Monday, March 30, 2015

Worship, Part One – What is Worship?


          One of my wife's favorite movies is The Princess Bride. I confess to enjoying it myself. It has such tremendous number of often applicable lines. One of those lines came to mind as I thought about the subject of this new blog series. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." The word I mean is "worship".

          American Christianity has probably never spent more time and emphasis on worship with so little equivalent understanding. People go to church to worship. When they get there they walk into a scheduled worship service. During this service they sing praise and worship. These song sets are directed by a worship leader. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.
          For the next six weeks we are going to delve into the subject of worship. We are going to define worship. We are going to examine a number of things that are often found in conjunction with worship. We are going to talk about the shift in worship between Israel and the Church. We are going to explain why the church service is not a worship service. Finally, we are going to show you the compounding errors that come to a church when it wrongly aims its service at worship.
          Are you mad at me yet? Hang on, it is probably going to get worse before it's over…
          Some form of the word "worship" is used one hundred ninety times in the King James Version. In the Old Testament the vast majority of those (99) come from the Hebrew word "shachah" which literally means to bow down. This original language word is also translated in the KJV Old Testament as bow, bow down, obeisance, reverence, fall down, stoop, and crouch. Additionally, Daniel, which is not written in Hebrew but in Aramaic uses "worship" twelve times. The Aramaic word Daniel used, "segeed" means to prostrate oneself.
          In the New Testament the vast majority of the usages (60) come from the Greek word "proskuneo" which means kneeling or prostration. The root word underlying it implies a dog kissing his master's hand. There are a few other usages translated as "worship" but they are much rarer. We will look at some of them in the context of what worship includes rather than as what worship is defined as.
          What I gather out of my examination of these definitions and out of the predominance of the word usages is that worship is bowing myself before God when I enter into His presence. Worship strongly implies a whole heart and body attitude of an inferior humbly notifying his superior that he understands and believes in the validity of their arrangement. For instance, in the context of a promised answer to prayer in battle II Chronicles 20.18 records And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. Satan exhibited a similar understanding in the New Testament when he said to Christ during the temptations All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (Matthew 4.9)
          With that as a basic understanding of the word itself let us look at some examples in Scripture of this kind of behavior.

Exodus 34.6-8 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Joshua 5.14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

the people at Solomon's Temple dedication
II Chronicles 7:3  And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

the Wise Men
Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

the women after the Resurrection
Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

the 24 elders in heaven (repeated two more times in Revelation 11.16 and 19.4)
Revelation 5:14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

the angels in heaven
Revelation 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

          In each of the nine cases I have cited so far we see specific instances of people meeting God and responding in deep humility by physically bowing down and worshipping. After noticing this pattern as I studied the word "worship" in the Bible I decided to examine every case I could find of a human being seeing God. I wanted to determine if I could find the same reaction. In other words I wanted to see if humans prostrate themselves in God's presence whether or not the Scripture actually uses the word "worship." Not surprisingly this is exactly what I found. Here are some illustrations of what I believe to be worship even though the word is never used:

Genesis 17.1-3 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Moses and Aaron
Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

The priests at Solomon's Temple dedication (repeated II Chronicles 5.14)
1Kings 8:11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.

the crowd at Elijah's battle with the prophets of Baal
1Kings 18:39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.

Ezekiel (repeated six times in Ezekiel)
Ezekiel 1:28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

Peter, after Jesus filled the net with fish
Luke 5.8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

the Apostles at the Transfiguration
Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Paul's conversion
Acts 9.3-4 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

John the Revelator
Revelation 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

          To me the definition of worship is relatively simple: worship is our response when we see God. It is what happens in our heart and soul when we enter into His presence, in awe of His greatness, conscious of His holiness and our own sinfulness, when in humility and amazement we fall at His feet and esteem Him rightfully in every way our superior.
          Jehoshaphat did it. Moses did it. Joshua did it. The people and the priests at Solomon's Temple's dedication did it. Abraham did it. Aaron did it. The crowd at Elijah's battle with the prophets of Baal did it. Ezekiel did it. The Wise Men did it. The women who met Jesus after His Resurrection did it. Peter did it. The Apostles at the Transfiguration did it. Paul did it. John did it. The twenty four elders will do it in Heaven. The angels do it.

