Friday, May 13, 2016

What is an acceptable standard of living for a pastor?

A number of years ago when I was the pastor of a church a member commented one day about a pastor she knew who started driving a new Cadillac. She was offended by that and said she hoped she never saw me driving such a car. I assured her I would never do that because if I could afford a Cadillac I would probably buy a Mercedes. She was not amused!

One pastor friend of mine was bivocational and very successful in his other job. A few people became jealous of his success and constantly bought up what they believed was his extravagant lifestyle. (It was definitely not extravagant although it was comfortable.) He traded for a new truck every couple of years and told me he always got the identical truck so his critics would not notice he had a new pickup.

We've all read about some celebrity pastors who do seem to live an extravagant life with enormous houses, luxury cars and private jets. What no one ever talks about is whether or not they are generous with their finances. For instance, my friend basically supported one or two ministries in that church out of his own finances. Some of these celebrity pastors accept no salary from their churches due to being successful authors or having other outside income. This provides the church with additional money to be used for ministry. A few have said that they give a major portion of their income to various ministries outside of their own churches as well. Seldom does anyone talk about that when criticizing these pastors.

I am certainly not a prosperity preacher, but at the same time I do recognize that God might choose to bless some Christians, including pastors, more than others financially. I would have a problem with a minister who deceives his or her people to enrich his or her personal bank account. Just because they tell me God has shown them that I'm supposed to send them "seed money" so I can be blessed that doesn't mean I'm going to do it. I'll wait until God tells me to send the money!

At the same time, if a minister prospers because he or she becomes wealthy due to hard work and honest effort I'm not going to protest or assume they must be doing something dishonest. It's not uncommon for a bivocational minister to earn much more in outside income than is earned as a pastor. Even fully-funded pastors who live on less than they earn and invest wisely can become quite wealthy later in life. Why should such persons be chastised for being wise stewards?

We still have too many in churches today who believe that pastors need to be humbled by receiving little salary and trusting God for what they need. I'm sorry, but your church is what God intended to use to provide for the pastor and family, and if you are not providing a salary that allows them a comfortable living in your community you are guilty of clergy abuse.

At the same time, we have even more who are quick to judge a pastor who seems to have "gotten above his raising" to use a common term in my part of the country. Small people with jealous hearts often watch to make sure the pastor isn't living a lifestyle they believe is unacceptable for a pastor. They are also guilty of abusing their pastors.

Rather than judge a pastor by the car he or she drives why don't we look at their work and what they preach. Instead of discussing how little we can pay our ministers let's look for ways to ensure that their ministries are not distracted by financial worries.

No comments: