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Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37186
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11

 Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

Should Preachers be Paid?

The following question came to me this week from a dear brother regarding the financial support of a pastor:

"Mack-- I have a quick question- Have you heard of a book called "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna? I an email from a person in our church regarding this, and I have never heard of this book or the authors. I shared the Scriptures in 1 Cor 9 and 1 Tim about pastors/elders being supported by the church, and how it is biblical. Just curious if you have heard of this book or the authors? A person I know is reading this book and it is scaring me. The book states that churches shouldn't meet in buildings and that pastors shouldn't be paid because all the tithes should go toward the poor, widows, orphans, etc. So now someone I know says they are going to a house church with a couple who read this book because they want an "organic church." The book repeatedly refers to Paul as the model pastor who refused money for his preaching. But according to the negative reviews of the book, the only verses cited in the book are those which support the authors' viewpoint."

My reply

Dear brother,

These men, Mr. Viola and Mr. Barna, do not know the Bible well enough or they would not espouse such a view, much less, write a book that states such a position. It is a radically extreme tangent steming from Emergent theology which they are teaching that is not the position of the New Testament. To put it simply, they are wrong about this.

Viola and Barna cite the apostle Paul's refusal of any financial support in 1 Corinthians 9 as their proof text to say categorically that no pastors or ministers ought to be financially supported.

Let's think about the issue more fully. Paul, as a pioneering apostle, preached the gospel and was establishing churches in areas where the gospel had never been preached; thus he made a free choice to not receive any support directly from the places where he was laboring, NOT as a permanent pastoring elder, but as a missionary who would be moving on after the church was established. He did this directly for the purpose that no one in such a context could ever say that he came there to preach with wrong motives for money.

But If one takes the time to include all the verses that address the issue, they have to include not only 1 Cor. 9:7-14, but also Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7, and 1 Tim. 5:17-18, all of which directly teach the financial support of preachers, evangelists, or pastoring elders.

This is not an unclear or complicated issue. You have to be either biblical ignorant or dishonest with what Scripture actually says on this point to deny the clear teaching of the New Testament that the financial support of ministers is a God-ordained principle of truth. Men who are called of God have the freedom to decline support and they often do, for various reasons. But any biblical church does not have the freedom to withhold the support or to view it as being wrong or questionable. God has given commandment that it ought to be provided.

Let's look at what both Paul and Jesus say about this issue of the support of gospel ministers.

In 1 Cor. 9:7-14, Paul clearly teaches that ministers are to be supported; the context without question is the gospel ministry and the physical, financial support that ought to come to those who labor in it. Far from arguing against the support of preachers, Paul is arguing FOR it.

In vs. 7, he uses three illustrations, all which are chosen to affirm support of preachers by churches:

1) "Do soldiers go to war or give service at their own expense?"-- obvious implication- NO

2) "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of the fruit?"-- obvious answer- NO ONE

3) "Who feeds a flock and does not drink some of the milk of the flock?" -- obvious answer- NO ONE

The three illustrations all are given to confirm a universal truth-- those who labor at something are to be rewarded with provision directly because of that labor and in proportion to that labor.

Then in vss. 8-10, Paul affirms that this is not just his opinion, when he says, "Am I saying these things just as a man? Or does not the law say the same thing? for it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn' (Deut. 25:4); does God take care of oxen? Or, says He it altogether for our sakes? for our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he that plows should plow in hope and he that threshes in hope should partake of his hope." Thus Paul affirms, without question, that this is not just his opinion but rather is God's ordinance.

Paul then applies this to the Old Testament priests, which he refers to in vs. 13: "Do you 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?"

Then the finishing statement is beyond question in verse 14, which verse has only thus far been illustrated by Paul, but now he says it openly and directly: "Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."

Paul has said that he has chosen, in his particular situation, to forgo that privilege because he is an apostle: "Nevertheless, we have not used this power, but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." (vs. 12) Paul, laboring where the gospel has never been preached, chooses this path to make absolutely sure that no one can ever say that he has come into a geographical area as a stranger and is preaching with a motive for financial gain. That is why he gives his example, not as the rule, but as the exception to the rule.

His example of declining support is the exception, not the rule; otherwise, why would he argue so clearly for the support of ministers if he is setting his example forth as the rule to follow? His entire teaching through this chapter affirms that pastoral support is right and is to be commended rather than avoided. Paul's choice to decline it is for himself, but he never even infers this to be the standard for all other ministers, especially elders who labor pastorally in a local church.

So 1 Corinthians 9, which contains Paul's decline of ministerial financial support, is a powerful argument FOR ministerial support-- that it is the revealed will of God and is the general principle which ought to be followed. Ministers can decline available support if their situation lends itself to that choice, but the church never has the freedom to withhold it or for anyone to judge a man wrong if he receives it.