          Do you do it? Do you worship God? Do you ever meet with Him? Did you meet with Him this morning? When you did, did you worship Him? Did you, in your heart, throw yourself at His feet and proclaim Him in every way your superior? Did you worship Him today?
          It is not too late. The day is not over. If you have not done it yet today steal away from your screen, find a quiet place, throw yourself at His feet, and worship Him, beloved. He is most deserving.

Monday, March 23, 2015

From My Mailbag - 8 Reasons Why the Great Commission is Personal

Dear _________,                                                            

Please forgive me for the delay in answering your letter. I wanted to answer it carefully and I appreciate your patience with me. I will begin by including the text of your letter in italics here followed by my response.

I have a great deal of respect for you, as one of the most helpful messages in recent times has been the "39 Years..." message.
Like you, I have examined much of what I believe and have kept most of it because I find most of it to be Biblical.  There are four areas in which I think teaching I've received is rather weak (without much Scriptural support) - in no particular order, they are (1) total ban on alcohol  (2) multiple pastors  (3) tithing and (4) soul-winning.
I am writing about #4; allow me to say that by the grace of God I have never drunk any alcohol and I have no desire to. I think the Bible clearly indicates that it is very dangerous.  I am not looking for an excuse to drink.
Likewise with #3, I believe that the NT teaches that every Christian should give as the Holy Spirit leads him; that may be 10% for many, and 25% or 50% for others. I have always at least tithed, and am not trying to get out of the obligation to support my church.
With all of these, I think the standard arguments used by the IFB preachers I've heard are pretty weak.
But I'm writing to ask for thoughts regarding soul-winning.  It seems to me that the so-called "Great Commission" was given to the church as a whole, and not to individuals.  (Most churches I've been a part of do not allow any member to baptize - part 2, reserving that for the church, and also don't let every Christian teach - part 3.  So, I fail to see why the "Great Commission" part 1 is supposed to apply to everyone.  I worked at a bank in my youth. Not everyone was a teller, out in front of people; some worked behind the scenes in the bookkeeping department; others made decisions about loans; others filed checks. Not everyone had the same job, even though we were all part of the same bank.  This seems, to me, to more of the model of the New Testament church.
Furthermore, when I read the New Testament, I  find lots of passages where Paul is encouraging Timothy and Titus to tell people to live godly and love one another, etc... but "soul-winning" is strangely absent from ALL of these commands.  I find examples - Paul says something like "woe is ME if I preach not the gospel", but he doesn't say "woe is YOU if YOU preach not the gospel"

So, I would welcome your thoughts on this subject... I am also a very shy person, so this going door-to-door among strangers, interrupting their time at home (as it seems to me), and insisting that I have answers for them (as I think I appear to them) has always been very hard for me.  On top of that, my unsaved parents were dead-set against us selling anything door-to-door during school fund raisers - they insisted that no one wanted the junk stuff we were selling, and only purchased it out of kindness, and they were completely unwilling to reciprocate, so they were against us going out.
Your replies have generally been reasoned and not hysterical, so I wanted to seek your input, if you have the time.

I commend you wholeheartedly for your desire to discover the why behind what is preached and taught. I greatly wish more people had that same desire.

Now, in relation to the specifics of what you asked…

It seems to me that your position here is that the Great Commission (GC) applies to the Church corporately but not to the Christian individually. My position both agrees and disagrees. I believe the GC applies to the Church corporately but also to the Christian individually. IOW, to be perfectly clear, I believe that every Christian has a mandate/command given to him by Christ to witness to the lost.

Here are my reasons…

1) The GC was given to the Church but the Church is composed of individuals.

Matthew 28:19–20 
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

If this is the case why then do not all individuals teach and all individuals baptize? First, I also think all individuals should teach. That does not mean I think every individual is capable of teaching in a class setting/format. Such are limited to those with the gift of teaching (teachers are a gift to the church, Eph 4.11) in my view. But even those without the gift of teaching to groups are still supposed to be teaching – in a mentoring capacity one on one, their children, etc. Every Christian ought to be teaching somebody something about Christianity. Second, I also think all Christians could baptize. Yes, I realize that puts me out of step with many of my brethren but I don't see anything in Scripture that limits baptisms to ordained clergy. If you were a member of my church and you won someone to Christ and you wanted to baptize him I would let you. Additionally, the 'lo I am with you always' is not just corporate; it is corporately personal, to coin a phrase. It applies not just to the Church generically but to each person in it – just like the rest of the GC. Ergo, I think I am being consistent when I say that the first of the three parts of the GC also applies to the individual.

