For some, this is a messy subject. For myself, I find that many who debate Pastors, churches and money often anti-Christian, anti-Church and/or anti-religion. What ensues is a total mess, as I listen to individuals misuse terms, scripture and display a general lack of humanity, in order to get their point across as right, based on the dislike of an institution they don’t understand and have (usually) never been a part of. In light of this, I’m going to start by laying out a correct definition of terms, which I’ll then build on. You can take the information I give and run with it as you please but, at least having read this, you can run with some understanding of a Christian standpoint.
Let’s first define ‘Church’.
I believe that, as the Bible is instructional, it contains translational templates.
Yes. Translational Templates.
An example could be Leviticus 23:22, which reads,
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”
This is an example of a Translational Template. It can, in a literal sense, apply to your regular Christian farmer. However, the likelihood of your regular Christian being involved in the regular activity of harvesting is extremely minimal. The idea behind this verse, though, is Translational through both time and situation, in that it is an instruction to give thought to those that don’t have when you reap of your harvest. Whether that be money, goods, time or effort. When you have, give to those that don’t. This is actually something we see in the template given to us of the early Church.
The template of ‘Church’ can be found in the book of Acts, chapter 2, in the New Testament. Focus on verses 41-47, which reads,
“41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
It’s important to see here that ‘Church’ is a group of like-minded people who all have a single purpose. They met regularly in the temple (church building) and each others’ homes. The Church, here, is not just an institution or a business. Neither was it designed to run at a profit or any other gain, for that matter.
I also want to take a quick moment to expand on verse 45.
In the year 112AD, Pliny the Younger, a Governor of the Roman province Bithynia (Modern-day Turkey), wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan. In the letter, he asked the Emperor what he should do about the Christians in his realm, who would not worship the gods of the time. The letter reveals a group of people who were deemed a threat to the Roman empire (According to other sources), following an ‘extravagant superstition’. As it turned out, Pliny the Younger took to executing those that would not recant their faith.
Further to point out, and in support of Pliny’s mention of separation, the early Church would buy, sell and trade their goods amongst themselves. Christians had ‘stuff’ and, in that they were able to give and take amongst themselves, we could dare to say that, in areas, they would have had excess. This is to counter the idea that your modern day Christian should be living the broken life and be without money and possessions.
A further clarification that I see needing to be made is that of a separation of Christianity from Catholicism. The Christian church is not one of the richest organizations in the world. The Catholic church is. The Pope is the head of the Catholic church, whereas Christianity is more like a group of organizations who all operate according to similar structure. The separation can be somewhat of a grey area but, for the most part, Christianity sees Jesus (Son), God (Father) and the Holy Spirit as three facets of the same entity, where Catholicism, for the most part, sees the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three separate entities. I won’t dive too deeply into this, as this is not a theological discussion. My point here is that, when dealing with the Church and money, it is important to separate the two because money is handled differently and for different reasons.
So, what is a Pastor?
Dictionary.com defines ‘Pastor’ as “A person having spiritual care over a number of persons.” It goes on to give history of the word, from the Latin, meaning ‘feeder’. Coming from the base of ‘pastere’, which is “to put to pasture”. A pastor is a shepherd. A shepherd’s job/career is to tend to his flock and to see that their welfare is looked out for.
According to the Strong’s Concordance, reference 4166, ‘Poimen’ (Greek) appears 17 times in the New Testament as ‘shepherd’, in the King James Version. ‘Pastor’ is used in Ephesians 4:11, with the International Version going with the term ‘shepherd’. That is 18 references in total.
Strong’s Concordance reference 6953 gives the Hebrew ‘Qoheleth’. A collector (of sentences) or, ‘preacher’. It is used 7 times in the Old Testament, all in the book of Ecclesiastes. ‘Preacher’ is defined, according to Dictionary.com, as “ preach
Not all Pastors are full-time Pastors. My Dad and my Step-Dad are both Pastors. Both work full-time. I know, personally, Pastors who work full-time and pastor and I know Pastors who are full-time Pastors, with no other form of employment or income. I also know Pastors of small congregations, as well as Pastors of very large congregations. I may not be a role model Christian but I have been in and around church and Pastors since the age of about 7. In my experience, the vast majority of Pastors are not robbers or mere entrepreneurs. Also, having seen both sides of the pastoral fence, pastoring is one of the most difficult jobs out there, keeping in mind that every church congregation is a microcosm of the society it resides within. A good Pastor seeks the betterment of each member of his or her congregation, according to what the Lord has laid out in His word. Each member of a Pastor’s congregation has a spiritual life AND physical welfare that needs to be attended to. A Pastor has to understand both sides and be able to help bring about a balance to each individual, aiding in growth, teaching students to become teachers themselves. A form of parent, if you will. Can you imagine ‘parenting’ multiple individuals and families? Couples, singles, adults, children. Pretty much, can you imagine trying to bring balance, stability and then growth to each individual in your neighbourhood, catering to all of their needs, based on a structure that you are supposed to grow in, yourself, with Love, care and compassion? I’ve seen the toll it can take on a man and his family firsthand. It’s not pretty.
