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CHURCH FINANCE - Payroll

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Focus on the scriptures; NOT me. We all should speak God's truth regardless of how it may or may not affect us but people like me are more comfortable talking about topics like these because no one in their right minds can accuse me of preaching it to get paid (Genesis 14:22-23). It's no secret that I continue to keep my website open and FREE despite the never ending and sometimes annoying pressure from advertisers with desire to place product/services on here. This DOESN'T mean that those who accept contributions to do the same are wrong to do so. I capitalize and sometimes write things in "bold" for emphasis but some of you mistake it for anger. There will be some here too - be warned. I'm NOT angry. Now let's get to it.

It's almost like a taboo to some when talking about "Church Finance" especially how it should be spent. It may be one of the very least on my list of one hundred reasons why I will NEVER be an office holder but it certainly is a "top of the list" topic that most Christians are not comfortable talking about. This is because it affects those who GENUINELY serve from their hearts and make them look like they are doing it for the money especially when they ask to be compensated (1 Corinthians 9:3-5).

There are some congregations that can afford a $2M-$5M million dollar cathedral, make fancy questionable additions to the structure, have the best Italian leather chairs up front and make multiple commitments or pledges to other causes with no idea if they will be able to keep those promises. Yet, these are usually the first of many to say they cannot afford to pay those who they "assign" to serve. I'm not one to question individuals on their financial priorities unless they complain but we have the biblical right to question that of the Church especially when lacking in its primary duties.

INTRODUCTION: Service positions in the Church were created out of necessity (Acts 6:1-7) and the position is filled with those who qualify and have true desire to serve in those capacity (1 Timothy 3:1). The entire book of first Timothy shows us that there are two main reasons why Paul said someone who aspires to become a Bishop or a Deacon must not be a "lover of money" or "pursue selfish gains" - 1 Timothy 3:3 and verse 8. The first is because these people will be more often than not, in charge of the finances. The second reason is what I will be addressing later in this piece - not allowing wages that comes from serving be the motivating factor. Although, 1 Timothy 6:6 is applicable to us all, Paul was primarily talking to the leaders (elders, teachers, deacons etc.). Paul was simply telling them that doing God's work (godliness) without letting money be the motivating factor (contentment) is a great gain (better than any payment that you will get).

In his own words - "godliness and contentment is great gain." This is because a select few saw "godliness" (doing God's work) as "a means to financial gain" (verse 5). It's like a replacement for their "9 to 5" job with ZERO desire to serve (greed). This lack of desire for God's work led some of these leaders/teachers to indulge in meaningless narratives, false teachings, envy and strife (1 Timothy 6:4-6)Paul will not be so concerned and talk this much about "wages" for those who sincerely serve if the salary was not attractive enough to be a motivating factor to some. But my focus on this piece will be on WHO should be paid and each congregation can decide on "how much" based on their abilities.

BACKGROUNDThe early Church had no choice but to meet and worship at each other's houses and sometimes live together due to persecution (Philemon 1:2). They shared basically everything they owned so the needs of those who served were met too (Acts 4:32-37). Even as the Church grew and spread to a point where some were able to appoint qualified elders and deacons, the NEEDS of these appointed leaders/servants were met by their local congregations.

This brings us to the topic of Church finance and how it should be used. I am obviously not going to address every issue related to this topic and I'm definitely not going into "collection for the saints" issue today. I also understand that there are a lot of common ground on issues like caring for the less fortunate (orphans, widows indeed, etc) among Christians. My focus here will be the the elephant in the room called PAYROLL. Who should be paid monetarily or have their needs met for their work at a local congregation or vineyard? I'll keep my focus on 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy because those two letters were primarily written to correct what was wrong in Corinth and Ephesus at the time.

CHURCH FINANCE
Ministers, Elders, Deacons, Secretaries, Associates, Assistants and whatever else I'm missing are ALL Christians but not ALL Christians are assigned by the congregation to mandatory tasks. We are all called to serve by God so they too must do their "Christian Duties" for FREE just like we all should. But we all are not tasked with requirements that intentionally rob us of full or partial ability to provide for our households (1 Corinthians 9:6). Every Christian has an obligation to serve or work in the vineyard of the Lord. If we can't find volunteers for a "must-do" task, we must plea with qualified individuals to give up their income earning potential (time) for designated services. If they AGREE to do so, then they must be PAID accordingly (1 Corinthians 9:6-12). Paul said it is a direct scriptural command from God and not an opinion (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).

