I was reading a Facebook post from a pastor earlier this week. He was estimating that, due to decreased giving in churches, that most pastors would be bivocational within the next several years. Many are making this choice, and others are doing so by necessity. I am going to state some observations as to why I believe that churches are no longer able to “afford” their pastors.
- Buildings have become a priority. I was on staff in a church that had a $15,000 monthly mortgage payment. The facility was beautiful, but the price was too steep for a building that was only used for Sunday services and funerals. Declining churches are quicker to hold on to a building for sentimental reasons than to be more practical. If you can’t afford to keep the lights on, why dig a deeper hole for yourself?
- Although Scripture talks about giving financially, many will not give if they do not see a return on their giving. Unfortunately, an adequate return today has been defined by large crowds, well-rehearsed performances, and programs. What about people entering a relationship with Christ, being baptized, and growing in that relationship? Programs and the aforementioned things can be a means, but Jesus did not call the church to be a Broadway musical. It’s sad that even Christ’s finished work in Calvary has become a theatrical presentation more than the price paid for our salvation.
The big issue is not whether a pastor strictly makes a living through serving a church or if he has to have more than one job. I have a job and draw no compensation from the church. Scripture does encourage that the church financially take care of a pastor, but Paul worked another job. The New Testament churches would take collections for him, but he had a greater motive than money.
The church as a whole needs to revisit its priorities. The big priority is not paying the pastor. Let me be clear on that. Many churches exist for unbiblical reasons. That’s why many are closing.
I’ll close with a story of a church that once averaged 600 in Sunday morning attendance. The community began to change, and internal struggles within the church led to decline. Sunday morning worship attendance eventually dwindled to 20 with a large 3-Story facility and over 90 percent of the space being wasted. They eventually sold the facility and rented an office space to continue the ministry. They were determined to stay open until their 100th anniversary. By that time, they were down to 12 people and had tons of money in the bank. Shortly after they reached that anniversary, they dissolved and disbursed the money to various ministries that were successfully accomplishing what Jesus commanded. This church refused to focus on what mattered, but they were able to use well over a million dollars to further the gospel.
If you are in leadership in a church, ask yourself why you do what you do. After an honest assessment, you may discover that you are there for the building, your personal reputation, or a legacy. Repent and go back to the work Jesus commanded for the church. If you refuse to repent, God may take measures you tried to avoid.