Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Two [mostly] Unrelated Thoughts

A couple of mostly unrelated thoughts:

There is a fine line between nuanced thinking and sloppy thinking. Nuanced thinkers often take moderate positions after considering all of the facts, but so do sloppy thinkers who want to appear nuanced. So far, RedBlueChristian seems more sloppy than nuanced to me.

Why are Senior Pastors the highest paid employees of any Christian Church? If Christian leadership is servant leadership, shouldn’t the Senior Pastor be the greatest servant in the Church? If not, why isn’t the greatest servant the Senior Pastor? If the Senior Pastor is the greatest servant, why does he require a larger salary than the associate pastors and other Church employees?


Hammertime said...

Isn't salary typically tied to responsibility? The CEO likely doesn't work as "hard" as the package handler, but he is responsible for everything the company does. Thus, he makes the most - because he is held accountable for the most (or should be).

The senior pastor, and no one else, will answer for the actions of the church he is given stewardship over. The Youth Minister answers for the students and student leadership, and no one else - yet the senior pastor is also responsible for the students, along with everything else.

While I recognize than many churches do not operate this way, it is the Biblical way (not salary - responsibility). The pastor shouldn't answer to the deacons, but to God and the church body as a whole.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

Salary in the corporate world is determined by many aspects of each job including responsibility, but not always responsibility, and rarely only responsibility. While the Senior Pastor in most Churches has CEO responsibilities, the primary responsibility of the Senior Pastor is, or at least should be, Senior Shepherd and Senior Disciple.

If we believe the mature Christian should be a humble servant, which I do, how is the Senior Pastor modeling a humble servant when he is paid more than his staff, lives in a bigger house, drives a newer car, wears more expensive clothes, and takes longer vacations than the rest of his staff and most of the members of his Church?

I am not claiming Senior Pastors should not be taken care of by the members of a Church. Of course they should. I want to know what is the Biblical and moral justification for taking better care of the Senior Pastor than other staff members. I also want to know how a Senior Pastor can model humility and service when he is rewarded with benefits greater than the rewards and benefits of his staff and members.

Where are the humble servants? They should be leading Churches, but where are they?

Hammertime said...

If you seek Biblical justification, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 should be sufficient:

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Clearly those who are dedicated to preaching are to be those ones most funded by the church, above the music, media, missions, student and education ministers.

I also believe your example is not an honest one. "wears more expensive clothes, drives a newer car, takes longer vacations and lives in a bigger house" are all his choices, not functions of either his position or his pay.

His pay enables him to do some of these, but the fact that he does them is on him, not the people who decide what to pay him.

Our salary is compensation for our work. We get paid what we earn. It isn't supposed to be a vice to smash us into our personal picture of what a minister should be.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

I believe the Timothy verse you referenced has more to do with honor and respect than monetary compensation for preaching and teaching. However, if you believe it refers to monetary compensation, then you still need to answer the question of how servant leadership is compatible with a higher salary.

If you think my first example is dishonest, let me try another. In my family, I bring home the most pay, but as the servant leader of my household, I spend less on clothes, less on activities, do more housework and yard-work, and drive the oldest car.

Isn’t the Senior Pastor of a Church the leader of a Church family similar to my role as the leader of my house?

Hammertime said...

Your example of yourself is perfect, because it demonstrates that earning the most doesn't mean you do all the things you say that Senior Pastors do - which was my point.

I suppose the most challenging point of your question, "How is servant leadership compatible with a higher salary" is this - I don't see a link between servant leadership or selfish leadership and salary at all. The link is leadership - those who lead the most, and lead successfully, earn the most.

When you were a Marine, perhaps you thought it unfair that a lieutenant with a year of service was paid more than an E-6 with 15, and not only that, but he was saluted and called "sir" by said E-6.

I, as a commander, ate last, worked longest, and allowed others to train more when the budget was a bind. Those are leadership qualities, not bound to my pay. That said, I could have done exactly the opposite and been paid the same.

I was paid for my responsibility. The Senior Pastor is as well. I don't see how his specific type of leadership, which is (or should be!) more self-sacrificing than most, means he should earn less. In fact, perhaps it justifies him earning more.

Who is called in the middle of the night to the hospital? To counsel a broken member during family time? To host someone at their home who has been out of doors? Isn't the pastor the recipient of many more demands for his "servant leadership" than the music minister?

To me, a servant leader should be paid more than other leaders, because they give beyond all others - as well as having the critical job of preaching and teaching the word.

David M. Smith said...

Hi again Hammer,

Thanks for responding and thanks for representing the Senior Pastor point of view. What seems very straight forward to me seems incomprehensible to you. Please allow me another chance to clarify.

I do not begrudge anyone for making a fair salary. Everyone is entitled to a fair days pay for a fair days work. However, I am questioning how fair pay is determined for Senior Pastors; I am questioning the qualifications and motivations of Senior Pastors; and I am questioning the impression that is made on non-believers and new Christians when the primary representatives of servant leadership are compensated more than any other employee of a Church and usually more than 95% of the members of most Churches.

