a bit monkish.
I don’t want to write this.
In fact, it would be too easy to keep my thoughts to myself, for after reading this, you may not like me. The problem is that I care too deeply about pastors and ministry staff not to share this.
Countless writings from blog articles to books have focused on the spiritual lives of pastors and other church ministers. This is a good thing. Ministers need to have dynamic relationships with Jesus. We need to encourage pastors and ministry staff to pray, to read the Bible daily, and to engage in other means of grace.
“Means of Grace.” It’s a term many Wesleyan/Methodists use to describe activities that place us in a position to be open to the working of God in our lives. Worship, the Lord’s Supper, and fasting are other activities that open up our hearts to God.
So is financial giving.
When I served as the Director of Alumni at Asbury Seminary, I was dumbfounded by a recurring theme during our annual phonation conversations. It was common to hear alumni who were in ministry share that simply working at a church replaced the need to give to that church (or to the seminary), since their salaries were low. Others shared that their monthly student loan payment replaced their tithe.
A church employee (including an ordained clergyperson) who doesn’t regularly give - regardless of the compensation - probably sees his or her position at the church as a job and not as a ministry. To me, that reeks of spiritual insincerity.
There, I said it.
The issue isn’t about demonstrating support for the church. It’s about giving as a means of grace. When pastors and other paid ministry staff support the church they serve, they’re able to be in a position for God to speak to them, just as praying for the church does. This only enhances their relationship with Christ and their capacity to be a blessing to others.
Pastors and other paid ministry staff need to get over the victim mentality that sometimes comes with a low compensation. If God has called us to ministry, God will take care of us. Daily Bread is not Daily Steak, and sacrifices are necessary from time to time. However, the call of God to ministry is a joyful sacrifice that we agree to make when we answer that call to ministry. When we financially support the churches we serve, we’re demonstrating to God that we trust God in all things, even in paying the bills.
Prayer, reading the Bible, fasting, and other means of grace are sacrifices of the time God has given us. When it comes to financial giving, we sacrifice part of the income God has given us. They both draw us closer to Jesus. These sacrifices actually become joys, because God is glorified through them.
And isn’t that what ministry is all about?
(c) 2015 Michael C. Voigts
I'm a follower of Christ serving as an Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.