One of the great misconceptions of American Christianity is that the pastorate is a job and pastors are employed by the church. This is not how Jesus set up the church. In fact, just the opposite. Those who lead must serve.
Let’s consider John 10:11-13: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
Jesus makes a clear distinction between one who is simply a hired man and one who is actually the shepherd of the sheep. Now to be clear, He is obviously comparing Himself with the religious leaders of Israel, who were serving their own agenda rather than bringing their nation to God. However, the principle helps us. The shepherd cares for the sheep because he loves them, not because he is being paid. If we are the under shepherds of God’s flock, then we must love the flock as Jesus did. It’s not about a job or a career or employment. It’s all about the calling and gifting of God, and the love of God’s flock!
The American mindset that the pastorate is a career has greatly harmed the church. It has allowed those who are not called or gifted, but simply have a college degree in theology, to become shepherds of God’s church. That means that there are those who are leading the flock who may not be appointed or approved by God. They are elevated to this position by men. Often, this leads to flock drift because the leader was never really designed by God to shepherd the church.
Certainly, the church is instructed to monetarily support those who shepherd.
1 Corinthians 9:14, Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
Galatians 6:6, Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
There is a distinction between support and employment. Support is what the church does so the pastor or pastoral staff can function full time in ministry without the burden of an outside job. Employment is when you are hired to do a job. While it may all look the same, it’s not! Employment suggests that the pastor is the hired hand, the guy who works for the church. Support, on the other hand, is the church acknowledging that this man (or pastoral staff) is called of God; and they are willing to give to that ministry so that the Word of God can go forth and the shepherd can lead without encumbrances.
What confuses us is the government wanting churches to issue W2 forms to their pastors rather than 1099. In my opinion, the pastor is a 1099 guy all the way. He fits the definition of an independent contractor because he sets his own hours and has his own tools. I loved it when we just got a 1099 instead of a W2; but alas, that isn’t what the system seems to be able to understand so we complied. But that doesn’t mean the church should view their pastor as an employee. When they do, they miss the point of who and what a shepherd is.
The pastorate is all about the calling and gifting of God. Now, I’m not minimizing the need for a high-quality Biblical education. It is a must. But a diploma or a degree does not a pastor make. It is the God who calls us to know Him who likewise calls us to shepherd the flock and with the calling comes the gifting.
Ephesians 4:11-12, And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Note the wording, “He himself gave.” He is the supplier for the needs of the body.
When we look at Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, we see the characteristics God requires the church to evaluate before they affirm someone as a shepherd of God’s church.
It’s all about our mindset and the mindset of the local church. It’s not about “working for the church” nor is it about “working for God.” It’s all about God working through us for His glory and the edification of the body.