2) The GC is explicitly connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church; that gift is not just corporate but extremely personal.

Acts 1:8–9 
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

One of the primary reasons the Holy Spirit was given was to enable God's people to witness. If I, as a child of God, want the multiplicity of great blessings that come with a personally indwelling Holy Spirit then I also must take the corresponding responsibilities that come with it – to live holy (Romans 8) and to witness (Acts 1).

3) There is no indication in the New Testament that personal evangelism is a gift only given to a few.

I can't give you a verse for this one. Which is the point. There are many different gifts mentioned in the epistles. Soul winning is most definitely not on any of those lists. If it is, as you basically maintain, something that only some people in the church are gifted to do then why isn't it on those lists anywhere?

4) Personal evangelism was modeled by Jesus and He is the example for every believer.

Matthew 4:19 
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Is there anything Jesus did that you and I aren't supposed to do? In a sense the answer is yes – we are not supposed to do the things specifically associated with His first advent such as miracles, be crucified, etc. But I don't think any right minded person would argue that the personal witnessing He did was mission specific. It was normative. It was designed not only to win the person to whom He was talking but also to be an example to those who followed Him.

5) The GC is implied to every individual in the command of Luke 19.

Luke 19:10–13 
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

The context of each servant receiving the pound and the command to occupy is one of witnessing. 'Occupy' literally means to go into business. My business, whatever else it may be as a human being, is God's business and God's business in this context is the salvation of humanity. That task and instruction is committed to all of His servants.

6) Fulfilling the GC is in no wise dependent on whether it will bother or harass or offend the lost.

Luke 2:49 
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

One of the statements I make often in preaching is that every word in the Bible is there on purpose. That word 'business' here directly links this passage to the one in Luke 19. Jesus knew His parents would take offense to how He chose to serve the Lord; He did it anyway. We see that pattern all through the Scripture from one end to the other. Does that mean we ought to be careless about causing offense to the lost while trying to win them? Certainly not. But it does mean that I do not allow a misplaced concern about pestering, harassing, interrupting, or bothering the lost man to keep me from trying to witness to him.

7) Fulfilling the GC is in no wise dependent on my personality.

Luke 14:18 
18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

I realize God created every one of us different. I realize witnessing is easier for some people than others. So is being kind but all of us are supposed to be kind. So is being cheerful but all of us are supposed to be cheerful. So is being patient but all of us are supposed to be patient. So is controlling our temper but all of us are supposed to control our temper. To take any other approach is to offer a justification for any number of people disregard any number of commands simply because they find them difficult to fulfill. I understand shy people have a harder time witnessing that outgoing people. Witness anyway. An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. A retiring personality is an excuse not to witness rather than a reason.

8) Lastly and most importantly, Paul most emphatically did not say 'I' (referring only to himself) am supposed to preach the Gospel; he said 'we' are supposed to preach the Gospel.

This is really key to my whole response to you. Paul did not just personally witness; he also laid on every Christian the same personal responsibility. And he did so repeatedly in a plain context in relation to witnessing.

2 Corinthians 5:6–20 
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

You believe in the personal comfort of the 'we' in verse six. You believe in the personal instruction of the 'we' in verse seven. You believe in the personal comfort of the 'we' in verse eight. Etc. etc. Then you must believe in the personal command of the 'we' in verse eleven, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. You cannot pick and choose in this chapter. 'We', 'us', 'all', 'every one', 'any man', clearly and repeatedly refer to every single Christian.
Allow me one more word in closing. I do not believe the Bible teaches that you have to walk up to a stranger's door on Saturday morning at 11 AM and witness to him. I do that and I encourage my church people to do that for a large number of very good reasons but I do not believe that is a specific command. But you do have to personally be active in witnessing to the lost. That is most clear in the Word of God. The GC is not just a corporate responsibility. It is a personal command given to every single Christian.


Tom Brennan

Monday, March 16, 2015

Help! What Should We Pay the Pastor? – Part Six, Three Helps to Come Up With the Numbers

          You are an independent Baptist. No overarching denominational board tells you how much you are to pay your pastor. You want to do a better job of it but you don't know how to go about it. In today's post I offer you three suggestions to help you come up with the numbers.

