Paying Elders

It is clear from Scripture that elders/overseers/pastors are to be paid, as they are fulltime workers in the church. Paul wrote,

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

The subject is clear—Paul even uses the word wages . His more vague phrase of letting the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor is easily understood when the context is considered. In the verses just before, Paul unmistakably wrote of the church’s responsibility to financially support widows who otherwise would not be supported, and he began by using the same expression: “Honor widows who are widows indeed” (see 1 Tim. 5:3-16). So in this context, to “honor’ means to financially support. Elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, receiving at least twice what is given to widows and more if they have children to support.

The institutional church around the world supports its pastors for the most part (and even in poor nations), but it seems that many house churches around the world, especially those in the West, do not. This, I believe, is due in part to the fact that many people’s motives in the Western world for joining house churches is that they are really rebels at heart, and they are looking for and have found the least demanding form of Christianity that is available on the planet. They say they joined a house church because they wanted to escape the bondage of the institutional church, but they really wanted to escape any degree of commitment to Christ. They’ve found churches that ask for no financial commitment, churches that stand in sharp contrast to what Christ expects of His disciples. Those whose god is money and who prove it to be so by their laying up treasures on earth rather than in heaven are not true disciples of Christ (see Matt. 6:19-24; Luke 14:33). If one’s Christianity doesn’t affect what he does with his money, one is not a Christian at all.

House churches that claim to be biblical should be supporting their pastors, as well as taking care of the poor and supporting missions. In giving and in all financial matters, they should far excel institutional churches, as they have no buildings to pay for and no program staff to pay. It only takes ten people who do nothing more than tithe to support one pastor. Ten people who give 20% of their income can fully support one pastor and another missionary who lives at the same standard as their pastor.