The call hasn’t come in yet this season, but almost every year during the Christmas season I get a panicked phone call from a pastor or other church staff member somewhere in the country whose church has decided that Christmas is the best time to terminate him. I am not sure why that is. I could only speculate about why terminations of ministers happen so often at this time of year. I cannot imagine how much sheer hatred a church would have to muster for their pastor to put him and his family out during the Christmas season…churches behaving badly.
It seems to me that churches sometimes play freely and loosely with their “power” of finances over their pastor. Of course, they will defend themselves, claiming that ultimately it is the only power they have over him. But that claim side-steps the issue. The larger question is whether the activities of God’s church were ever intended to be a function of earthly power at all.
In his blog post yesterday over at Kingdom People, Trevin Wax poses a great question to pastors: “Does getting paid make a difference in how you lead your church?” And this important follow-up question, “Should it?” These are terrific questions for pastors. Frankly, they are questions I ask myself (though I’m not a pastor) from time to time. You know…”If I suddenly became independently wealthy, would I still be doing this?” Maybe you’ve played that game as well.
But I want to ask the question in a slightly different direction. Rather than asking the pastor how it affects his leadership (which is an entirely different blog post…one already well-written by Trevin), I want to ask you, the church members a question: If your pastor did not receive a salary from you, would it change how you relate to him? If you no longer wielded the power of finances and were forced to find a deeper way to resolve your differences than merely threatening to withhold your money, could you do it?
This whole notion of “voting with our money” really has no place whatsoever in the church. It is ugly and despicable. It is worldly and political. It is a desperate grab for power in situations where worldly power has nothing to do with Godly solutions. A tithe given to the church as a vote in favor of what is going on (or withheld from the church as a vote against what is going on) is no tithe at all. It completely misses the point of a tithe or an offering. Similarly, using our “power” over a pastor’s family and their financial well-being is a blatant abuse of that relationship. As a church, we do not “pay” the pastor as some kind of vote of confidence in his leadership strategies…we help meet his family’s financial needs because we promised them we would when we “called” him.
So, if your church is struggling with issues today that involve your pastor or other staff member, please do not let the struggle devolve into a financial power play. Believe me, the deeper issues are NOT financial…they are spiritual. The solutions, therefore, are likewise NOT financial, but spiritual. Come on, everybody…it’s Christmas!