     The first and probably simplest way to do it is to purchase some resources from others who have studied such things. I recommend In addition to a wide range of clergy law, insurance, and tax supports it issues an annual book called the Compensation Handbook for Church Staff. Not only is this updated every year but it has editions tailored to a wide range of employee types and church sizes. It is carefully researched, detailed, and legally accurate. For a small amount of money the committee that determines the pastor's pay could educate themselves rather well and do so on an ongoing basis.

          The second way is to do your own work comparing the pay structure of other churches in your particular area. When I came to Chicago eleven years ago I felt I was underpaid. This was the route I chose to go to address it. No, you cannot find information on independent churches this way but almost every mainline denominational group publicly posts its pastoral salary structure and recommendations. Further, they generally do so broken up by geographical regions. With some digging, I was able to determine what Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Christ, and Assembly of God churches of equivalent size to ours in the same geographical region paid their pastors. I was able to gather the forms they sent to their local church clergy salary committees. Printing off stacks of such information several years in a row I took them to my annual budget meetings with the men of our church. I used them to explain the areas in which I thought our church should improve and why those requests were reasonable. This made sense to our men because their unions often use a similar concept to compare pay rates across an industry. Over a roughly four year span I was able to gradually bring my church to improve to a position roughly average to a little above average in that department. Through these years they have ungrudgingly maintained it and appropriately added to it from year to year.
          To do this one must needs be comparing apples to apples. In other words, if your pastor is making the same salary as the custodian at the local Presbyterian church everything is not hunky dory.

          The third way is to build a formula.
          In my research, in addition to benefits, I have generally found three criteria used to determine a pastor's pay rate. The first is his level of education. This is widely used as well in the secular world in areas such as medicine and education. The working assumption is that a higher level of education usually corresponds with a greater effectiveness on the job. This is essentially true when that work involves some sort of research, study, or relatively arcane expertise. I know people who dispute this as being reasonable. I am not one of them. Generally speaking, I would rather learn from a professor with a doctorate than one with a master's degree. There are exceptions to this, and the ministry lends itself to such. Many a man without advanced degrees makes a wonderful pastor. Such a man can even be a deep preacher if he diligently follows a program of self-directed study. But the truth of this does not rule out the wisdom of using an educational level as one of a number of such criteria.
          The second widely used benchmark is the size of the congregation to which the pastor ministers. Please do not hang me here. I do not believe there is anything inherently more spiritual about a larger church. But there is generally a larger, broader, heavier responsibility in a larger church. For instance, right now the only staff I supervise at my church is a secretary. In a larger church the pastor might need to supervise assistant pastors, a Christian school staff, etc. That adds a layer of complexity to his work. I have more work to do now as the pastor of an average size church than I used to have as the pastor of a start up church. I do more counseling. I do more long range planning. I do more financial administration. I do more mentoring. I do more shut in visitation. As my work load has increased in the past 19 years as a pastor so has my pay. That just makes sense.
          The third point of comparison is experience. I cannot think of a single vocation in which this is more valuable than the ministry even more so than academics. Let's take two pastors for example. Pastor A has a church of 130 members in a city of about 100,000 people in a southern state. Pastor B has a church of 150 members in a city of about 80,000 in a southern state. They both have bachelor's degrees from a reputable Bible college. But Pastor A has been a pastor for 25 years while Pastor B has four years of experience as a youth pastor. It is patently obvious that Pastor A should make more money. He offers his congregation a veritable plethora of Bible knowledge, life experience, and people knowledge that Pastor B does not. Pastor A's sermons are richer and deeper. Pastor A's diagnosis and consequent treatment of weak Christians in his church is much more accurate than Pastor B's. Pastor A's counseling is almost always spot on while Pastor B's is more hit and miss. Again, please do not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing Pastor B. I used to be him. He is tremendously useful to the cause of Christ. He is helpful to his church. But Pastor A is more helpful to his church and that hard won experience will be rewarded if his church is a wise church.
          Of course these three criteria cannot take everything into account. For instance, if a pastor with one child leaves and the pastor who follows him has seven children the church must needs notice that. Additionally, these criteria do not take into account the financial health of a church nor the average condition of its members. If the formula states that a pastor should make $100,000 a year but no one in his church makes more than $30,000 a year than paying him the formula's salary will breed resentment and distrust among the very people he is trying to reach. By the same token, if the board of deacons averages a personal salary of $75,000 a year but the formula only says to pay the pastor $25,000 those deacons will struggle to respect their pastor. Another way of saying this is that formulas are only helpful. They are more like guidelines than actual rules.
          The advantage, though, of using the formula as a guideline is there is no need for emotion or hurt feelings. Once it is determined it chugs along the track by itself. What percentage of pay is a year of experience worth? What percentage of pay is a master's degree worth? What percentage of pay is a 50 person increase in average attendance worth? Plug the numbers in, include a yearly addendum based on inflation, and the formula spits out an answer that no one can be offended by.

