Why pastors should openly publish their salaries...

Recently, several pastors of large evangelical churches across America have made headlines concerning the compensation packages they have received from their congregations, speaking engagements, and book deals. In spite of intensive media scrutiny that causes many of these preachers to keep re-appearing in the news on a regular basis, the books of these ministries choose to remain closed, disclosing the salaries of their pastors only to those who have a legal "need-to-know."

Biblically speaking, I don't think this is proper for a minister to do. Biblically speaking, a pastor should not only be willing to openly disclose his income to those in the church, he should in fact do so. And not to just the elders, lawyers, and accountants, but to the body of Christ as a whole.

A pastor who fails to willingly and openly disclose his financial compensation shows that he has fundamentally misunderstood part of his calling. The purpose of and job of pastor is not to simply preach sermons, provide counseling, conduct weddings and funerals, and administer the sacraments.

The purpose and job of the pastor is to openly live his life as an example for the rest of the body of Christ to follow. In the process, he will execute the rest of his duties as a minister in the local church. But if he does not live his life as an open letter to be read by all, and does not openly encourage people to model themselves after the lifestyle he leads, then he has fundamentally misunderstood God's calling on his life, and should consider either changing his approach to ministry, or quickly get out of pastoral ministry.

Well over a dozen times in the New Testament, the apostle Paul exhorted the churches he pastored to follow the example he left for them. The apostle had an understanding that his ministry was more than just an endless series of speaking engagements, but he understood that his life was an open book for others to read. He not only lived his life openly, but he encouraged the churches to closely follow his example.

Consider the following passage as one of many such exhortations:

15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. (1 Corinthians 4:15-19)

Paul reminds the church in Corinth that though they have a long list of "tutors" who've ministered to them, they've only ever had one "father" in the faith. And as a father in the faith, Paul has encouraged his spiritual children to follow the example of the life he's lived in front of them. And, in order to ensure they continue to do that, the apostle Paul sent his ministerial companion, Timothy, to remind the church of the type of life Paul lived, and Paul was confident that Timothy would live the same type of life openly in front of them, for them to likewise imitate and follow. Some, Paul said, were arrogant with their "ministries of gab." But Paul said contrary to the ministry of the arrogant, there was a power that Paul could demonstrate that had nothing to do with words. And no... that wasn't simply in supernatural signs and wonders. That was in the power of a life that imitated that of Jesus Christ, of which Paul lived masterfully before them. That was the "powerful" ministry of which he spoke.

Being that how we handle our personal finances is such an important part of our lives, I think there are few lessons a pastor could better teach his church than to openly show how he handles his personal finances. And that goes much deeper than shallow exhortations on tithing. And if you study the life and ministry of Paul in any detail, you will learn that he made much about how he handled his personal finances.

I think it is about time our pastors take up the same spirit in their own lives, and do the same. I would encourage our pastors everywhere, whether they are at churches big or small, whether they actually receive a salary from the church or not, to not only be willing to disclose your personal finances to the church, but from time to time, go line by line with your congregations through your monthly personal budgets. Show them you honor God with your finances. Disclose your salaries. Show how much debt you carry. Show them your shortcomings. Show them how to keep their financial lives in order. Help them get their financial lives in order and honor God with their money, by following the example you yourself have made for them.

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