Preach For Free? Must Be Crazy!

January 14, 2017


Ever since I have been saved, I have heard that “Preachers are only in it for the money.”  My first pastor was driving a twelve-year-old car, raising four kids on a salary that was equal to what my father-in-law was paying in weekly taxes.   Admittedly, when you look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous TV preachers it is hard to not come up with the conclusion that preachers are all about the shekel.   When you are living in multi-million dollar houses, wearing Rolex watches, have private jets and expensive furniture in your office it does cast a cloud of suspicion on your motives, mission, and message.

I determined early in my ministry that I did not want to be one of those lads.  Even if I made it to TV, I wanted to live on a much simpler budget.   Some men like Alistair Begg do keep things real as he offers all of his online sermons on an offering basis and if you are broke you can still be blessed for free. My pastor does the same with his online material.  A workman is worthy of his hire, but then there is an excessive luxury that neither Jesus, the Apostles or the mighty men of God throughout history ever experienced or desired.

Unfortunately, these folks create headaches for the majority of pastors who are struggling because their churches cannot pay them a decent salary and many work full-time jobs to keep both family and church afloat.  Others are able to pastor without pay because they have other means of income.  These folks do the bulk of ministry in the Kingdom. The other lads have a crowd, but they are not in the trenches ministering to the bulk of the Body.

As of July 4th, 2016, there were 323,148, 587 people in America.  As of July 18th. 2016, ABC news stated that 83% of all Americans identify as Christians or 268,213,327 people.  Add all the mega-churches together and I doubt they come to more than 6 million.  They must be at least 2K or more to be considered a Mega-church.  There are 1210 in the US give or take.  I used an average of 5K per to get the 6 million.

So that means that at least 260+ million Christians are getting ministered to by some other means.  Some are shut-ins so the TV, radio, and Intenet folks are ministering to them, but there is also a local pastor and church group ministering to them  Some of these are full-time pastors with pay and benefits.  Many are full-time pastors on SS or part-timers working a job with a small salary while others are not paid at all.  So who are the real superstars?

With churches in decline, more and more of the pastors are receiving small or no salaries and churches are going without pastors.  Some churches still have parsonages, which they might consider selling, but many do not so a man must provide his own housing on his own dime.  Their reward is in serving Christ and one day they will get a reward in Heaven.  Indeed, some of these churches do more in some areas than some of the big churches.

I know one now that is pastored by a disabled Veteran who takes no salary and has a housebound wife.  He drives at least forty-five miles one way to minister.  They have a soup kitchen weekly and reach out to the poor and homeless with such success that surpasses the ministry of many churches ten times their size and they have only been in existence three years.   May others model them.

People complain about pastor’s salaries and some even teach that a pastor should never have a salary, which is not scriptural.  They that preach the gospel are to live of the gospel and the elder who labors in the Word is worthy of double honor or salary.  That word honor is where we get the term honorarium, which is a payment.  The irony of this is that the one who wrote those words often worked to support himself though he did at times receive funds much like our missionaries. Yet, he took nothing from the church in Corinth and they seemed offended by that.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

He was working and receiving money elsewhere.  The Corinthians had many issues and were a very immature and carnal bunch though they had all the gifts of the Spirit.  That should be a warning and call to assessment for all of us. You can be gifted and still be carnal.  Much care needs to be taken when studying these folks are they are more a study of what not to be than how to be a spirit-filled Christian.

These people were led to Christ by Paul and yet all it took was some folks in fancy attire and glowing referrals to show up and they lost respect for Paul questioning his apostleship.  They may have asked for food, housing, and offerings as well. If you read more about this you see Paul did not have the physique for the cover of GQ and was not an orator like Chrystoom who was known as the golden-mouthed orator.  This did aid his detractors who seemed to feel that God could not use a physically beat up man with a less than perfect elocution.  I am glad that God did use him because I am a better writer than a speaker and you will never see me on GQ as well.

I have found that people who cuss about how much a pastor makes also have an issue with a man who will minister for less or even for free.  A man once looked at my resume and said that my problem was that I did not have enough titles or paid positions, which churches looked for when calling a pastor.  I thought that would be a plus showing I was not seeking to serve for a title or filthy lucre.  Go figure.

I once told a church that I would come for 10K less than they offered so they could use that many to pay off the mortgage give it to missions.  I guess I sounded weird, desperate or crazy.  Who asks for a lower salary rather than more?  I just did not need as much as they offered to take care of my family.

If I sounded weird to them, I must really drive folks nuts now when I tell them I will fill in for their pastor, be an interim or do a revival or evangelistic service for free.  I recently offered my services to local funeral homes and told them to especially consider me for people who not only have no local pastor but also for those who need to keep down expenses as I do not require payment.  My card, I know, is on file with one, but the others may have put it in their round file thinking I am crazy.  We shall see.

1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

I like the way Paul said this.  It is his reward to preach without charge.  I guess he was crazy, also.  Like my disabled Vet friend, my needs are well cared for and I retired to serve.  Most of my ministry over the years has been unpaid and that is cool as I did not abuse my power and cannot be accused of it.  All of those folks who fussed about preachers in the early days would have to hush looking at my ministry career.

Would it have been great if I could have had a full-time paid ministry? Yes, I could have done more.  The advantage besides not being able to be accused of wanting “easy” money is that no one controlled me.  My family’s welfare did not depend on my ministerial income.  I have seen men kicked out with little/no warning, no severance pay and unable to draw unemployment as a pastor is considered self-employed.  Not very Christian, but it happens more than I would care to think.

Some churches entrap and control a man with their pay and benefits so that they can decide what he will preach and what he will not preach.  An old song talks about tiptoeing through the tithers.  Another speaks of not making the teachers or the deacons’ wives mad.  There is much truth in those thoughts as many seasoned ministers can affirm.  I never had a strong fear of that as I was looking for a place to minister when I got to where I was and my family would eat with or without the pleasure of those folks.  Every place I served, I hoped I would be serving there until death or Rapture, but it was not the end of the world when it was time to leave either with a farewell party or on a rail.  😉  Fortunately, there were few rails, but there were times when a change in personnel and vision made it necessary for me to leave.  If I cannot support the vision, I leave as quietly as possible seeking to have no one follow me.  More people need that philosophy and not start another church a mile down the road taking their fan club with them.

The bottom line is that if you do not think the pastor is worth the salary he is making then go find one that you believe is getting what he is worth.  If you are looking for a pastor and can give him an adequate salary so he and his wife do not need to work then do so without marionette strings attached.  Oh, and don’t do the old two for one trick giving the man and his wife paid positions that together do not make a wage you could live on.  That is just wrong.  She needs to be with the kids, if they have them, not working ten hour days for the church and her husband twelve hour days when he is on call 24/7.  Many a minister has burned out and his marriage destroyed because of the selfish and miserly ways of a church.

Finally, do not be afraid of a man that is willing to serve you for nothing.  You may be turning away the Apostle Paul and the person that God may use to turn your church around or show you something from God that another man could not or will not.  As with any man, vet him, but do not reject him without cause.  God pays better than most churches and also knows when to cap a salary for the glory of God and to avoid undue offense or giving ammunition to His critics.  Maranatha!

Tiptoe Through theTithers

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