When someone is rewarded with pay for everything they do, they are not exhibiting servant leadership. They are no different than the Pagan who is paid for his service. Perhaps sacrificial leadership is a better description for the point I am trying to make than servant leadership.

In my example, my take home pay is not the point. My take home pay represents the resources available to my family. In my family, my wife and daughters are not able to match my salary and contribute to the resources available to our family. I have the most responsibility in my family and I work the hardest, but I SPEND the least. The needs of my wife and girls all come before my needs. I still wear clothes, and eat, and have activities, but to a lesser degree than the rest of my family.

The Church also has a finite amount of resources where the needs of believers should come before the needs of the Senior Pastor, in my opinion. The resources of the Church come from the contributions of the people who attend services. The Senior Pastors salary is paid out of the resources of the Church. Many people contributing resources to the Church live in small apartments, drive old cars, wear old clothes, and can’t even dream of taking a family vacation. I don’t know how a Senior Pastor, as the primary representative of Christ, can take money from these people and use the money for a big house, new car, new clothes, and an extended vacation. Something is very wrong with this practice. It is not the sacrificial leadership modeled by Jesus and Paul and others throughout history.

At the very least, this is compromised Christian leadership. In some cases it is even extremely hypocritical. I am amazed at how the Church leadership in our time is so similar to the Jewish leadership in the time of Jesus.

Buz said...

But Dave ...

All the churches want a good preacher, and we in the capitalist west recognize supply and demand ... the higest salary buys the best preacher.

You get what you pay for ...

That's why we have such good representation in D.C. We have the best politicians money can buy.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

“You get what you pay for” has always and will always be true. In America, it is also true; most people have the ability to set their own salary. The only question we need to answer is what we are willing to do to get the salary we want. Senior Pastors, more than anyone else, should be saying they are not willing to take from the poor to get paid what they want. Where are the sacrificial leaders?

Buz said...

On the slightly more serious side, I agree with most of your assessment. How many little old ladies who had to choose between crackers and heart pills for this month's retirement check have gone into making Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, Robert Schuller, and Rex Humbard multi-millionaires.

(Of course, if you give your last two pennies to one of these guys, God will certainly bless you 40, 60, or even 100 fold, and you could get 80 cents, a buck twenty, or even two whole dollars back ... while they have to suffer in their air conditioned Rolls.)

Sorry if I sound a bit cynical, but I have had it up to my pate with folks treating God like the genii in the bottle ... which I put mostly on a lack of good, biblical teaching, or a plethora of downright bad, unbiblical teaching. Either way, I see it as being propagated, or at least permitted by preachers who have a desire to get their bucks before the pyramid collapses.

Sadly, the truth is that the Kingdom of God is funded most by those who can afford it (monetarily) the least.

I do not believe that the church should keep its pastor in poverty, but I strongly believe that every pastor ought to spend every dollar that he gets from the church as though it came from the poorest member ... because it most likely did. And then after he has spent the money, to be humble about what he has purchased, not showing it off as though it were a trophy.

Paul quoted the "don't muzzle the ox" bit, but he also said:
Phil 4:11-2 "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."


1 Cor 9:12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

. . .

1 Cor 9:15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.

Yes, Paul had the right to expect to be paid (and handsomely) for his preaching ... after all, he could raise the dead. Not too many senior pastors do that now days. But he looked at (1) where the money was coming from (a lot of the Corinthians were in the position of having lost their jobs, so that while there were some who were quite well off, there were many others who were destitute), and (2) what the appearance of his acceptance of the money would look like (in that greater area, there were many who were preaching just for the money ... and becoming quite wealthy in the process).

Paul did not want to turn away those who would have felt obligated to give money they did not have or guilty about not being able to give, and he did not want anyone to think that he was motivated by the desire for gain.

I know a guy who stayed away from church for years because he lived a very meager lifestyle. He made very good money and gave most of it away to charity, and yet would go into churches and see preachers wearing gold chains and driving expensive cars. I admit that some of that was his own personal hang-ups, but I also believe that we in the western church (I will not exclude myself from examination) have grown comfortable in our excesses.

How many christians (lower case "c") gave less than $5000 to the church last year but have over $10,000 invested in their home entertainment system or have a couple of boats or RVs? Our recreation is more important to us than those around us who are facing eternity without God?

How many of us spend 10 times more of our free time watching TV than we do reaching out to the lost? How many churches will be nearly empty on Super Bowl Sunday morning because people don't want to miss the pre-pre-pre-game show?

And then we wonder why church attendance is falling and why unbelievers don't come. Why should they? WE don't come half the time. If we are "Christians" and it's not that important to us, why should they bother?

Bottom line: is it a case of the pastors becoming more like the world and the church following them or is it a case of the church becoming more like the world and selecting pastors who are more like them? Does it matter? It has to stop somewhere.

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"


Buz said...

Took a quick look at RedBlueChristian ... looks more like a political site than a religious one ...

Yes, I am a citizen of this world, but more importantly, I am an ambassador for the next one. I see Paul talking to Felix about God, not about the treatment of slaves or whether the army should attack Egypt.


David M. Smith said...

Thank you Buz,

You explained (and justified scripturally) my feelings and observations much, much, better than I was able.