Simply because we have those who can afford to volunteer and work for free DOES NOT mean we should compel others to do the same (1 Corinthians 9:15-18). Paul rarely traveled alone and this is why he said "we" in 1 Corinthians 9:4. Although Barnabas was with him on this trip with focus on serving the Church at Corinth, Paul was not just advocating for himself and Barnabas. He mentioned Peter and the other apostles as an example to make a point that their jobs are similar to his so he deserved wages. It didn't matter if the other apostles were selected by Jesus while on earth - just like it doesn't matter if the deacons, minister, secretary hold the same office as an elder. Paul's point was focused of the fact that their service to the kingdom deprives them from keeping a "9-5" job to care for themselves and their families. Paul needed other people with him on his mission trips and they needed to be equally cared for. Bishops or elders need deacons and all who are assigned to serve in order to successfully do their duties of overseeing the flock. These people MUST be paid.

Refusing to pay them is pushing them towards sin because it is sinful NOT to make provisions for one's household especially when you have the ability to do so (1 Timothy 5:8). When we as a Church take this ability AWAY from someone in the name of serving in the vineyard, we are doing exactly what Paul warned against when he said not to muzzle the Ox (1 Timothy 5:18). This analogy was used by Moses in the old testament: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). Paul used it at least twice to get his message across. Once to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:9) and then to Timothy in Ephesus as cited above. Back then, people had to tread their grain with an Ox so the analogy of putting a guard around the animal's mouth while it worked made sense. You cannot work an Ox to death without letting the Ox benefit from where it labors. Those who serve are not our "slaves" and the analogy from Paul shows they must be paid regardless of what capacity they serve in (Ministry, Missions, Clerical, Edification, etc).

Yes, I understand some congregations may not be able to afford the full salary that these people deserve. If this is the case, then make the best provisions possible for those who are ASSIGNED to mandatory services, seek more volunteers and prioritize where you spend your money as a Church. One thing you must NOT do is "rob Peter to pay Paul" by paying some and leaving others hanging (). The only thing that cannot be shared is something that cannot be divided into meaningful portions. A ten dollar bill can be split into two fives and still work but a teacup cannot. So the excuse of not having enough to go around is baseless and not scriptural. If it was OK for them to be forced to work for free or getting "peanut" salary, Paul would not be stressing the need to avoid muzzling the Ox, which is almost like a description for slavery.

Abraham Inetianbor
Paul also added in 1 Timothy 5:17 that the Elders who serve in their capacity AND also teach consistently are worthy of double pay a.k.a. honor. Honor here is giving them their wages because the following verse 18 clarifies Paul's point with the context still focused on serving well and paying those who serve. Yes, I know those kind of elders may never get "double pay" but the point Paul was making is the importance of making sure we do what is required of us as a Church and then let those who can afford to volunteer be the ones to say: "NO" to getting paid. This way we will NOT be found guilty of "muzzling" the Ox. Depending on what kind of tractor you have, you need to power it up with gas, diesel or electricity so it can be used to work the farm land. Why don't we power up the human tractors that we USE in the lord's vineyard?

CONCLUSIONImagine you have a hungry child in a winter cold house with no clothes on. You can clearly see that the child is starving to the point of death and yet, you keep pledging and giving your income to your brother to make his "car" payment. You defend your actions by saying you are doing good and cannot afford clothes for your kid. This is what most local congregations are like these days when they REFUSE to pay those who serve. However, they are quick to pledge what they don't have to "questionable" causes. They may have some qualified mission minded members in their midst but will choose to find mission workers somewhere else. Not only does this defeat the purpose of the entire chapter 8 of second Corinthians, it also sounds like misplaced priority. I've dealt with a lot of missionaries growing up; did a few work myself and set to do some occasional work in the future - on my dime so don't get it twisted. My point is, I've been on both sides a lot. I can tell you that MAJORITY of congregations maybe better of not knowing what they are supporting but they really should because it will help them make better decisions.

Obviously no one is saying don't support mission work or other causes but you start with due diligence and then give out of what you HAVE, not out of NECESSITY. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to kind of compete with the Macedonian Churches in their support for mission work but he also made it clear that it was NOT a command. In the middle of his "pep talk" to get them fired up about support for mission work, Paul still had to remind them NOT to give beyond what they have or can afford to (2 Corinthians 8:10-13). The same is applicable to us today. Stay Blessed My Friends.

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