Dependency on ministry paychecks is not a new dilemma in the church.
In some sense, it has always been and will always be an issue. When you read the New Testament, it can seem like Paul was always dealing with money issues—trying to navigate those difficult dynamics of needing money for more his full-time ministry life, yet not wanting to be a burden so that nothing would stand in hindrance of the gospel message he was proclaiming.
However, the American church really only struggles in one direction with this money issue.
I was recently reading in 2 Corinthians 12:14-15, where Paul says,
“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
And I thought, I don’t know a single pastor or preacher who could say anything like that. Not even close.
Many pastors and their families are so desperately in need of more money, from a combination of small ministry pay and large lifestyle choices, that they will “job hop” to find more income. Dump one group of people for the next big, hopeful opportunity. Netflix and the new cars won’t pay for themselves.
Yet there are numerous good and faithful men and their families who scrape by, live frugal, and stay faithful, and do a good job of guarding against lust of the world and materialism or despair from lack. I personally know a few good men who are working some side hustles in order to supplement a small church income.
Yet, even in these cases, two troubling realities remain:
- They’re still dependent on the church to feed and clothe their family and themselves.
- They’re taking the vast majority of the church’s available funds.
Many words can be said about this and why these are troubling realities, but I’m not going to say them all now. The broadest overview is this:
When a man is dependent on the church, it is very hard for him to say, as Paul could, “I seek not what is yours, but you.”
He cannot be bold and clear and say the hard things that his people need to hear in order to feel the need for repentance. He need them feeling happy and supportive of him. He needs what they have. It’s too risky to say something that might push them away. So he better keep it at all at least in vague generalities that could apply to anyone, but most likely apply to “those people, out there.”
Secondly, he doesn’t have much to spend for their souls. Now, of course the right pietistic “churchy” answer here is, “I spend my time, and energy, and emotion, and spiritual fervor for them day and night!” and I hope that’s true. But, in the real world, when we take off our “super-spiritual” pastor mask, we all know that if we had more money to spend on reaching people, we’d reach more people.
Host a free dinner for college students the same time every week and see how often you get to share the gospel with college students. Hint: it’s A LOT.
Hire a few more young men of integrity to modernize your, well, everything, and simultaneously be training and discipling them to take over leadership. See if you don’t reach more people.
But, of course, that all takes a good bit of money… which is paying for the pastor’s many bills and retirement fund (if he’s lucky) still.
So here’s the deal, we need more pastors dependent on less paychecks.
And I’m not talking the famous celebrity pastors who had a best-seller book that now funds them. No, that’s unlikely and almost always requires saying soft-soap Christianese spiritual talk that the masses want to hear, which, is the exact opposite of why we’re needing this…
I’m talking about young men who start early in being a man, hustling hard, rejecting debt, saving their earnings, investing in businesses, productive property, and passive income sources, and building a household economy, and then become pastors.
Perhaps, if you’ve lived well and been blessed with some financial intake you’ve managed to store up, or some investors who trust your abilities and work ethic, you could also start at this during an older age, or even middle-age.
Perhaps, if you’re really thinking kingdom-minded, you won’t spend it on entertaining yourself through your old age and you’ll invest it and/or leave an inheritance so other pastors could do this.
The point is, our church is in desperate need of a reformation, top to bottom, through and through, all across this nation. One of the greatest hindrances to this is otherwise good men who could maybe step up to speak up who are muzzled with debt and dependency and thus a real fear for the sake of their livelihoods and families.
This has been a lingering issue in my mind for many years now. Something I’ve changed nearly every part of my life to address, and made some decent progress in.
Then, as if I needed more confirmation, 2020 made it abundantly clear the Church is crippled by this reality (and obviously a slew of other issues). The days ahead look bleak. The temptations to soften and fearfully cling to a diminishing stream of funds while creating a weak and pathetic church, or even strengthen the stream by tickling ears and creating a false and damning church, are going to rise and rise in the days ahead. There is no doubt. We have already lost many, and we will lose many more men to these temptations.
However, though the best time to start changing the trajectory was years ago, the second best time is now. And, of course, the Lord always provides means for his people, called according to his good purpose, to soldier on.
Let’s ask him for help, and get to work.
P.S. I’ll be publishing on this more here—exploring this is a primary reason I started this blog many years ago—so subscribe if you’re interested. I haven’t published much because I’ve been really busy really working… and learning. I now have a few things to say.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m just working on this as I go. Trying to learn. Trying to teach. This is why I’ll also be doing a series of recordings—I suppose you could call it a podcast show—with a friend and fellow HNR.GD Network member, Scott Tungay, who is constantly exploring this topic and working on this issue as well. We’ll be sharing are learnings and explorations as we press on in this journey. We’ll be announcing more details on TheMajestysMen.com, where these conversations will be hosted, very soon.
If you’re reading this and interested in exploring this further, or have any suggestions, leave a comment or contact me. I’d love to help you or learn from you.