Both in person and online, I have quite often encountered an annoying sort of person with an unbiblical, illogical opinion that pastors should quite literally work full-time for free.
Mind you, I do not encounter this at all at my church; my people actually read and study their Bibles. Facebook is a hotbed of that sentiment, though, as are some other places and forums.
One of my members approached me recently about this topic. She had been confronted by a relative who spouted that opinion. She wisely asked him a few questions. "Who do you expect to sit with you in the hospital while you are having surgery? Who do you expect to do months of marriage counseling with you when your home is in trouble? Who do you expect to spend 20 or 30 hours a week studying and preparing for messages?"
There were some that I could have added, such as: "Who do you expect to interrupt his vacation and drive home to preach the funeral of a family member? Who do you expect to perform weddings, do baptisms, pursue those who start missing church, knock on doors to win souls, take phone calls from hurting people at all hours of the night, be in the church office available for all comers nearly every day of the week and, in my personal case, physically build the church buildings, do all of the electrical work, all of the maintenance, all of the plumbing and, for the first 18 years of the church until we got big enough to hire help, do all of the cleaning on the inside and lawn work on the outside?"
Paul the apostle dealt effectively and thoroughly with this foolish type of individual in the very first generation of the church. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 9, he had encountered that exact type of mentality. In verses 6-11, he said, "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working [a secular job]? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal [monetary, fleshly] things?"
As I said above, I am truly, thoroughly blessed in this. I have rarely ever worked less than 60 hours a week, and my church treats me very well for so doing. I know, though, that many other ministers are not in quite that same situation.
My father-in-law preached a revival at a church that boasted of having more than a million dollars in the bank. Their full-time pastor, who worked himself to a frazzle, was paid at less than poverty level. He drove a 30-year-old vehicle with bald tires. When my father-in-law got done raking the deacons over the coals for their dereliction of duty, they canceled the rest of the meeting.
In another meeting, the pastor asked to take the evangelist out to dinner after the service. The evangelist was tired, and said, "No, thank you, I will just go back to the hotel." The pastor, with tears welling up in his eyes, said, "Please, let me take you out. My wife and I have no groceries, and if I take you out, my wife and I will be allowed to have the church take care of our meal as well."
For every ridiculous extreme on the utterly unbiblical "prosperity gospel" end of the spectrum, every Gulf Stream jet-owning, Rolex-wearing, Bentley-driving, flock-fleecing charlatan, there are a multitude on the other utterly unbiblical end of the spectrum; ministers of churches who could afford to pay them well who are instead expected to be on call 24 hours a day, for free, while somehow also working full-time secular jobs to put food on the table.
Using Paul's analogy, no farmer with any shred of decency would even treat a plow animal so poorly. If your church does, I say this without apology: Shame on you.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.