Dave Black linked to a great study on the question of paying pastors a salary. The article is by Darryl M. Erkel and is a very thorough treatment of the topic. There are two key principles we can draw from this study:
First, in the New Testament it is clear that elders, while receiving gifts (perhaps including money), were not paid a regular, permanent salary. This is evidenced by the writings of Paul in several places and the stark reality of the poverty of the church in the earliest days.
Second, that truth negates the ability to use the commonly referenced Scriptures to support pastors being paid a salary. A full-time, salaried position was not the norm for the NT church and as such it should not be used as justification for the system we traditionally have in place. Since the reality is that elders were not “fully supported” in the New Testament and indeed Paul speaks approvingly of supporting oneself by means of work, how can those passages be used to assert that we should pay a regular, permanent salary to clergy?
Elders should be givers, not receivers.
Another key point, one that is overlooked in these discussions, is that a functioning New Testament assembly would have no need of paid clergy.
D. If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.
I think that is great. The mark of a faithful, Biblical assembly is not a bunch of pastors on staff. It is a real, functioning priesthood of believers! I hope you take the time to give this article a read.