Supporting Your Pastors

Pastoring Well

Understanding that the NT encourages multiple pastors for a given church, some also believe that the NT specifies two kinds of pastors: 1) those who study and teach doctrine and 2) those who rule and administrate (1 Tim. 5:17). They may call these ‘teaching elders’ and ‘ruling elders.’ But careful examination of this verse indicates that Scripture is identifying something other than two separate pastoral roles. Instead, it is calling upon congregations to recognize when a pastor is fulfilling his role in an exemplary and effective manner. Those who “administrate well” should receive appropriate acknowledgement and care (Heb. 13:17). Furthermore, those who demonstrate effectiveness in teaching the Word should receive the care and resources necessary to focus on their task without distraction.

The Biblical Norm

To this end, a church should embrace the responsibility of providing necessary resources, finances, and care in support of pastors who lead them well (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Just as multiple pastors are the normal expectation for a church, providing pastors with necessary financial support is also the normal NT expectation. Paul makes this abundantly clear by alluding to the way that a farmer provides food and housing for the animals that plow his fields and the way that Temple proceeds provided for the material and financial needs of the priests (1 Cor. 9:7-14).

Tent-Making Pastors

Still, some pastors may choose to support themselves through secular employment. Paul, who makes a clear case for pastoral remuneration, also chose to support himself through secular employment on at least three occasions: 1) when he pastored the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 9:12), 2) the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:7-10), and 3) the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:33-35). To do this, he utilized the trade skills of tentmaking he had learned as a boy (Acts 18:3). Even so, he reveals that during these periods of public employment, he also relied on supplemental income from other sympathetic churches (2 Cor. 11:7-9; Phil. 4:16-19). So, the NT provides a precedent for “tent-making” pastors on certain occasions. Yet, it urges congregations to adequately support pastors who lead and teach them well. This, not tent-making, is the biblical norm.

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