Reasons of Low Pastor Pay and Solution, Theology Prof.

By Yi Yang, May 18, 2017 01:05 AM

Rev. Wu Weiwen(Photo Provided to CCD)

Editor's note: The issue on "poor preachers" has been quite controversial in the Chinese Christian community. Reports including"33YO Young Missionary Died of Cancer and Pressure in Marriage" and "Inner Voice of a Grassroot Pastor" has aroused intensive discussions regarding preachers' salary. Recently, Rev. Wu Weiwen, theology professor at Divinity School of Chung Chi College shares his insights on this topic, from the tradition of supporting the Levites in the Old Testament to Paul's teachings, in an interview with the China Christian Daily. He encourages preachers to see the value of service and also shares the experience of the church in Hong Kong.

The pastoral staff "are worthy of double honor."

The main factor which leads to underpaid preachers lies in false concepts. The church should return to biblical teachings and be clear about the identity of pastors and preachers.  "Like the Levites, pastoral workers replace believers with full-time service, focusing on prayer and the ministry of the word."

1 Timothy 5: 17-18 claims, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.' " The Levites were responsible for guarding the holy temple, offering sacrifices and worshiping God in the place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The pastoral work today is the ministry of the Lord's word. Serving God in the temple full-time, the tribe of Levi were supported by the tithes offered by other eleven tribes. They were often mentioned with orphans and widows because they possessed no land or house property and the Lord was their only share. They were similar to preachers and missionaries who devote themselves for the Gospel. They got a higher salary than normal believers on average, whose livelihood came from the tithe offering from the other eleven tribes. This met the teaching in 1 Timothy 5:17, especially for those whose work is preaching and teaching deserve double honor.

Rev. Wu once pastored in the Chinese department of a church located in Springfield, the capital of Illinois, in the United States. At that time, the president of the church's committee of elders told him that the senior pastor was paid the average salary for the ruling elders since many of the church members were state officials with high compensations.

"The church should have the concept of wages."

Many agree with this biblical teaching: "the worker deserves his wages".

But what is a wage? A lot of companies attract talents with high wages so that they work hard to earn more profit for the firms.

But the church neglects this teaching after hiring people and pays the pastoral staff a little amount. As a result, the staff still worry about the financial needs of their families and some even work part-time to support their families. In the end, the church suffers. The wages of many pastoral staff are less than the basic salary of a middle school teacher and those serving in rural areas receive lower wages.

"It's foolish to bury money rather than pay wages. Jesus said, 'For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.' (Luke 16:8)" So financially supporting preachers is a concept issue rather than a money issue alone, according to Rev. Wu.

"Preachers who dedicate themselves to the Lord should suffer for the Lord. But they shall not endure hardships just because the church fails to follow the biblical teaching that of providing double honor to them." He emphasized.

"What's more, the church should make the effort to cultivate full-time preachers who are supposed to serve the church and equip them with good theological training. Encourage and nurture them, especially those who can lead the church after being trained. " He adds.

"The service of preachers is priceless."

Regarding payment, preachers should tell his financial needs when responding to church recruitment. You can ask about work requirements and also put forward your salary expectations in a two-way job interview. If the pay can't afford your family, think twice and figure out whether this church wants you. Jesus taught us that we should know the cost before action with the examples of building a tower and the war.(Luke 14: 25-33)

If a preacher has a child, sick parents and parents-in-law, he should take care of them and avoid forgetting them owing to the church ministry. Otherwise, how could a man, who doesn't love his family, love the church of God?

He encourages preachers to speak out their needs. If a rich church refuses to provide for the financial needs of a preacher, he should consider whether he wants to serve there or not.

A preacher's work, that can't be evaluated by money, is priceless. Despite the low payment in the church at large, a preacher needs to reflect on the value of his service. Those who give themselves to the Lord should love the church, that is the bride redeemed by Christ's blood, and be faithful to the work entrusted to them. 

The Lord will supply everything they need. The reward for the pastoral staff is far more than just money.

Rev. Wu Weiwen used to serve as the chaplain of Divinity School of Chung Chi College, as well as the guest associate professor. He taught theology in Hong Kong, North America and Taiwan, including in the China Graduate School of Theology and Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong, and also pastored church for years.

Translated by Karen Luo

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