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Motives and Compensation for Church Leaders

Peter was one of the pillars of the early church. Peter walked alongside Jesus throughout His ministry; 1 Peter 5:1 and 2 Peter 1:16 tell us that Peter was an eye witness to Jesus' preaching, teaching, miracles, and even His transfiguration. Peter preached the first ever sermon in the history of Christianity on the day of Pentecost, and 3,000 people responded to the "altar call." Peter knew what it took to serve God's people.

Elder, Pastor, Shepherd

1 Peter 5:1 addresses the leaders of the churches, and there, Peter offered some critical insight on God's plan for elders (or pastors), whom he also described as shepherds. The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. (1 Peter 5:1) The term elder doesn't refer to chronological age alone; it relates to the office of Senior Pastor or the Bishop over the churches. Notice that Peter acknowledged that he too was an elder. Peter wrote that he, along with other elders, were sharers in the glory that shall be revealed. The word glory is doxa in Greek. It means honor, praise, and worship. I believe Peter was referencing what would be revealed in the 2nd coming of the Lord.

Feed the Flock with the Right Motives

Although Peter was in the fishing business before he began in ministry, he was keenly aware of agricultural practices. Nearly everyone in those days grew some of their own food or tended sheep, so Peter’s analogy was clearly understood by those to whom he wrote. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. (1 Peter 5:2) The flock is the church. The Elder's (or the Senior Pastor's) job is to take oversight as a shepherd would his sheep. In today's language, we would say the Pastor's job is to lead, guide, run, and manage things.

Peter then discussed the motives for pastoring. A Pastor's heart must be right as he goes about his task of feeding the sheep; no one should be a pastor because he or she was forced to do it. Neither should a pastor accept that position merely as a way to make money.

Not All Lucre is Filthy

The only proper motive for becoming a pastor is to obey God. Seeking greater financial standing should never be the reason someone stands behind the holy desk! First of all, there are many other things a person can do in a free enterprise system that will create more money with much less frustration! Pastoring is challenging work. The hours are long, and positive comments about the work you do may be few and far between. However, while the money should never be the motivation to enter the ministry, pastors should be adequately compensated for what they do. When Peter referred to filthy lucre, he didn’t mean that all money is dirty. As a Jewish business owner, he understood that part of God’s Covenant was to bless them in the city, in the field, in the fruit of the ground, their cattle, their sheep and in everything they put their hands to! (Deuteronomy 28:1-8) God would not bless you with something dirty! However, wealth becomes filthy if you love money more than people or value income over obedience to God.

Adequate Compensation

While some may be lured into ministry for the wrong motives, that doesn’t mean that God won’t bless those who answer His call, obey Him, and feed and serve His flock. Pastors should be adequately compensated for their work. Paul wrote, For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (1 Corinthians 9:9-11) Those who plow the ground, do the work, and stand and hold the church up should be paid.

Paul continued, 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 Corinthians 9:13-14) Notice that the Lord is the One who ordained that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. Granted, some ministers have taken advantage of people, mishandled money, and focused on their own well-being more than on the needs of God's people. However, those cases, although they may get a lot of attention, are very rare.

Pastors should be adequately compensated, but what that number is will vary depending on several things. First, who establishes the compensation plan? The Pastor should not set his or her own salary. I have a committee that hires a national accounting firm. That group assesses the income of the church and the work I've done, and they adjust my compensation accordingly.

You can't base a pastor's pay on what you or another person think is appropriate because everything is relative. For example, a successful business owner and minimum wage earner will see things entirely differently. Let's say the Pastor makes $50,000 a year. The entrepreneur who brings in $300,000 annually may think the Pastor isn't paid enough while the worker making $20,000 will think the Pastor is overpaid. The Pastor's wages should be set by an independent and non-partisan group based on empirical data, not on feelings or opinions.

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