Should churches pay their pastor a salary?

The short answer is yes. The Bible specifically states that pastors should be paid a salary. First Corinthians 9:13-14 says, "Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel."

The confusion as to whether a pastor should be paid a salary may arise from the ministries of Jesus and Paul. Jesus didn't seem to request money from those He taught and healed. Instead, He slept where He could (Matthew 8:20) and accepted whatever food people offered (Matthew 9:10; Mark 14:3). In 2 Corinthians 11:7 and 9, Paul explains that he took no money for his personal expenses from the church in Corinth. Should pastors follow in his footsteps?

The problem with basing that belief on the 2 Corinthians 11 passage is that the situation was very specific. Paul had a hard time with the Corinthians—getting them to understand and live out the gospel. Verse 8 shows that in order to concentrate on his efforts to teach the Corinthians the basics, he did not ask them to support him. Instead, he "robbed other churches by accepting support from them." Paul didn't literally "rob" the churches in Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica, but he did live off their donations when he ministered in Corinth.

A somewhat common belief in modern days is that if salvation is by grace, ministry should be free. After all, the pastor only works two hours a week. This is a matter of what a church wants and needs in a pastor. If they want someone who is available for counseling, directing volunteers, immediate emergencies, and shepherding, that is a full-time job, and it is stealing to pay less than a full-time salary. If a church cannot afford a full-time salary, they may need to find a pastor who is flexible enough to take a second job. Everyone involved, however, will have to approach the situation with grace, realizing that a part-time pastor will not be able to accomplish as much or be as involved as a full-time minister.

But even if a church merely wants pulpit-supply—a pastor who only preaches on Sunday and does nothing else—you still get what you pay for. Education costs, as does taking the time to write good, applicable sermons. This also goes for Christian education and ministries. Sometimes such things can be found free online. Sometimes a church is fortunate enough to have an educated teacher who can lead a class. But when anyone works in ministry as a vocation, compensating for their time and allowing them to provide for their families is only fair.

Related Truth:

Is the office of pastor taught in the Bible?

Does the Bible talk about church government?

What are church bylaws (by-laws)? Why are church bylaws important?

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

What should we look for in a church?

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