In this modern age cultures have become accustomed to seeing paid preachers insomuch that they can’t imagine anything else. There was a time when the prophets of God went not only unpaid, but they also were hated and scandalized and even killed for prophesying in the name of the Lord. Jesus said concerning John the baptist, “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.” Matt 11:8 Jesus came not to preach for money and the apostles came not to preach for money nor could they be bribed with money. Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none.” Acts 3:6 And Jesus didn’t even have a house to sleep in. Lk 9:58 So, the question that needs to be confronted headlong is: Is it biblical for the churches of Christ to pay preachers to proclaim the Word of God?
Church Leaders Are Not Paid
To my knowledge, there is not one church of Christ who has elders or deacons who are paid for their service to God. The elders of the church were established by the apostles to guide and feed the church of God and to be on guard against false teachers. Acts 20:28-31 There is no one who has more a responsibility for the souls of each member of the body of Christ than elders do, yet they are not paid for anything they do for the church. In fact, I have heard some members vehemently say that there is no scripture to pay an elder. Is that a fact? Really? How often have you heard this one scripture quoted in regards to paying a preacher: “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”? Lk 10:7 Some shout, see, this was in reference to preachers. Yes, that is true, but now read what Paul had to say concerning elders of the church: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and,”The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Tim 5:17,18
The more larger question might be: Is it a sin not to pay an elder? The answer to that question is obviously no. However, it is just as obvious that elders are as much worthy to be paid as are preachers. In fact, considering their responsibility, more so. Conclusively, the elders of many churches have given their responsibility over to the preacher. This is why when someone is sick, more often than not the preacher is called and not the elders. Jam 5:14,16 This is why when someone needs guidance, the preacher is called and not the elders. Perhaps the elders figure the preacher is being paid to do all the work of the church, even his own.
Are Preachers To Be Paid?
The apostle Paul answered this question better than most when he said, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” 1 Cor 9:13-14 Sounds conclusive enough. Right? Not quite. Paul did not end this subject with verse 14. Let us read what Paul later said just a few verses later: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without (free of) charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.” 1 Cor 9:16-18
Yes, Paul at one time took wages from churches, and was worthy to receive such, but he learned it was better to reject wages that he might not abuse such power. 2 Cor 11:8 Notice what he said to the Thessalonians: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” 2 Thess 3:7-9
It is apparent that the apostle Paul wanted us to follow him even as he followed Christ. 1 Cor 11:1 Yes, a preacher is worthy to be paid, but it is obvious that in paying a preacher one will not be able to do what Paul warned a young preacher named Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of your ministry.” 2 Tim 4:2-5
Is it any wonder why many preachers of congregations have remained in one place for a long period of time? It is often because they are not preaching the Word in and out of season, but rather preaching fables to appease the one’s who are paying him. Notice the warning from the prophet Micah. “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord saying, ‘Is not the Lord in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us.’” Mic 3:11
Conclusion: All those who labor in the work of the church are worthy to be paid wages. This includes elders, deacons, song leaders, preachers, and teachers. However, to their credit, elders, deacons, song leaders, and teachers never complain for receiving nothing for the labor. What the churches of Christ need more of are preachers who are willing to preach the gospel of Christ for no reward, no reward that is, but heaven’s reward. In fact, most churches of Christ are overloaded with preachers, young, old and in between who are willing to preach for nothing, but the churches are unwillingly to allow them on a full time basis. Is it any wonder why preaching has become an occupation, and more and more churches are turning away from God’s Word of truth.
If we want the unadulterated truth of God preached in and out of season, take away the money and watch the false teachers disappear. If paid preachers can afford it, let them be even as Paul and refuse payment that the gospel be not hindered. If they be paid, let them be courageous and brave to preach what their congregation needs despite the fact they could lose their position, and be forced to seek employment elsewhere. In the end, thank heaven for all who desire to preach the gospel of Christ, and refuse to turn to the left hand or to the right, but preach the strait and narrow path which leads to life everlasting. Mt 7:13,14