Then we come to 1 Timothy 5, which contains instructions for the local church, such as the treatment of older men, younger men, widows, and then elders, which are pastoring elders in the church. In vs. 17, he says: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine." Paul here makes a clear statement of command concerning what the church is to do toward the support of their pastoring elders, especially for those who "labor (work hard at) at preaching and teaching." The church is to give "double honor" to those who do this, and then he clarifies and defines what that means, making it clear that he is talking about support in the physical (carnal) and financial realm by quoting again Deut. 25:4, what he's already said to the Corinthians on the same issue in 1 Corinthians 9:9: "You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn", thus affirming to Timothy that this is divine law and the reveal standard of God.

Secondly, in the same verse 18, Paul quotes Jesus from Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7, where our Lord, in sending out preachers and evangelists, stated that "the laborer is worthy of his hire", thus showing the Lord gave clear instruction that the gospel laborer will be provided for in and through his labors in the kingdom.

When these texts are seen in their context, it is clear that Paul was not giving his example of declining support as the obligatory rule for all ministers who are pastoring or preaching. Instead, both Paul and Jesus affirm that such support is correct, logical, needed, and is the revealed will of God.

By the way, it is also true that other churches DID support Paul at different times, especially the Philippian church, which he makes abundantly clear in his writings.

So in using Paul's example of declining support, Viola and Barna tell only half the story, give half the facts and half the truth, if indeed this is what they mean, when they conclude and teach others that it is wrong to pay preachers or elders because Paul was not supported. This completely misrepresents the New Testament position.

It's sad and too bad that people are led to extreme and tangent positions on such issues by men who clearly do not know what they are talking about, but want to convince the wider evangelical community that they do. Regarding this area of eccelessiology in church life and doctrine, their position is a departure from the entire history of evangelical truth. These men ought to stick to what they do best, whatever that is, which is not interpreting the Bible. On this issue, Viola and Barna are weighed in the balance of biblical truth and are found to fail the test. The New Testament clearly teaches that ministers and pastors ought to be supported. Those who disagree are simply wrong because they are either misinformed, uninformed or dishonest.

I suppose the conclusion concerning our brother's question at the beginning is simply this-- Perhaps we ought to agree with Jesus and Paul on this matter of paying preachers rather than Viola and Barna. That, to me, seems very safe and much healthier for the church of Jesus Christ and the advance of the gospel.

And a final word to all you laborers-- you are worthy of your hire!! Jesus is the one who said it; Praise the Great Shepherd of the sheep for that abiding truth! So keep on laboring !!

-- Mack Tomlinson

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2011/5/4 22:44Profile

Joined: 2009/8/31
Posts: 416
Ohio USA

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

Good truth.


 2011/5/4 23:22Profile

Joined: 2009/5/15
Posts: 1042
Pacific Ocean

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

Great article.

Jeremiah Dusenberry

 2011/5/5 0:22Profile

Joined: 2009/1/7
Posts: 76

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

Viola and Barna cite the apostle Paul's refusal of any financial support in 1 Corinthians 9 as their proof text to say categorically that no pastors or ministers ought to be financially supported.

Can you give me the reference please in "Pagan Christianity" where this statement is made?
Thank you.

 2011/5/5 2:20Profile

Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 3396
This world is not my home anymore.

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

It's a fine line, it truly is. Between 5 and 7 or 8 years ago, I was being paid for being a "worship coordinator," which came out to about $250.00 a month in the form of a 'gas card.' And I became dependent upon it, so much so that when the Lord wanted me to leave, I hesitated because of the money (I made excuses to stay).

It was nice to get paid for something I loved to do but when I knew the pastor was lying and manipulating not only me but several others, it took me a year to get out from under that pastor and that 'gas card.' Looking back, it all seems so silly but at the time it wasn't.

I learned then that our spending habits make us prey to the enemy, especially in church (if that makes sense).

(edit: And if it affected 'me' who only made $250 a month, how does it affect someone who is making $10,000 or MORE?)

God bless,


 2011/5/5 5:10Profile

Joined: 2010/5/17
Posts: 1175


But Lysa, wouldn't you say that has more to do with the recipient's heart, than with the Biblical principal laid down?

Just asking, because if we go down that road, we might end up at things like, "Christians should never take any well paying job, or do anything that could profit them financially, lest the money become a snare..." And I've seen and heard of that stuff being preached. Just curious, that's all.