          With this post I leave the subject of pastoral salary. Much more could be said on the subject surely but I have spoken my piece for the moment. As always, I invite you to share your response if you so choose. My aim has been to cover the basics of a necessary approach by both the pastor and the church. In short, may God's men be contented, sacrificial, wise, and bold in their leadership. May God's people be conscientious and generous in their support.

          New series launches next week… Stay tuned. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Help! What Should We Pay the Pastor? – Part Five, Three Necessary Elements

          Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (I Timothy 5.17-18)
          Let us assume, for the moment, that we are dealing with an American church that is healthy numerically and financially. Let us also assume it has a sincere desire to follow the Lord in obedience to these two verses. In practical terms what does that look like? How should a pastor's pay package be structured?
          In today's post I will attempt to answer that. I realize that my opinion is not infallible and, as always, I certainly welcome yours. But I do think my opinion is both experienced and educated. I offer it for your consideration.

          First, the pastor should receive a generous salary. Next week my post will discuss how to arrive at the specifics of these numbers for each pastor and church. But for the moment let us just mention the necessity for the pastor to receive regularly a good amount of plain old money.
          On a related note, many churches undercut the salary because they reason that they are furnishing the pastor with a place to live. May I just be brutally honest with you? I wish every church in America would sell their parsonage. A church owned house is almost always poorly maintained. The only way for a pastor to correct that problem is to ask the church to spend money on the house he lives in. That is problematic because it looks selfish and because there is always some other necessary and more public expense at the church. Even if it is well maintained (and I have yet to see one of those, including my own) the pastor's family still has no choice in its own housing arrangements. Again, this is something no other family in the church would willingly consider acceptable. Still more important, a pastor living in a parsonage may pay no mortgage but he consequently builds no housing equity either. The average homeowner in America uses his house as his single biggest investment vehicle. A parsonage situation automatically takes that opportunity away from a pastor.
          On the other hand, if a church sold its parsonage it would be forced to realize that it is necessary to pay the pastor enough to allow him to purchase his own home. This would also let the family choose where it lives and the level of maintenance that it finds acceptable. Additionally, year after year the pastor would accumulate equity. Pay the pastor well, including enough to be able to afford to buy a home that is roughly equivalent to the average homeowner in his church. If the pastor wants to structure that salary in such a way that some of it is called a housing allowance – which to this point the IRS still finds acceptable – certainly let him.

        Second, the pastor should receive a number of additional benefits. I will list the ones I think the typical salary package should include and the reasons why.