Anyway…. Pastors receive money. In a Christian church, in whatever form it takes, you’ll hear the words ‘tithe’ and ‘offering’. As I’m speaking to those that are Christian and otherwise and varying knowledge and acceptance of the Bible, I’m going to keep my explanation simple. This is also NOT a theological debate on the collection of tithe. Merely an explanation for those that don’t understand.
Let me first explain that there is a difference between tithe and offering.
Tithes are given by the members of a congregation. The tithe is a sum of 10% of the giver’s income and is supposed to be the Pastor’s income.
“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” – Numbers 18:21
The Tribe of Levi were the ‘Pastors’ of the Old Testament (Think translational template here). They were workers in the house of the Lord and they had no inheritance (Income), as the remainder of Israel had. There is a history and reason for this but this isn’t the forum for that discussion. The thing to note here is, the Levites had no other income. Situationally, it would be important to note that their income was commensurate to the income of Israel.
Translating this situation in to the modern day, the tithe is a Pastor’s income. In my experience, any Pastor who has a job aside of Pastoring will generally have a small congregation and monies from the tithe would be combined with that of the offering and put forward to the upkeep of the church. Whether it be for utility bills, rent, refreshments for after service. Leftovers would go into a church bank account. As a church will be a microcosm of its surrounding society, the Pastor’s income will reflect his or her surrounding demographic. If the church has 10 MEMBERS who earn $2000 per month, the Pastor will also bring in $2000 per month. This is provided the members pay their tithe. The simple fact is, this is life and it is not uncommon for church members to not pay their tithe. I know this because I don’t always pay mine.
Immediately, the critic may turn to Pastors who are millionaires and have large churches. Let’s face it. They exist. At this point, though, we also need to remember what a Pastor is and what they (Are supposed to) do. If you have 1000 members, all earning $2000 per month (Way above the national average, may I add), your Pastor will earn $20000 per month. But this same Pastor is now responsible the wellbeing of 1000 people, 24 hours a day. People that want to develop, and MUST develop, in both their physical and spiritual lives.
According to www.payscale.com, a senior Pastor, in the USA, would average about $57k per year. Your ‘straight-from-the-call’ Pastor would earn just under $30k. Real Pastors don’t go into the business for the money, believe me. In fact, real Pastors don’t even ‘go into the business’. Pastoring is a passion. It’s a calling.
Are there Pastoral frauds? Yes. Do I agree with a Pastor asking for money to preach somewhere other than their own congregation ON A REGULAR BASIS? No. Do I agree with a Pastor skating on dollar bills at the altar? No. Do I agree with Pastors charging a fee to PREACH THE GOSPEL (Not to be confused with giving a speech/lecture on a subject they are proficient in)? No. However, all of these things have happened, continue to happen and will happen in the future. If we are going to make these actions becoming of every Pastor then we need to make enslavery of black people becoming of every white person and we need to make so-called ‘Islamic’ terrorism becoming of every Arab.
If you walk into your average Christian church, you’ll probably come across a group of between 20 and 60 persons, Pastored by someone who is a leader with a passion for the betterment of everyone he or she comes across.
So, what of Offerings?
Offerings could take up an entire blog of themselves, as there are offerings for different times and different reasons. To keep this blog simple, though, assume that the tithe of the members goes to the upkeep of the Pastor and the offerings of the present congregation goes to the upkeep of the Church. The ‘upkeep’ would generally be things like the utility bills and the rent. Money, put into the bowl or basket, in larger churches may also be to support people in need, within the church, or to fund church outings or projects in the local community. Considering the template, given to us in Acts 2, your average church will not have a bulging bank account. This does raise the question of mega churches, though.
I can’t comment directly on any one church but I will say this. When passing judgement, ask yourself if the church falls in line with Acts 2. Does the congregation average out to a level playing field? Does the church form a microcosm of the social demographic surrounding it? Is the Pastor preaching the Gospel and looking after the welfare of the congregation? Is the church active in its local community? At the end of the day, if the church you are passing judgement on matches the template provided in Acts 2, it’s doing what it is supposed to do.
I’ve done what I can to keep the blog explanatory and I hope it has provided clarification on some terms and situations, which will help you obtain better judgement.
If I were to put this blog into a descriptive nutshell, I’d have you consider a privately owned gym. One like MuscleWorks, in London, U.K. My first gym!
The gym has an owner. An owner, who would be there for you to get fit and achieve your goals. These goals are achieved by working within a structure that the owner didn’t create. The owner may not even like the way certain goals have to be achieved but these ways are the standards he operates by and holds himself against.
When I attended MuscleWorks gym, back in the early 2000s, I didn’t think twice about having to pay for the services I received. I was in a building that cost money to run, using equipment that required money to maintain and replace, asking for the time and effort of a man who offered these things with no other source of income (per se). Church is no different.
When I attend church, I enter a building that comes with a running cost and expect the services of a man or woman who, should they be full-time, has no other source of income but needs to live, just like I do. Why should I think twice about giving?
The difference, here, between church and gym is that, there is no penalty for not giving. The Bible, however, does give us some guidelines on giving and receiving. But this isn’t the forum.
Many thanks for reading.