You may have never given this question much thought. Or you have come to the typical conclusion that he was given remuneration for filling pulpit supply. It is certainly a good practice to support someone who fills pulpit supply, but the wages given to your specific pastor is different. Your pastor is not just your pastor when he is filling pulpit supply.
Before we begin to look at the different reasons, I would like to answer the proverbial detractor to the support of the ministry. Some may say that regular, planned support is a salary. A salary is defined in the Webster’s 1828 as “The recompense or consideration stipulated to be paid to a person for services.” I am not an advocate that a minister or church stipulates a price to be paid, nor do I know of any that do so. A minister should certainly plow regardless of wages given (1 Cor. 9:10-16). But that principle does not negate a church’s responsibility to actively seek to sacrificially support the pastor to the best of their own ability. There is a Biblical balance that promotes both services freely given and sacrificial support. Now, let’s look at a few Biblical reasons for the support of the ministry. This is not a defense of financial giving, rather, it is expedient reasons for it.
Reason 1: Because God has ordained it!
1 Corinthians 9:14 reads, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” You really need no other reason to support your pastor other than the fact God commands it. The KJV uses the undeniably strong word “ordained” to describe this principle. God set up his church that those that labor in a field should eat of that field (1 Tim. 5:18).
Reason 2: So that he might give himself to the word and prayer!
Acts 6:1-7 describes an occasion where we see the first real division among the early church. It is noteworthy that the first recorded division was seemingly a problem of exclusivity and cliquishness. Regardless of the specific situation, the Apostles (the first generation ministry) did not want to break themselves away from the study of the word and prayer, so they appointed seven faithful men to govern over the business of “daily ministration.” In essence, the ministry should be devoted to prayer and study. Note that this means preemptive giving.
You see, preemptive giving means that you are not giving your pastor wages just because he showed up on Sunday and preached. True financial support is given to alleviate a man’s hands from secular employment so that he may be able to better serve God and the congregation. It is given so that he will not have to be entangled with the affairs of the world (2 Tim. 2:4). Biblical giving tries to allow a man the ability to devote as much time as possible to his calling.
For example, it is usually the practice that if the pastor is not pulpit supply on Sunday then he receives no wages. This is defeating the purpose. The appointed pastor is given wages not just for what he does on Sunday, but it is given so that he may freely apply himself the other 6 days of the week. Sunday is the big day, but if a man is not able to properly devote himself building up to Sunday, then his efforts will not be as focused as they could have been otherwise. Certainly God can bless the weakness of man regardless of time available to study. But I refer back to the listed reason 1. God has ordained this kind of support. So the preemptive support of the ministry is both God ordained and expedient. Again, this is not a salary or stipulated amount. This is simply what a church should purpose to do for their pastor who is serving in hope.
Reason 3: Because he has shown himself to be faithful!
1 Timothy 5:17 tells us, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” The word “honour” is in reference to money paid. The word double has reference to more, or two-fold. So in essence, this verse describes a higher excess of financial wages being given to ministers who rule (i.e., pastor) good and honestly.
There are two principles that I want to derive from this verse:
1. There may be multiple Elders/Bishops in a church. This verse gives us a pattern of concentrated efforts toward whomever labors in both “the word and doctrine.” What do I mean by that? A plurality of elders is Biblical, but so is one central leader or pastor of a congregation. A church may not have the capability to fully support all of the ministers that are at their specific church. So what do they do? In a plurality of elders environment, the church should prayerfully consider focusing support in a way that alleviates secular employment for whomever is main pastor, teacher. I would add that I personally believe that all ordained elders do not have the gift to pastor. Elder Sonny Pyles said that to say that all ministers have the gift to pastor is “belittling the gift of the pastor.” A church (and the ministry involved) should beg the Spirit to illuminate who should be called into such a sober position. This does not mean that the other elders are forgotten about and/or not supported. They should certainly receive support as needed, but the above verse shows a pattern of honoring those to whom is the primary laborer.
2. The above verse also gives the idea that when a man is faithful then a church should consider further sacrifice as God has so blessed them. Some may slanderously call this a so-called bonus or a raise. I don’t really care. The Biblical concept is there. God commands both minister and church to sacrifice more and more for each other.
Reasons 4: The more you give the more you spiritually receive!
Consider Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” This verse is usually used as a reference to prove that people will, sooner or later, pay for their actions. I have to admit that I have used it in this way in that past, and I admit that the general principle in the verse can be used in that way. But let’s consider the context. Both before and after verses 7-8 deal specifically with supporting needs. Though verse 9 describes helping both church members and non-members in their affliction, verse 6 unquestionably describes supporting those who teach the word in the church. What is my point? There is a direct correlation between what a person gives and the spiritual blessings they receive. This principle goes for both minister and non-minister. First, a minister that labors/sows well should reap accordingly (connected with reason 3). Secondly, and more on point with the context of the verse, God blesses a giving congregation. When a congregation sacrifices for others, God blesses. The spiritual blessings may just come because your pastor has more time to study and pray, but they may just come because God is sovereignly empowering your pastor in a way that you haven’t ever witnessed.
So why do you financially support your pastor? Fully supporting a pastor does not ensure revivals or doctrinal orthodoxy. It doesn’t determine the longevity of a candle stick. Nevertheless, there is a consistent pattern found both in the Bible and through observation that churches who sacrifice for their minister get more out of the ministry. The point is this, the ministry is there for the perfecting of the saints and they can perform this work more adequately when they are given more time to do so. That’s what it is all about. Supporting the ministry is not about bigger cars and houses. It is not about being able to brag about your support of a pastor. Supporting the pastor is for the health of the church. It helps both you and the entire congregations. But in the end it’s really not about you or me. It’s about the King and his kingdom. It’s about his gospel.
Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Originally published December 2015