Another pastor took his own life a few weeks ago.
I didn’t write about it at the time because
- a lot of other pastors were writing about it and I didn’t feel like I could add anything as useful than what had already been written and
- it hit a little too close to home.
If a pastor has been in ministry for more than two or three years, they know the emotional and spiritual burden that comes with the territory. The statistics regarding depression in pastors is staggering and most church folks would be shocked to know how burdened pastors are.
I don’t think this is new. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul certainly knew hardship and leadership pain. And it seems he’s preparing his mentees for the same. He directs young Timothy in the area of taking care of the elders of the church in Ephesus in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18
New International Version
The Apostle Paul instructed those responsible for the long-term leadership of the churches he planted to appoint elders for the churches (cf. Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5). And Paul is instructing young Timothy on the financial compensation for the “elders who direct the affairs of the church”.
The instruction is clear, although somewhat controversial in the ears of some in the modern Church: the elders “whose work is preaching and teaching” who lead well are worthy of “double honor”.
Why is the teaching ministry elevated above others in Paul’s mind?
Practically, there’s this: teaching and bringing the Scriptures to the lives of the hearers take a lot of time and limits the work an Elder (pastor, etc.) can do outside the church setting. In addition, the truths involved in the process of making disciples for Jesus requires teachers who instruct the disciple-makers.
But that’s not the part modern church-goers struggle with. It’s the other part. It’s the money part. Some Christians have equated their desire for their pastors to be free from the love of money (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10) by removing money from their lives. I’m not sure that’s what Scripture means.
While there are certainly some in the church who feel a modern pastor is closer to God by living in poverty, the Apostle Paul doesn’t agree. Paul applies the teaching of Deuteronomy 25:4 and Leviticus 19:13: don’t let the lack of money be the reason a church leader is distracted.
Not only does he write this passage today, but he also wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:14, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”
The Apostle Paul relied on the presumption that pastoral ministry was compensated because the Old Testament priests were paid for their work so they were undistracted by having to work other jobs for money. Yes, the Apostle Paul refused compensation from the churches he started or equipped, but he explained it was a special case for special circumstances (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:4-18).
Let me conclude by saying this, my dear Christian reader: be on the team of financially supporting your pastors and supporting them well. The emotional and spiritual burden is greater than most can imagine.
As one seasoned pastor told me when I was entering full-time ministry:
“Families don’t call their pastor when the teenager gets all As. They don’t call their pastor when their child celebrates sixteen years old. They call when the teenager has been arrested for drinking and driving. They call when their daughter is pregnant or their son is rebelling. Or their marriage is falling apart because of years of neglect.”
I can assure you from personal experience, friends: the burden is great and most of the people we serve don’t know it. I urge you: don’t let the lack of financial peace and the burden of poverty be an additional concern for your pastor.
Let’s connect! I’ve set up a Facebook account where I’m now sharing my blogs, podcasts, messages, and things I hope help you on the journey.
Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.
Joel has a podcast! Addressing church leadership issues, Joel dissects what he’s been taught and experienced. Subscribe below.
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