Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Modern Dilemma of Funding Full-Time Ministry


These are just a few of my thoughts spawned by the thoughts in this article regarding whether or not full-time pastors should be given a salary by the church or earn their own keep:

Making the Old Paradigm the New Paradigm for "Full Time" Ministry

I understand the point this pastor is trying to make, but I'm not sure he understands the underlying problems of financing "full-time" ministry.

We base our churches providing a living wage to ministers on how the Old Testament priests were provided for, through the tithes of the people to whom they ministered. Likewise, Paul mentions this same principle for providing for full-time ministers in the New Testament church when he says, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:13, 14)

One problem with this model in some churches is that the pastor is often expected to be the lone ranger minister. He holds all the offices of the church at once with the exceptions (but not always) of music and money. Yet, expecting a man to work as a full-time, lone-ranger pastor while also holding down a full-time job to support his stay-at-home wife and children is IMPOVERISHING if not IMPOSSIBLE. I know this from personal experience. In fact, my husband left Bible college and immediately had to choose between providing for his family and ministering full-time. In good conscience, he had to work.


Also, the more socialized we become, the more there is a drain on our earned wages, and the more there is a pressure for everyone to work. This has most recently been realized in the "Affordable" Care Act. With this added financial burden on working families, smaller congregations are finding it nearly impossible to raise enough funds to provide for their full-time pastors in the first place and especially with the added burden of providing health insurance for him and his family also. Yet, the fact that these congregations are small is another problem with tithe-based funding of full-time pastors.

The exodus of a growing number of wage earners to mega churches has sapped the financial resources from smaller congregations who are left with only widows and pensioners who are barely scraping out a living for themselves. As the Industrial Revolution began to change the economies of the West, Rev. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892, the London mega church pastor of his day) felt a burden to raise money to help full-time ministers in impoverished areas. Perhaps mega church leaders could learn from the example of Mr. Spurgeon and take up the cause of their poor brothers in ministry, perhaps by even taking a lesser salary themselves and distributing to others as they have need. Mega churches are all about helping the needy aren't they? Perhaps their piety should begin at home (1 Timothy 5:8).


Yet, the argument could be made that it is more a problem of distribution of duties than distribution of funds. If a congregation is unable to support a full-time minister, then perhaps volunteers could take responsibility for some of the duties of the pastor so he could be free to pursue his own living. At the same time, these ministers must be willing to let go of some of their duties to others who are also gifted. Perhaps sister churches who cannot give funding could provide gifted, qualified members who would be willing to also lend a hand.

And, then we come to the hard questions:

1. Is this full-time minister even gifted to be a minister in the first place? Sometimes congregations are small and unable or unwilling to support a minister full time because he is not ministering to them. This is one way of thinning the herd when it comes to false ministers who probably SHOULD give it up and go find an honest means of providing for themselves.

2. Is it time for this small congregation to sell their assets (or more likely realize their debts) and merge with another established church? Too often it is only pride and lust for power which keeps some of these ghost-of-a-churches in operation. They only take up enough offering to keep the lights, gas, and water on so they can maintain the status quo and keep their independent autonomy. Someone who's been a pillar of the assembly for 40 years might find it difficult to go to another church where he might not be a deacon at all, but a mere mortal member.

I would love to hear the thoughts and ideas of others on this subject. Sadly, we are reaching a point of desperation in this matter.