                 -health insurance: Let me encourage you, if your church is able to afford it, to purchase actual health insurance for the pastor and his family. I realize many churches choose to use Christian sharing ministries but the truth is that those ministries often are not given the same price of service discounts that health insurance companies are. Additionally, medical providers are often wary of them and accessing specialist care in this way is often complicated and difficult. To some extent the same is true with Medicaid which many pastors and their families also use in lieu of insurance. If you cannot afford insurance than make sure one of these are available but aim for a widely reputable insurance carrier if you can.
                   -vacation: Lazy pastors exist, sadly, but do not assume the pastor will become one of those if you are generous with him in relation to vacation time. In fact, the typical pastor will not actually use all of his vacation time. He feels most keenly his absence from the church and he fights to be there. Do not let him. Send him away. Give him a few weeks a year in which he is released from his duties. Certainly let him choose his own pulpit supply but do not make him furnish the expense from his own pocket. Such a position is atrocious. Give him and his wife a week or two away at conferences at the church expense. Send him on missions trips. Let him steal away for a week or two of prayer time each year. I am laughing to myself picturing the horror on some people's faces as they read this. What? All that time off? First, much of it is not time off. Second, he will not use it all. Third, sharpening the ax is not wasted time. Your church will be a better church if its pastor is often physically rested and spiritually refreshed.
                   -a day off every week: I am writing this on a Saturday afternoon. I worked today from 9 AM until 2 PM. I will work again later this evening. Tomorrow is Sunday. With the exception of a few hours in the afternoon I will work from 7 AM until 9 PM. That is the typical pastor's weekend and many have extended hours beyond this. If the pastor is then expected to be in the office from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday and to conduct a midweek service we have a bit of a problem, don't we? Let him choose his own day off according to what works for him but encourage him to take one. And if, because of ministry pressure, he goes four weeks without one do not quarrel with him if he takes two the next week. Let him breathe.
                   -continuing education: A pastor who is not constantly learning is a pastor who will eventually bore his people to tears. A church that is wise enough to invest in their pastor's continuing education will find itself richly rewarded. Authorize him to use a sum of money each year at his own discretion for books, classes, conferences, etc. that will sharpen his skill. It is money well spent.
                   -retirement: Here is how it often goes – the pastor nears retirement age and starts to inwardly panic. He long ago chose to exempt himself from Social Security and now he does not know what to do. His options are all unpleasant. He can ask the church to deed the parsonage to him and his wife, or to allow them to live in it post-retirement and hope he can supplement as a greeter at Walmart. That hamstrings the next pastor, though, by taking away the parsonage so the church and the pastor usually resist that. The other unpleasant option is for the pastor to hang on well past his used by date as the church declines around him. Finally, he shuffles off this mortal coil and his wife goes to live with her daughter in California. That is not a plan. It is a reaction, and a relatively poor one at that. What can be done about this? The church should ensure that the pastor sets up a 403b account and then funds it. At the very least, the church should pay in the same percentage it would if it was paying into Social Security. Often, it can do more, and if the pastor is paid generously he can match it. Do this for forty years, pair it with a home he owns outright like everyone else in America and the situation is much more feasible, isn't it? Let me be crystal clear – if an American church is not paying at least the Social Security percentage to either Social Security or a 403b for every member of its staff it is defrauding them. And that is a corporate sin.

          Third, the pastor should occasionally receive expressions of honor and appreciation. There must needs be a balance here for it is unwise to praise a man overmuch. It is also unwise to praise him not at all. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation. (Philippians 2.29) Gather a committee of thoughtful people, let them research how to appropriately honor a pastor, double it, and then put into action. For instance, a church could set aside one Sunday a year as Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Some testimonies could be given by people whom he has helped. A dinner or reception could be held in his honor. A love offering beyond his salary could be gathered by the people or simply have the deacons hand him a check with a generous bonus. Notes or cards of gratitude can be gathered. Service anniversaries, such as ten or twenty five years should be marked in additional ways. Too much of this is a bad thing, beloved, but the solution to that is not to refuse to corporately honor the pastor; the solution is to honor him appropriately from time to time.

          Next week I will conclude this series with three methods or helps to determine the specifics of your pastors pay. Each church is different, each pastor is different, and each geographical area is different. These need to be taken into account and next week I will offer some suggestions for how to do that. Until then, as always, your thoughts and comments are welcome, either here or on facebook.   

Monday, March 2, 2015

Help! What Should We Pay the Pastor? – Part Four, Three Causes of the Underpaid Pastor

          Without a doubt, the number one reason pastors are paid poorly is the small size of their church. I have already discussed this aspect and offered my suggestions for that situation in my last post (The Bi-vocational Pastor). Let us then for the purposes of this post assume we are discussing a church that is healthy both numerically and financially. Why do such churches underpay pastors? It is undeniable that many of them do so if we can answer why we can begin to solve the problem.

