Pastors and Honor

In Series, Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone8 Comments

[box] Pastors and Honor is the third post of the Feature Series Pastors – A Blog Series.  Enjoy! [/box]

Pastors and Honor

Pedestal or Pedestrian

 

In the church culture I grew up in, pastors were put on a pedestal. Often, it’s 1 Timothy 5:17 that’s used as the anchor scripture for honoring pastors.

1 Timothy 5:17
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

Double honor. I wonder what Paul had in mind? Did he mean for churches to buy their pastors new cars, tons of groceries, and cruises? Apparently that’s what some churches seem to think. Because when it comes time to celebrate a pastor’s anniversary, no expense is spared.

So is God okay with honoring pastors this way?

A couple things. First, in a post about how much we expect from our pastors, I leveled the Christian playing field by lumping the pastor’s role with the rest of our roles. I mentioned that the call to holiness on pastors is not much different than the rest of ours. Pastors are Christians before they are leaders and biblical teachers, and that is precisely the point of Paul’s super-christian list of requirements.

So if we level their role in the church to the same as any other then I see little need for extravagant showers of excess material as a form of appreciation. I’m sorry, but buying the pastor a new Cadillac is not what Paul was trying to tell Timothy.

But then there is this text.

Hmm. I suppose it all hinges on the word: honor.  What does the text mean by honor?

Well, honor could mean a price or monetary value, or it could mean a certain measure of reverence. Strong’s commentary seems to support both views as the word “honor” is from the Greek word “timh” (or transliterated – time). Time here could have to do with wages (as in pay per hour) or in time spent, which is often a cue of value and respect.

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Let’s look at the text again.

There are two things worthy of double honor in the text. The first is is for “elders who directs the affairs of the church.” Note the plurality. The world “elder” has almost unilaterally been perceived to mean “pastor” in our contemporary contexts, but the reality is that pastors are often not the ones “directing affairs.” And if they are, they certainly aren’t alone. So if we are to truly do the text justice, a church would need to buy all their spiritual “elders” a new Cadillac, not just the pastor. Note, the end of the verse says “especially” those whose work is preaching and teaching. Which suggests that the preachers and teachers are not the only double honorees.

The second is that the “elders” need to run the church “well.”  This is interesting because it leads to asking, “How is a well church run?” Not only does this reinforce the idea that we should hold pastor’s accountable to the Christian calling, but it also seems to suggest that the unilateral position of pastor or elder is not automatically honored.

A good friend of mine said, “the only thing a person can do on a pedestal is trip and fall off.” Indeed.

Interesting.

I won’t pretend to have the definitive answer on the matter, but i will offer this viewpoint. A pastor or elder, if indeed they are Christians and led by God, will follow His will into creating a community of love. That is, a community that receives and hands out God’s love unilaterally and unconditionally to as many as it can reach, a community that teaches loving each other (disciple to disciple, Christian to Christian) means selflessness and risky vulnerability and transparency (which makes room for God’s grace and acceptance), and a community that teaches God’s laws and challenges  and nurtures our spiritual growth, and thus our effective lifelights in the world.

The modern day pastor must model all these. Unconditional love, transparency, vulnerability, acceptance, and spiritual truth. And it is my belief that as a pastor aspires to these, they will receive “double honor” by default. I think we often get hung up on the “appreciation” aspect of honor. But guilting people into contributions, does not equal honor.

Living under the conditions I just mentioned is incredibly difficult. Leading others to do the same, mostly while failing to rightly model such living, is even more difficult. And scary. To lead a church by loving with no expectation of return, baring naked your sins and failings, and to teach, preach and exemplify God’s love and a desire for His will in your life takes guts and courage many us don’t have.

I think we can best honor these people of God by loving alongside them. By allowing them to fail, and to talk about their failings. I think double honor could mean that we not only pay them honor with wage or time, but that we remember they are in need of community just like we are. I think we honor them by taking them off the pedestal they are so often placed on,

A good friend of mine said, “the only thing a person can do on a pedestal is trip and fall off.” Indeed.

Let’s honor our pastors by co-laboring with them. By freeing them of the pressures of perfection. This, perhaps, is one the greatest of needs in our time.

And if after all that you want to buy him a Cadillac, I guess I’m okay with that.

 

Another Good Read on the Subject:   Alan Knox – “One of Us”

Question of the Day:

What do you think Paul meant by “double honor”? Where does the “double honor” line begin and end in your opinion? What do you think about more than pastors receiving this “double honor”?

Previous Post in “Pastors: A Blog Series”

 

The following two tabs change content below.
Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
8 comments
halehawk
halehawk

I am currently working to establish a "maximum salary" limit for pastors in the United Methodist Church. I have written a petition to our General Conference which meets in April proposing legislation requiring our annual conferences to set a maximum salary limit no more than twice the minimum compensation level. If a church votes to pay their pastor MORE than the maximum, they must contribute the same amount over the maximum level to the Equitable Compensation Fund to support pastors who are paid less than the minimum amount by their church. I have added a proposal to allow the Equitable Compensation Committee to give gifts to other annual conferences where there is greater need (such as in the Congo, where the UMC is rapidly growing and many pastors receive NO salary). As I have been talking about this idea with leaders in the church, one of the pastors who I know receives more than 100k in salary quoted this passage from Timothy to defend his high salary! Since he is an excellent Biblical scholar this surprised me greatly. This text can be twisted by pastors and people in the church so that pastors are in danger of losing their credibility as followers of Jesus. Pastors are clearly entitled to compensation that allows them to accomplish the work of their ministry without being burdened with concerns for their basic needs. And pastors who do their work well may be entitled to even "double" that amount. (My petition acknowledges this by establishing the proportional maximum.) But to misread this text to advocate excessive compensation for pastors is dangerous for the entire church and the soul of the pastor.

@tom_wells
@tom_wells

Good call Lisa. We are called to be (not just those with titles) ministers to His Words and works in our lives to others in His Church.

@lisa_dawn1
@lisa_dawn1

In so many ways we are all preaching and teaching. Maybe not in a "church" building, but in life. We are all called to be ambassadors, as my pastor calls us, for Christ. That means in our daily routine, and in the secular job we may have, and in our home while no one is looking. I think that putting pastors on a pedestal is dangerous, because they are human, and bound to fall off. That leads them to hide it, or to face up to it and then also face the wrath of others who want them to be perfect just because they are a pastor. Markus had a great point in #1. Letting them know they spoke to us through their message is giving them honor.

Markus Lloyd
Markus Lloyd

Love this post Antwuan! I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to truly show double honor to a pastor and two things come to mind. 1. Act on what they preach about! The best thing you can do for a pastor is tell them that God spoke to you through them and because of that you did... 2. If you have to give a gift. Then take up a collection in their honor and then one sunday morning present that check to the director of his favorite charity! speaking as a pastor, that would be a triple blessing for me!!!

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

I think that is a great start halehawk.  I think setting earnings limits is a good practice for most churches to consider on nearly every aspect of their budgeting. I think we have slowly, but consistently, gone further and further away from the real meaning of this verse.  I'd love to hear more about your ideas. 

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Thanks man! Those are two good ones (I really like the first). I know this is another parent analogy but I say that to my kids all the time. When Father's day rolls around, they always ask what I want, and I usually say, "for them to love God and for them to obey what I'm telling them." And I'm serious. Obedience is really the best form of honor (even though in this case, God is the one we are actually obeying). Good stuff!