“If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.
Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.” (1 Corinthians 9:11-15, NKJV)
It is clear that those who minister the Gospel full time, dedicating themselves to serving God and others, should be provided for by those they minister to. We do not have an argument with that. However, the question before us today is, “Should Church Pastors disclose their incomes?”
We live in a day not unlike any other day. There are men and women in pulpits across America that are thieves, fleecing the flock. Warren Wiersbe wrote:
“It is unfortunate when the ministry of the Gospel is sometimes hindered by an overemphasis on money. The unsaved world is convinced that most preachers and missionaries are only involved in ‘religious rackets’ to take money from innocent people. No doubt there are religious ‘racketeers’ in the world today (1 Timothy 6:3-16), people who ‘use’ religion to exploit others and control them. We would certainly not agree with their purposes or their practices. We must make sure that nothing we do in our own ministry gives the impression that we are of their number.”
He wrote this commentary in 1983. We believe that the number of “racketeers” have only increased. Pastor Wiersbe continues:
In that day, the Greek cities were filled with all kinds of itinerant teachers and preachers, most of whom were out to make money. Not only had Paul refused to use the kind of oratory and arguments that these teachers used (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), but he also refused to accept money from those to whom he ministered. He wanted the message of the Gospel to be free from any obstacles or hindrances in the minds of lost sinners.”
And, “For that matter, when Paul added ‘neither have I written these flings’ (1 Corinthians 9:15), he was making sure that his readers did not get the idea that he was ‘hinting’ that they should support him!”
We especially appreciate his comments. Which brings us back to our point: Should Church Pastors disclose their incomes?
There are a number of controversies in the church today regarding pastors and how they have come by their fortunes. Yes, many pastors of “large churches” have become wealthy. Many live in gated communities in million dollar houses.
Now we do not believe that church pastors should live in squalor, which, point in fact, many do. Just look around the world and you will see that most are poor and are persecuted daily, even to the point of death. While the “wealthy pastors” of America enjoy their lifestyles.
Now lest you think we are unjustly persecuting these “wealthy pastors,” we have pastored for 10 years, in Oregon and Oklahoma, respectively. Our last pastorate, we left an $80,000 @ year job in the oilfield to pastor for $24,000 @ year and a $500 health insurance allotment. So if we were “in it for the money,” we were moving backwards. We refused increases in compensation three times and when we left were being compensated $33,000 @ year plus $750 @ month insurance compensation. This was our strong conviction to no enrich ourselves at the expense of the flock of God.
The church published a quarterly statement to the congregation accounting for every cent they gave to the work of God. The annual income for the church typically was $100,000, of which 20% was given to missions. Once a year we would provide to the church board (of which I was president and one voting member) an accounting of the compensation we were given (which included “gifts” and income from speaking and weddings, etc.), including medical expenses. We believed that the church had the right and obligation to know what their pastor did with the compensation they provided through their giving.
Should church pastors disclose their incomes? We believe that the answer is yes. Jesus disclosed His income in Luke 9:58:
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (KJV)
No doubt many church pastors will disagree with me. That’s fine. Disagreeing with me is no sin. In fact, what I am sharing here is my conviction regarding honesty, integrity and openness regarding compensation. And finally, we do not speak for God. These are our convictions based upon the study of the scripture and the Spirit’s conviction of our hearts.
Let us close with the words of Paul the Apostle to a young church pastor:
“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-8, KJV)
Think about it…