dangers of “pastoring” hundreds or thousands of people?

1) You do not actually know the people. You may tell yourself that you do; but you don’t – you can’t. Therefore, you can only deal with generalities or with big problems that are finally brought to your attention – usually long after the people actually needed help.

2) You teach people (by example) that this is the way that they should care for others. We wonder why other Christians do not get involved in each other’s lives, but this is exactly what is being modeled. They are “pastoring” others in the way they have learned from people “pastoring” them.

3) You change the meanings (unintentionally, certainly) of vast passages of Scripture. Those passages that talk about love, and care, and giving, and service, and shepherding, etc. must be reduced and modified to fit into the current system. The idea of actually getting involved in people’s lives – in both the good times and the bad – and letting them into your life, becomes impossible and therefore outside the realm of interpretation.

I didn’t write this post out of hurt or anger. I understand the position that many people find themselves in. But, I also understand the difficult of working through this problems. I’ve had to relearn what it means to shepherd people and what it means to be shepherded by others. Together, we’ve had to relearn what it means to care for one another and share our lives together. It is possible to change the way we interact with one another in Christ.

Some say that it’s impossible to change the system. I’m not concerned about changing the system at all. Instead, I’m more interested in seeing God’s people begin to grow in their relationship with God and their mutual relationships with one another. And, I think the idea that someone can “pastor” hundreds or thousands of people hinders that.

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits – Conclusion

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in discipleship, elders | 8 comments

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits – Conclusion

Last week, I published the first five posts in this series on the connection between elders/pastors and financial benefits. After introducing the series, in the next four posts, I analyzed the only three passages in Scripture that mention elders/pastors and finances in the same contexts: Acts 20:33-35, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and 1 Peter 5:2.

In those passages, I concluded that Luke recorded Paul referred to his own example and told the elders from Ephesus to work with their hands (separate from their work shepherding and helping others) so that they could support themselves and others. (Acts 20:33-35) While it’s impossible to tell whether or not “double honor” refers to some kind of financial benefit, Paul tells Timothy that the “double honor” should be given to those elders who are already leading well and working hard in the word and teaching. “Double honor” is not given so that so someone would serve as an elder. (1 Timothy 5:17-18) Finally, Peter said that elders should not serve for the purpose of financial gain, but should do so freely. (1 Peter 5:2)

So, in the only passages of Scripture in which elders/pastors and financial benefits are mentioned in the same context, there is no indication that churches should pay salaries to people so that they will be their elders/pastors. In fact, these passages teach the opposite: elders/pastors serve others without regard to any type of financial benefit and work (independent of the “work” shepherding others) to support themselves.

Now, as I said in the introduction, I said that Scripture does not support the idea of paying a salary to someone to be an elder/pastor. The passages that I analyzed above form part of the reason that I believe that. However, these passages are not the only reasons that I believe Scripture does not teach that people should be paid salaries so that they will be elders/pastors. There are other passages that inform my understanding on that topic as well.

For example (but again, not extensively), Galatians 6:6 is one of the passages that most clearly indicates that some type of financial gift could be given from one Christian to another based on someone’s service. Here is that passage:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. (Galatians 6:6 ESV)

Now, the phrase “all good things,” may not refer to some type of financial benefit, but it could refer to that. However, the problem is that “all good things” is to be shared with “the one who teaches.” This does not refer exclusively to elders/pastors but to anyone who teaches someone else. There is nothing in the passage or context that reduces the phrase “the one who teaches” to only certain people teaching in certain contexts. Instead, in this passage, Paul is talking to “the one who is taught” and instructing that person about their response to someone (anyone) who teaches them.

Many times, other passages are brought into this discussion, passages such as 1 Corinthians 9 or Matthew 10. However, these passages specifically refer to apostles or others who are traveling away from home (see 3 John for another example of these itinerant servants). The authors of Scripture clearly indicate that we should care for those who are traveling away from home – which means they are also traveling away from their places of business and source of income. (Of course, some itinerant servants – perhaps many – can support themselves while they travel, and so they should.) Elders do not travel away from their home, so the connection is not valid.

