Hard questions about church leadership
Good leaders are hard to find these days. Whenever we are under a person who is in a leadership position, but he or she isn’t leading – the results are often disastrous. Without guidance from those who should be responsible, the people in the workforce are directionless and unproductive. Left unchecked long enough, non-leading “leadership” makes the workplace chaotic.
However, don’t think that leadership problems are only business and career problems. Even in a charity setting, leadership matters. Without an engaged leader, the volunteer work being donated to the cause ends up being ineffective. And as hard as it is to admit…the same thing can happen in the church.
But rather than focus on the damage that a poor leader can cause, we have a more difficult question to answer…
What do we do for the good leaders?
I think we, as a church, tend to take advantage of good, Godly leadership. Oh, we say nice things to them, like “I really enjoyed your talk”. Then we move on with life. But the moment we need guidance, answers, or support, we expect them to be available. Especially on the weekends and holidays…because that’s when we have church services, right?
Our church leaders need more than a “thank you”. Paul thought so as well:
1 Timothy 5:17-18
The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says:
You must not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain, and
The laborer is worthy of his wages.
The metaphor is an obvious one - as big and strong as the ox is, it still gets tired and needs to eat, even during the work.
This isn’t the first-time Paul has referred to the oxen direction in the Old Testament law. He also pointed it out to the believers in Corinth. Timothy was heavily involved with the Corinthian church, and he would have been aware of Paul’s previous directions based upon the Old Testament oxen scripture. As such, Paul doesn’t need to reiterate his full teaching in Timothy’s letter – a reminder reference is sufficient to get his point across.
However, for our benefit and understanding, let’s take a look at what Paul said to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 9:9-11, 12-14
For it is written in the law of Moses,
Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.
Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things for you is it too much if we reap material things from you?
…Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.
How many people attend your church? If you were responsible for supporting that many people at your job, what kind of salary would you expect? Is that somewhere in the neighborhood of how much your pastor is being paid?
I know, I know. Those are hard questions. Our society struggles with the idea of non-profit and church workers making “too much”. We think it “looks bad” or “detracts from the cause”. We tell ourselves that our church leaders are “storing treasure in Heaven” (which they are) and shouldn’t have “too much” down here. But whose measurement of “too much” should we trust…ours or God’s?
Do some preachers give in to greed and abuse their position? Absolutely, it happens. A few verses downstream from these, Paul will address those kinds of issues in leadership. But that shouldn’t stop us from allowing the good leaders to be appropriately compensated for their hard work now.