ON PAYING A PREACHER
By Wayne S. Walker
One of the reasons I preach the gospel is not because it is financially rewarding. At least it was not for the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Now there are passages which teach that the preacher is to be supported for his work (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:16; 1 Tim. 5:18). Today preachers are generally desired with a reasonable education as though they were being chosen like a doctor or lawyer. It is not necessarily a matter of the amount of formal education, but of being intellectually qualified for the work of preaching—the ability to study, speak, and deal with people. Again, preachers are usually considered as being on call twenty-four hours a day like doctors and lawyers—at least like doctors and lawyers used to be. Preachers are also expected to be able to take charge and get things done like an executive of a company.
It seems to me that since people want these qualities in a preacher, they would be more than willing to pay him like any other professional or executive. But unfortunately, it “ain’t” so. A preacher friend of mine once said jokingly that he was glad his pay was so low because he certainly did not want the brethren to think preaching is as important as being a plumber! But seriously, although I do not want to encourage or seem to encourage “professionalism” in the pulpit, still if men of ability in secular jobs are handsomely rewarded for their abilities and work, such should be true of preachers also, most of whom have left or declined to enter lucrative professions in order to preach. However, I realize that such is not always the case. There are a few stingy brethren who have enough influence to see that the preacher gets just as little as possible, and then begrudge him even that. This is the way things are sometimes.
Let it be understood that neither I nor any other gospel preacher who is worthy of that designation is preaching for money. If being materially rich were our goal, we could certainly find less demanding jobs with more prestige and better pay. In fact, with their backgrounds, most preachers could probably walk into any factory that is hiring and get as job paying more money than they make as preachers, at least when the economy was better. But I do not want that. I want to preach the gospel. Because others have chosen to do likewise, a few brethren seem to think that they should have to suffer more than the “average” Christian. Nowhere do the scriptures hint at such a concept. However, the fact is that practically every preacher is willing to do without some, even many, of the things that most people could not visualize living without in order to do that which he loves best and desires most—preaching the gospel.
Let this not be misunderstood as the whining of a disenchanted preacher, for I have been treated exceptionally well in the time I have been preaching, and I have nothing about which to complain. Nor let this be construed as an indictment against all, or even a majority of, the brethren. Most Christians I have come in contact with are royal in their attitude toward preachers. But let this be a reminder that making known the glad tidings—and that does not mean just “being a preacher”—is absolutely the most important work in the world. A man who gives his full time to such a pursuit should be well supported for his work. Read Romans 10:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-23 to see that this is true.
–taken and slightly updated from Torch; May, 1976; Vol. X, No. 5; pp. 14-15