Hi friends! Good morning and blessings of peace and happiness be upon you and your families. Today we continue to read 1 Corinthians as Paul address some complaints not that the church has but rather he has this time. The top part of today's reading is about finances in the church and how "clergy" should be paid. It's a super tough thing that is almost always a contentious discussion even today. What are your thoughts on this? What is your reaction to Paul's writing? Let's find out.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What "payment" did the early church leaders earn from their congregations? Why does Paul not want payment? Is that fair to him or his church(es)?
What percentage of a church budget should be allocated to its personnel in your opinion? Why?
Should churches be tax exempt? Why or why not?
- Commentary / Thoughts -
Ahhh....clergy payment. Always a fun topic to consider. Jesus never made it very clear to his disciples about what type of payment they should receive once he left them to lead the church. During their time together he told them to leave with nothing to their name and only accept what people offer them (food, drink, shelter, etc.) But the truth of the matter is life is more complicated than that. Bills need to paid, houses cost money, and while it would be cool to dine at a different person's house everyday it's much more realistic to go grocery shopping. So, the churches were left to ask the question - what should we pay these preachers and where does that money come from? Paul argues here that *some* of the donated money to the Jerusalem church be given to preachers/teachers and he justifies that by using a parable about oxen eating the grain they plow and farmers about their fruits they grow. Over time the church has taken many different positions on this. The Catholic Church for examples requires their clergy to not only forsake marriage and companionship but also take a vow of poverty. In exchange they receive a house and most of their expenses are paid for by the church. The justification? Without having to worry about those things they can spend more time in prayer to God and without having the means to purchase anything they "want" they can devote more time to the church and to God. I think this is fair, although horribly depressing.
As Methodists our clergy are able to marry and that certainly complicates things. Should married clergy be forced to take a vow of poverty? I don't think so. Why should the family (and children) suffer because of the chosen profession of their spouse? So, the Methodist church does not force it's clergy to live in poverty and leaves it up to the church to decide how much to pay their clergy. (To clarify there is a required minimum that must be paid but many churches pay more than that.) In most books I have read a church should allocate 30% of its total income to staff while the remaining 70% go towards building expenses and ministries. (ideally those should be 35% each but we know that's difficult with big old buildings.) At our church we pay closer to 45% for our staff leaving our ministries very tight with funds and often are forced to cut back on our team ministries. It's horribly tough to decide what to do in this case. Do we let people go? Do we cut people back on payment? How do we decide who? For the sake of transparency I make conference minimum which is roughly around 32k a year. (I also get double taxed on that as I'm considered self employed, so keep that in mind.) In addition to that I receive a housing allowance since the church does not have a second parsonage for me to live in. ($1,000 / month.) This money goes towards my rent/mortgage and utilities. In total with some other little bonuses on my salary (continued education, work related travel (not commute), cell phone, etc.) I make around $45k a year. In addition to the salary component of my job I also receive health care, dental care, and vision from the church which costs around 30k a year. Therefore the grand total for a minimum full time pastor is 75k. 75k is the *minimum* a church must pay for a full time clergy! It's a lot and I feel exceptionally grateful for your generosity to support me at this church for the last 3 years without having to "share" me with other churches on a part time basis as many others must do. Should pastors receive all of this? That's for you to decide.
But there must also be limits, right? At least in my opinion. It drives me absolutely insane to see mega church pastors who own private jets and cars that are worth 100k or more. Coming out on stage wearing 5000 dollar t shirts and Rolex watches and thousand dollar Nike shoes or those God awful things Kanye calls shoes. I mean if you want to get mad just look at Joel Osteen's house below. 6 bedrooms, 5 baths, 3 elevators, a pool, a guest house all valued at 10 million dollars. (UUUGGGHHHHHHH) Should a church that large still be considered tax exempt? I don't think so - think how much good tax revenue on a building that big could do for its surrounding community! Isn't that the literal point of a church? haha. Heck, I get angry anytime a pastor makes over 100k a year. But is that fair of me? I don't know. They clearly have worked very hard for what they have built and their ministry is clearly helping people as its grown to the places it has. But it still feels wrong.
(Smiley Joel's humble abode)
I read a report a few years back that say once you make 75k a year you have achieved "happiness." That anything beyond that will not make you any happier, just "bigger." You'll get bigger homes, bigger cars, fancier clothes and furniture but its relative at that point. Anything below that and you will always have some mild anxiety about your financial cushion and prospects. If the goal of the Christian church is to create "heaven on earth" and help all people find peace and security should our goal not be find ways to help all people reach that 75k a year goal? Or, ease the burdens of living so that 75k a year is no longer necessary? Obviously this extends beyond the 4 walls of the church and I don't want to complicate this post any further but I think those types of discussions are relevant if we truly believe God exists outside our buildings too.
In any case, what are your thoughts on clergy payment? Whats a reasonable minimum? What's too much?
Praying the Hymns
Our hymn for today is "Walk on, O People of God". I've never heard this one before...have you? It's always fun to learn new hymns, I think!
Okay this is probably one of the coolest renditions of a hymn I've heard before! Huge credit to this church for getting creative with this.
Lyrics in video! (my way of making you watch it cause its so good! haha)