A correspondent inquires: “I am curious as to your opinion of the ‘paid minister.’ As you are aware, many argue against church buildings and paid ministers. As a paid minister this idea naturally is a bit disturbing to me. However, I wish to do what pleases God.”
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The New Testament scriptures do not portray institutionalized, corporate-style churches with budgets, buildings and paid staff. One certainly cannot find there an exact equivalent to the modern “paid minister” who works as an employee for a local church. That is not the end of this subject, however, for the New Testament teaches by principle as well as by direct example.
The New Testament does describe evangelists (missioners) who go into new territory with the gospel and who are supported financially by those who already believe (3 John 5-8; Rom. 15:23-24; Phil. 4:15-19). It portrays pastors/elders who are financially supported for their spiritual work (1 Tim. 5:17-18). Jesus is pleased when his followers supply the monetary needs of those men and women who diligently and faithfully give their lives in service to others for his sake (Matt. 10:40-42; 1 Cor. 9:14). “The laborer is worthy of his hire” is a biblical principle (Deut. 24:15; Lk. 10:7). The principle remains true regardless of job titles and other formal, external details.
Scripture also makes clear that God disapproves of those who merchandise the gospel for personal advantage, selfishly “fleece” God’s sheep or who do “spiritual” work with the primary motivation of financial gain (Ezek. 34:1-10; 1 Pet. 5:2). There were career “hirelings” in biblical times and that species remains alive today (John 10:12-13). It is important now, as in ancient days, to observe the lifestyles of religious leaders and to measure them by the attitudes and conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 7:15-23).