 2011/5/5 5:30Profile

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

Just asking, because if we go down that road, we might end up at things like, "Christians should never take any well paying job, or do anything that could profit them financially, lest the money become a snare..." And I've seen and heard of that stuff being preached. Just curious, that's all.

There is a world of difference between a Christian having a well-paid job for which he trained in the secular world, and a church member who may or may not have been called to certain role in the church - even as a full time worker - believing it is the responsibility of the rest of the church members to support them.

Further, that mention of 'double honour' is about honour, not money. No pastor or elder has a right to an income that is any higher than he needs to live with his wife and family in a modest way. He has no scriptural support for taking double - especially not double the salary of the highest paid in his church. Of course the church must support certain expenses, but, if there is no money, he doesn't have a right to expect others to sacrifice so that he continues to live well above their means.

 2011/5/5 9:10

Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 3396
This world is not my home anymore.

 Re: Should Preachers Be Paid? - Mack Tomlinson

You make an excellent point with a person's heart b/c at the time I was a single mother barely getting by and gas prices were just starting to go over $2.00!!

When I read your response brother, I heard a 'yes, it was your heart' in my heart; when I hear that, I have to it did take me a year to make a decision to trust the Lord or stay with the gas card.

I do believe that a workman is worth his hire. Thank you for pointing me out!!

(edit) I've been thinking this morning about this. You know, there is nothing wrong with the the Lord blessing His workman but in my case (and I can only speak about myself), when the Lord showed me that I needed to walk away from the church and the gas card, I hesitated for a year making excuses. The Lord is not glorified in our trusting mammon more than Him. That was the point that I tried but failed to make.(/edit)

God bless you!


 2011/5/5 9:12Profile

Joined: 2009/9/4
Posts: 20


Great topic. I think some wise words (see below) by Bro Zac Poonen for those you are called to full time ministry and their dealings with money, but also I 've heard Bro Zac Poonen state He does not judge others on how they do things, and I respect that attitude and the light that has been given him.

At the moment I would say I agree with him, but then again I dont believe I have been called to full time ministry. What do you all think?

16. We must reveal our financial needs only to God
"God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus"

Full-time Christian workers must trust God for all their financial needs and must reveal those needs only to Him. God will then prompt His children to supply their needs . They must not live "by faith in God and hints to other believers", as many live today."The Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel" (1 Cor.9:14). So those who serve the Lord full time are permitted to receive gifts from other believers. But they must never receive a salary. There is a vast difference between gifts and a salary. Gifts cannot be demanded, whereas a salary can be demanded. Here lies the cause for the backslidden condition of most Christian churches and institutions today.

We must however, never receive any gifts for our personal or family use from people who are poorer than us. If such people give us gifts, we must either give the money away to someone poorer than them or put the money into the offering-box for the Lord's work.

Here are "Ten Commandments" on money that all fulltime workers will do well to take
heed to:
1. Never make your financial needs known to anyone but God (Phil.4:19).
2. Never accept money from unbelievers (3 John 7).
3. Never expect any gifts from anyone (Psa.62:5).
4. Never allow anyone to control you or influence your ministry by giving you money.
5. Never accept money from those who don't receive your ministry.
6. Never accept money for your personal or family needs, from anyone poorer than you.
7. Never be dependent on any man for your financial needs.
8. Never handle God's money in a way that would cause others to suspect mishandling (2 Cor.8:20,21).
9. Never be excited when you receive money.
10. Never be depressed when you lose money.

I hope these truths will not only encourage you, but liberate you as well. If you are
serious about your walk with the Lord and your ministry, you should take all these truths
seriously in your daily life.

Copyright by Zac Poonen from His book 'Knowing God's ways'




 2011/5/5 9:18Profile

Joined: 2009/2/20
Posts: 494
Celina, Texas


That is absolutely beautiful. I have to admit that I have not listened to Zac. That may shock many but I haven't. However, I will now. Can men not discern how this glorifies God. How this is an exercise of unadulterated faith? We are truly people of little faith today and it is becoming exceedingly clearer to me that this is the case.

I've sat in a small church where 9 individuals visited unidentified in order to consider the recruit of the Pastor and entice him away from the body by upping the salary of this preacher and upgrade him to a church of greater financial opportunity. This is not unusual today. I saw, even in my ignorance at the time, more world in that than I would ever learn from the world itself. How blind is this generation when they cannot tell what honors God. How deceived and like the world have we become when we are more at home trusting in the practices of the world and placing a religious stamp on them than trusting God to provide? I sometimes wonder if babes are not more discerning than those who are supposed to be more mature believers? Much of this can be attributed to the influences of tradition in religion amongst those who should be more discerning in the faith.

 2011/5/5 14:03Profile

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