Wednesday, September 05, 2012
The Big Business Of Religion
The Gospel Coalition linked to an interesting study of the salaries of "mega-church pastors" in the post How Much Money Do Megachurch Pastors Make? The study is quite interesting, looking only at "churches" with an attendance of 2000 or more and what it shows is that religion is indeed big business.
• Total cash compensation (including allowances for housing) for senior pastors ranged from $85,000 to more than $265,000, though the majority of the salaries cluster around the $100,000 to $140,000 range.
Of course there are some pretty nice tax advantages built in here as well. To give you an idea of what that means, salaries like that are in the very top wage bands of U.S. salary, the sort of salary demanded by medical professionals, corporate executives and other highly skilled professionals. Now if you see being an elder as a "profession", one that you have to invest a number of years and lot of money to gain the right educational credentials for, this makes sense but aren't we told all the time that being an elder/pastor is a calling, not a job or a profession?
I left this comment on the post to try to stir up some thoughtful conversation:
The greater question is not how much the megachurch guys make. In our corporate model of "church" it only makes sense. The question we should be asking is why are we paying able bodied men in the first place, subcontracting out the work of ministry to a small cadre of professionals? Paul worked for a living, rightly viewing the demand for payment to be a obstacle to the Gospel (1 Cor 9:12), and also to provide an example to others (2 Thess 3:7-10). Paul wasn't even a "pastor" but a traveling itinerant apostle and church planter. Until we are willing to ask these questions, the issue of mega-church salaries is irrelevant.
The comments should prove interesting, especially since one guy already made the comment before I posted that:
Paul ordered churches to pay their pastors and appointed pastors/elders/bishops.
Wow! Can't wait to see where the support for that comes from!
Studies like this shed some light on a topic that is taboo in the church, the conflict between the Biblical model of a voluntary, local leadership drawn from the within the body versus the Roman based model of a professional clerical class hired from outside of the church that draws financial support from the church. The sad reality is that we are headed toward a place where there will be two types of local churches, huge high production value religious megachurches that can pay multiple men professional level salaries and small local congregations that won't be able to pay men at all. In twenty years from now I am not sure what all of those guys with M.Divs are going to be doing but I am pretty sure it won't be sermon prep and hospital visits.