          The first cause, not just on my list but in order of importance, is a pastor who is unwilling to teach his people what the Bible has to say on the subject. God's people are likened to sheep in the Scripture. The pastor is the shepherd. Generally speaking, sheep want to follow. If they are led carefully they will usually respond. Thus, if the sheep are not corporately in a certain place then a large part of the blame must lie with the shepherd. Certainly there are exceptions to this principle. There are also other factors. But all things being equal the primary reason churches fail to pay their pastors appropriately is because their pastors fail to teach them to do so.
          I do not meant to fault good men here unnecessarily. For the average pastor discussing the whole subject makes him uncomfortable. A pastor by definition has chosen to live a life that is not about money. He long ago purposely decided that the point of his life would not be making a large salary. Thus there is in every right-hearted pastor a natural reluctance to emphasize something in his ministry which he has already chosen not to prioritize with his life. He is also uncomfortable discussing his own pay because he thinks it makes him look selfish or at the least self-serving. His heart tells him he should be content with what he has. He does not want to come across as greedy nor does he want to be greedy in his heart. It is hard to lead people spiritually when they think you are in it for the money. No matter how little money he makes he thinks of someone in his church who makes even less. He does not think he is more important or better than these dear people. Besides all of this there is the matter of faith. Is he not supposed to trust God? If he decides to start preaching and teaching about his own personal financial needs surely that must evidence a lack of faith.
          I could go on and on with the excuses – for such they are – that pastors tell themselves in order to avoid discussing the whole subject. In our line of work they are legion. But they are wrong. They are wrong for several reasons. First, because Scripture discusses the subject. A preacher has no right to skip a section of Scripture because discussing it makes him uncomfortable. Second, because his family and his church both need him to educate his church on the subject. I will speak more to this in another post. Third, because if he shrinks from his responsibility in this area the problem will simply be perpetuated. The next pastor will suffer because his predecessor was cowardly. Fourth, because the pastor must approach this subject as he would any other subject. He would not dream of taking the approach justified in the previous paragraph if the subject was prayer or witnessing or holiness. If he would not use such excuses to justify his fear of discussing those subjects then he cannot use them to justify his timidity about money.
Man of God, speak up! It is your job. It is your duty. It is your responsibility. If you think of yourself you will fail in any number of your scriptural responsibilities. Think of your family. Think of your church. Think of the next pastor. Think of the Lord. And speak up.

Having dealt with the pastor let us now turn to the church. In my view, the second cause for underpaid pastors is churches that are ignorant of their responsibility. These churches do not know that they are underpaying the pastor. In fact, it never even occurs to them. They do not think about it. The whole idea of whether the pastor has sufficient to meet his needs never crosses their mind.
Two posts earlier in this series I wrote a bit about my own past (My Story). I am sure that the average person in the church I grew up in had no idea of the manner in which we lived. It is the nature of people to assume that unless someone or some area is screaming bloody murder that everything is fine. They are not generally observant in areas beyond those that immediately impact them. It is the nature of people to take things for granted, to assume someone has it handled.
This is greatly aggravated by the pastor's silence on the matter. This aggravation is compounded by the pastor's family's silence. Trust me, those kids know better than to say they have been eating nothing but potatoes all week. They know they are not supposed hint let alone complain that everything is not up to snuff. After all, complaining is a terrible sin. The pastor's wife has a long and weary acquaintance with plastering a smile across her face when dealing with any number of aspects of church life. This is just another one. She swallows her frustration at her husband, chastises herself for her lack of followship and faith, and valiantly tries to ignore the fact that she has no idea where to get shoes for her teenage boy. In her weaker moments she speaks to her husband late at night about the injustice of it all. She tells him the church people would not put up with the same situation if they were in it. But when she shows up at church on Sunday morning and someone makes a remark about how nice it must be to live in a house without paying rent she bites her tongue and soldiers on.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not believe the pastor's wife and family should vocalize their resentment. In fact, I do not believe they should harbor resentment. But the pastor simply must educate the people on what their responsibility is for they will not educate themselves.
I am an independent Baptist by conviction. I strongly believe that a decentralized local church system is God's divine plan. Having said that, every strength comes with a corresponding liability. One of the liabilities of being an independent Baptist lies in just this very area of pastoral salary. There is no overarching organization to instruct the church in the specifics of its responsibility. In a denominational church requirements are handed down. There must be so much salary. There must be such and such provision made for retirement. Here is a formula. Plug in the various numbers and it spits a salary package out the other side. This must be done before we will furnish you with a pastor. In stronger denominations the local church does not even pay the pastor. He is an employee of the much larger organization. The church bears no responsibility, well, other than turning over its entire offerings of course.
          If we cannot – and we must not – adjust our ecclesiology to better our pay package then how do we solve it? Again, the answer is in the pastor. He must teach the people they are responsible and how they can properly carry out their responsibility. I taught school for a year. If my students were ignorant in a subject I could not hope they would figure it out. Neither could I ignore it. Neither could I wish that some other teacher would solve the problem for me. It was my duty to teach them. So it is with the pastor. If my church, the Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago, is going to do a good job in this area then I have to teach them how to do so. Such is not greedy, self-centered, or discontented. I am not showing a lack of faith. I am helping them to become obedient to the Lord in yet another area.     
The third main factor or cause for underpaid pastors is an overly controlling board. I do not believe pastors should be dictators lording it over their people. Neither do I believe they should be puppets dancing on the strings pulled by the deacons. Scriptural truth and practice are balanced, beloved. But just like it is sadly true that there are tyrannical pastors so it is sadly true that there are oppressive deacon or elder boards. Such groups are almost always led by some pillar in the church. This guy was there before the pastor came and will be there after the pastor leaves and he never lets the pastor forget it. He is often wealthy in comparison with the rest of the church. They look up to him and trust him to handle the church's money as a result. Often in the process of making that money he became very assertive and authoritative. The Sermon on the Mount makes no impact on him, and he uses the meekness and gentleness of those around him as building blocks for his own control. Churches like this tend to have money piled up in the bank.
Again, I do not want to be misunderstood here. Wealthy, take charge type of men can serve the Lord very well in a leadership capacity in the church as long as they keep their focus on that word serve. The same spiritual principles apply to them as apply to the pastor. But weeds will sprout in the cleanest of gardens and good men will be swallowed up by their own prideful inclinations far more often than we want to admit.
On the other hand, sometimes this board induced poverty does not arise from a man or men who seek control but from a man or men who genuinely believe that they are being wise stewards of God's money. They see the need of the mission field, of the bus ministry, of the mortgage, etc. as being somehow more deserving than their own pastor or staff. Such men love souls. They love the Lord. They love the cause of Christ. But they do not understand that the financial principles of generosity and double honor are just as biblical as the financial principles of prudence and sacrifice.

