One, the Other, or Both

By Chuck Bartlett 

Some people wonder if a church should pay their preacher. Others might think that the preacher should have a secular job. Still others might think that the preacher should have both a secular job and be supported partially by the church. The scriptures have much to say about whether men should be paid to preach. As we will see, all three ways can be acceptable.

When Paul was at Corinth, he met up with a couple named Aquila and Priscilla. We are told that all three were tentmakers by trade. Thus, the apostle stayed with them and they worked together (Acts 18:1-3). There is nothing wrong with a preacher working with his hands in order to provide for his needs. It is wrong to consider someone a “lesser” preacher if he has other means to support himself.

We also find out that Paul was financially helped by the church at Philippi. They sent help to him on more than one occasion (Phil. 4:16). Beyond these brethren help, Paul was also supported by other churches for teaching the word (II Cor. 11:8). All of this reveals that a man is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7; I Tim. 5:18). Having read these verses, let’s answer some potential questions.

Can a preacher be supported by more than one church?  Yes. Paul said that “churches” send wages to him for his work (II Cor. 11:8).

Can an evangelist preach at a local church that does not support him? Yes. Paul said he preached at Corinth for free while getting support from other places (II Cor. 11:7).                                                                             

Do preachers take a vow of poverty as some religious groups teach? No. The Bible does not teach this.

If a preacher is supported by a local church, does he still participate in the weekly contribution? Yes. The preacher is a Christian and responsible for obeying the commands of our Lord (II Cor. 16:1-2; II Cor. 9:7).

Can churches send money to another local church to support a preacher? No. Recall in the earlier verses that the church sent to his needs (Phil. 4:16). Churches support the man directly – they do not send their money to the church to then give to the man.

Can a local church stop supporting a preacher if he teaches error? Yes. Churches need to know who they support and what is being taught. If a church knows that the preacher is teaching error and he does not repent, they are sinning by supporting him (II John 9-10).

Who decides how much a preacher is to be paid? The Bible has no specific number. This should be a discussion between the preacher and the church(es). The preacher does not have to live below the poverty line, nor does he need to live better than the brethren. Remember, Paul spoke about churches meeting his needs (Phil. 4:16).

Beyond his regular support, should churches pay for unexpected expenses? No. When one of the members breaks a tooth or has car trouble or breaks their glasses, they do not expect the church to pay for it. They budget their income for things like this, and the preacher is no different.  Failure to provide for your own due to poor planning is wrong (I Tim. 5:8).

Should one preach because of the money? No. If someone wants to preach simply to make money, they are preaching for the wrong reason. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10).

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