Probably both are true, Pastors are more like the world and worldly Churches choose like minded Pastors.

I’m thankful there are people making a living producing and selling expensive products and I am thankful there are consumers willing to buy expensive products and services. However, Pastors and Churches need to be different. We do need to learn and practice contentment as well as model Christian compassion to those who struggle to pay the bills.

Perspective is the key. We can look at those with more and decide we want to have what they have, or we can look at those with less and decide to share what we have.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I had high hopes for RedBlueChristian. I strongly believe Christians should be involved in politics, but not obsessed with politics, and not at the expense of the Gospel.

Sadly though, the thinking and writing on this site is no different than any other political site, so far. Maybe it will improve.

Hammertime said...

"I am questioning the impression that is made on non-believers and new Christians when the primary representatives of servant leadership are compensated more than any other employee of a Church and usually more than 95% of the members of most Churches."

95% David? You made that up. Admit it.

Perhaps that is true in High-church land, but out here in evangelical low church land, the typical pastor is part time and makes 14k a year while busting his hump on another job. The average full time senior pastor salary in KY is 47k. For a full time staff member it is 44k. Mean KY salary for all citizens? 55k.

In your state the average SBC full time pastor makes 49k. The average full time staff minister makes 48k.
Mean CA salary for all citizens? 45k.

You are either in the wrong denominations or making a judgment based upon a few limited observations.

"I don’t know how a Senior Pastor, as the primary representative of Christ, can take money from these people and use the money for a big house, new car, new clothes, and an extended vacation."

David, I am surprised these have surfaced again. Is the issue salary, or these things? I am at odds with you over salary (assuming you start talking about actual salaries, not nonsense like "more than 95% of their flock"), but not these. In these other things, we agree.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

So far, everything I have written is based on my impression, not any hard numbers I have seen published. 95% is an impression, not a fact. My impression could be wrong, but I have been involved in enough Churches and visited enough Churches and known enough Pastors to believe I am basically right. My point it still valid whether it is 95% or 90% or even a little less. I didn’t know how to communicate my impression without putting a number to it. I didn’t mean to mislead. I have admitted in the past, and I will admit again, my impressions are skewed by California circumstances and may not be completely applicable to the rest of America.

I also know associate Pastors are not very well paid at all. This is part of my point. How can a Senior Pastor disciple Associate Pastors when the Senior Pastor is paid so much more than the Associates? Some Associates are barely paid at all.

Mean salary in Kentucky can’t possibly be 55K. You made that up, didn’t you. : -)

I really don’t care what the Senior Pastor is paid, but I do care about the people who are scraping by while paying his salary. I do care about the impression the Senior Pastor is making when he is so much better off than the members of his Church and the people on his staff. I don’t think most Senior Pastors act in the tradition of Paul as I think they should.

Hammertime said...

Well, it seems we agree on the principle - no matter what senior pastors make, they should live like servant leaders.

I should clarify my words, since I see how you misinterpreted them. When I was talking about a pastor making an average of 14k a year, I meant SENIOR PASTORS. 40% of Southern Baptist senior pastors are part-time, and they get 14k from their pastoring job. The staff ministers I quoted are ASSOCIATE PASTORS. You can see if you look at the numbers that average senior pastor salary is very close to staff minister / associate pastor salary.

I'm sorry you've been in many churches where the pastor is earning a lot. Perhaps you should try the Southern Baptists!

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

When I lived in Arkansas in 1991, I became a member of a Southern Baptist Church. It is my favorite all time Church mainly because of the older male leadership and because the Senior Pastor was very intelligent. However, even in this Southern Baptist Church in Arkansas, the Senior Pastor was compensated like a Medical Doctor.

I know what I am describing is not a universal truth. There are many exceptions. However, what I am describing is more true than it should be. Christian leadership is a vocation that should have high standards. Pastors who want to live like pagans while preaching the Word leave me cold. A Pastor who takes his family to Disneyland while members of his Church are eating beans also leaves me cold.

Buz said...

Dave & Hammer,

I have been in several denominations in several states ...


The descriptions I hear of your experience and perceptions sound more like the mega-churches ... attendance > 500 ... where a small amount of the weekly intake is used for salaries, but it is still enough that some of those pastors are into 6 figures (I am sure that the ones on TV are easily into 7).


It your descriptions sound more like the other end of the scale, where the churches have 60 or so on a Sunday morning, and 85% of the tithe makes up the 60% of what the pastor was promised for a salary, and the other 15% goes to keep the lights on.

I have been in both of those churches and I won't say that the pastor of 700 was any less spiritual than the pastor of the 60, or that the pastor of the 60 was any less proud than the pastor of the 700. Nor that the people of either pastor felt more or less that their pastor was overpaid than the other.

I will say that both pastors were human, and both churches frequently had roast pastor for Sunday lunch.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I don’t expect perfection from anyone including Pastors. Obviously the responsibilities of a Senior Pastor in a mega-church are different from the responsibilities of a Senior Pastor in a small Church. However, the principle is the same, Pastors have to lead by example, not just by preaching teaching. I don’t see Christ in a Pastor who is living above most of the members even if he deserves to be paid like a Medical Doctor.