The prevailing philosophy is that there is some magical spirituality in poverty. After all, even Jesus didn't have a place to lay his head and you aren't better than him, are you pastor? You don't want to make merchandise of God's people, do you pastor? If the church knew what you were asking, pastor, people would talk. God will take care of you, never you fear, and this pile of money we're sitting on might be needed for some rainy day in the future.
There are several different ways a wise pastor can attack such an unwise practice. First, he can use the power of the bully pulpit. He can preach sermons about the church's responsibility to pay the pastor. He can preach sermons about being generous. He can preach sermons about the greediness of a miserly, stingy attitude. He can preach about faith and double honor. There are texts and examples aplenty in Scripture for all of these. Will some people misunderstand? Of course, but a pastor who loves his people well will generally find they return the sentiment.
Second, he can seek to lessen the main obstructive influence. He can add additional members to the board and so dilute a primary influence. He can lead the church to see the wisdom of term limits for positions. He can ease an older man out into an honorary position. 
Third, he can widen the group he works with. If the deacons are not being teachable then he can hold his meetings with a wider body of men. In other words, he can move past or above or around the obstacle.
Finally, in very rare cases he can even seek to move directly through the obstacle. A wise pastor avoids this as long as possible. He does not pick fights unless he has tried everything else first and then waited and prayed for a long while. He leads gradually. He takes the long view. He respects position and honors past service. But in some cases there is no other choice. There is something about a biting dog that is hard to cure. Sometimes said dog just has to be muzzled or even sent to the pound. In such a case, for the sake of the church itself, a fight must be made. If the pastor does not he will inevitably find himself playing second fiddle forever, or packing his bags and leaving the awful problem to the next poor chap who accepts the call. Neither of those are right. This last alternative is like the atomic bomb. You keep it in the closet. You wheel it out every once in a while to let people know it is there but you only set it off for very compelling reasons.

Whichever one of these causes or combination of causes exists you can see the common thread of solution. It is the pastor. I do not mean to imply that God is not the answer. He is to everything. In confidence the pastor ought to apply the remedy. He ought to teach what the Bible says on the subject. He ought to lean upon the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit for confidence. He ought to avail himself of the wisdom found in a book like Proverbs. He ought to bathe it all in love and prayer. He ought to always keep in back of this the foundational necessity of sacrifice. And then he ought to get up and tackle the problem.

          As he does this the church will begin to see its responsibility. They will gradually adjust course. They will incorporate the necessary attitudes which will result in a shift of priorities. They will do this, not as the result of compulsion or spiritual intimidation, but out of a genuine desire to please the Lord.
          There are, perhaps, other contributory factors and other solutions. As always, I welcome your input either with additional ideas or in response to my own. The vast majority of pastors are not in it for the money. The vast majority of churches do not purposely intend to keep them in poverty. Thus, these underlying causes and any others are eminently fixable. May God give us all, churches and pastors alike, His grace to do so.