The same could be said for arguments that reach back to the Levites or priests in the Old Testament. The Levites were not allowed to own land which meant that they could not use their land to support themselves. Again, this is not the case today for elders. Also, the New Testament authors never connect elders/pastors with Levites or priests. Instead, all believers are said to be priests now.

Finally, the argument is made that it is beneficial for the church if elders/pastors can spend more of their time studying, preparing lessons/sermons, discipling people, administrating the church programs, etc. These are not scriptural arguments, and these are not responsibilities placed on the shoulders of elders/pastors. It is much more beneficial for the church for elders/pastors to “work with their hands” to support themselves and, at the same time, serve others in the ways that God has gifted them. Why is this beneficial? Because this is what every other believer does, and according to Paul the church grows when all believers work together, not when the elders/pastors have more time to do the work.

Yes, it would be a huge change to elders/pastors and to churches if churches did not pay salaries to people in order for them to be their elders/pastors. In the short term, it would be difficult for all involved, and if anyone decides to move in this direction, it should be carried out carefully. However, in the long run, it would be better for both the churches and the elders/pastors.

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Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Acts 20:33-35
  3. 1 Timothy 5:17
  4. 1 Timothy 5:18
  5. 1 Peter 5:2
  6. Conclusion

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits in 1 Peter 5:2

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in discipleship, elders, scripture | 8 comments

Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits in 1 Peter 5:2

In many sectors of the church, elders/pastors and financial benefits seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, until a few years ago, I had never heard of a church that did not fall into one of the following categories: 1) already employed one or more people as elders/pastors, 2) actively looking for one or more people to employ as elders/pastors, or 3) could not afford to hire someone as elder/pastor but was working toward that goal.

In this series, I am examining three passages (in four posts) in which elders/pastors and financial benefits are explicitly connected. Those three passages are Acts 20:33-35, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and 1 Peter 5:2. I think it is important to analyze each passage to determine what it can or cannot mean before synthesizing the information together to help us understand what Scripture says about the connection between elders/pastors and financial benefits.

In this post, I’m going to examine what Peter wrote to elders in 1 Peter 5:2 regarding elders/pastors and financial benefits. (By the way, of these three passages, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 is not written to elders. Only Acts 20:33-35 and 1 Peter 5:1-4 are written directly to elders.)

Here is the passage that Peter wrote directly to elders:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4 ESV)

Peter uses three pair of contrasting descriptors to explain how he expects elders to shepherd by exercising oversight: 1) not under compulsion but willingly, 2) not for shameful gain but eagerly, and 3) not domineering but being examples. The pair of descriptors that may indicate some type of financial benefits for elders is the second pair: not for shameful gain but eagerly.

These two descriptors are composed of adjectives. The first has the following range of meanings: “eagerness for gain,” “greedily,” “fond of sordid gain,” etc. The primary idea is a desire for money. The second adjective as the following range of meanings: “willingly,” “eagerly,” “freely.”

If we recognize that Peter was using these descriptors to contrast one another, we see that he is pitting the idea of shepherding others with a purpose of financial gain versus shepherding others willingly or freely. Unfortunately, interpreters often focus on the “sordid gain” (or “filthy lucre”) range of meanings of the first adjective and miss the second contrasting adjective. Peter is not telling them to seek “good” financial gain instead of “bad” financial gain. He’s telling them to serve other free of charge.

Of course, once again, this does not mean that NO financial benefits may come their way. Instead, Peter is saying that they should not serve so that they can earn financial benefits. So, for Peter, the elders should shepherd others even if they receive no money or other financial benefits in return.

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Elders/Pastors and Financial Benefits Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Acts 20:33-35
  3. 1 Timothy 5:17
  4. 1 Timothy 5:18
  5. 1 Peter 5:2
  6. Conclusion