How Do Preachers Get Paid?

Learn What the Bible Teaches About Financially Supporting Ministers

Pastor Preaching
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How do pastors get paid? Do all churches pay their preacher a salary? Should a pastor take money from the church to preach? What does the Bible teach about financially supporting ministers? These are common questions Christians ask. 

Many believers are surprised to discover that the Bible plainly teaches congregations to provide financial support to those who care for the spiritual needs of the church body, including pastors, teachers, and other full-time ministers who are called by God for service.

Spiritual leaders can best serve when they are dedicated to the work of the Lord — studying and teaching God's Word and ministering to the needs of the body of Christ. When a minister must work a job to provide for his family, he is distracted from ministry and forced to divide his priorities, leaving less time to shepherd his flock properly.

What the Bible Says About Paying Preachers

In 1 Timothy 5, the Apostle Paul taught that all ministry work is important, but preaching and teaching are especially worthy of honor because they are the core of Christian ministry:

Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain." And in another place, "Those who work deserve their pay!" (1 Timothy 5:17-18, NLT)

Paul backed up these points with Old Testament references to Deuteronomy 25:4 and Leviticus 19:13.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul referred to this expression of "muzzling an ox:"

For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? (NLT)

Even though Paul often chose not to accept financial support, he still argued for the Old Testament principle that those who serve to meet the spiritual needs of people, deserve to receive monetary support from them: 

In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. (1 Corinthians 9:14, NLT)

In Luke 10:7-8 and Matthew 10:10, the Lord Jesus himself taught the same precept, that spiritual workers deserve to be paid for their service.

Addressing a Misconception

Many Christians believe that being a pastor or teacher is a relatively easy job. New believers especially, might tend to think that ministers show up at church on Sunday morning to preach and then spend the rest of the week praying and reading the Bible. While pastors do (and should) spend plenty of time reading God's Word and praying, that's only a small part of what they do.

By definition of the word pastor, these servants are called to 'shepherd the flock,' which means they are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the spiritual needs of the congregation. Even in a small church, these responsibilities are numerous.

As the primary teacher of God's Word to the people, most pastors spend hours studying Scripture to understand the Bible correctly so that it can be taught in a meaningful and applicable way. Besides preaching and teaching, pastors give spiritual counsel, make hospital visits, pray for the sick, train and disciple church leaders, officiate weddings, perform funerals, and the list goes on and on.

In small churches, many pastors perform business and administrative duties as well as office work. In large churches, the weekly activities at the church can be continuous. Typically, the larger the church, the greater the weight of responsibility.

Most Christians who have served on a church staff recognize the enormity of the pastoral calling. It is one of the hardest jobs there is. And while we read in the news about mega-church pastors who make gigantic salaries, most preachers are not paid nearly as much as they deserve for the tremendous service they perform.

The Question of Balance

As with most biblical topics, there is wisdom in taking a balanced approach. Yes, there are churches financially overburdened with the task of supporting their ministers. Yes, there are false shepherds who seek material wealth at their congregation's expense. Sadly, we can point to too many examples of this today, and these abuses hinder the gospel.

The author of The Shadow of the Cross, Walter J. Chantry, aptly stated, "A self-serving minister is one of the most loathsome sights in all the world."

Pastors who mismanage money or live extravagantly get a lot of attention, but they represent only a small minority of ministers today. The majority are true shepherds of God's flock and deserve fair and reasonable compensation for their work.