The first thing a pastoral search committee should do when considering a pastor’s salary package is to review what Scripture teaches about taking care of your pastor. As I point out in When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search, one of the ways the Bible motivates you as a believer to support your pastor financially is by teaching that it is in your own best interest to do so. Look out for your pastor and you are looking out for yourself.
Think of it this way. When I got my first car, my dad immediately began teaching me that clean oil prolongs the life of an engine. I’ve never met a mechanic who disagreed.
My dad didn’t tell me to change the oil because he worshiped the vehicle that I drove. Even if I had driven a Mazaroti that did 185, which I didn’t, concern for the car wasn’t his basic concern. My dad was looking out for his son. He told me to service my car because it was a machine that served me.
The Bible uses similar reasoning to motivate people to take care of their pastors. Paul compared caring for the pastor to taking care of oxen – the ancient near east equivalent of engines. Paul told Timothy:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.’
-1 Timothy 5:17-18
In other words, think of your pastor as a beast of burden or an engine that serves you – that grinds grain for your bread. Supporting your pastor is really about taking care of yourself. Change the oil in your car when it is due. Your car will serve you a lot longer. And, churches, take care of your pastor. It is in your interest to do so. He is the engine that grinds your spiritual grain.
(Of course, it isn’t enough to only consider the theology of pastoral compensation. It is also necessary to know something about the unique tax laws for pastors in the country where you live. For those in the United States, I recommend several resources on the links page of this web site to use when decided a pastor’s compensation. The article, The Pastor and His Salary Package, by Jim Rickard is a good place to begin.)
Prayerfully consider how you want to compensate your pastor. What other Bible verses influence your view of pastoral compensation?