Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 24, 1970
NUMBER 33, PAGE 8-9a

Today's Preacher

Overemphasized And Underpaid

A. M. Cornelius

The preacher and apostle Paul wrote in Rom. 10:14-15, "How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!' " Preaching stands along with overseeing God's flock as one of the highest callings. In truth, the "feet" of those bringing God's word to a lost world are beautiful. There are, however, two basic attitudes toward preaching and preachers among many of God's people which are harmful to the cause of Christ. Let it be admitted here that some of what is discussed below concerns matters of judgment. But bad judgment can, if compounded, strangle a congregation of the Lord's children.

The words evangelist, minister, servant, preacher and teacher are all scriptural terms describing different aspects of the work of a preacher. It is important that we understand what the work of a preacher is and "what it is not." The preacher himself, of all people, should know. His work is a serious one. (I Tim. 4:15-16; Rom. 1:16). The New Testament teaches us that the work of a gospel preacher is, simply stated, preaching or teaching the Gospel. His job is one of teaching. This includes edifying, reproving and exhorting. This is the only justification for a church hiring a preacher. Many churches don't seem to understand this simple fact.


As Bro. Little wrote in the October 29, 1970 issue of the Gospel Guardian, brethren need to "wake up"! We have become so dependent on the preacher to do our work and our thinking that, "nothing but the best will do" when looking for a man to hire. No wonder young men are hesitant to begin preaching! Today's preacher is expected to be a "Jack of all Trades." Besides preaching every Lord's Day, and teaching several classes, he is expected to put out a paper, visit the sick, (both physically and spiritually), engage in personal work, study, and then have time left to help repair the parking lot. In short, the work of the congregation is turned over to him. The elders rarely, if ever, stand before the flock to instruct them. (I Tim. 3:2: Titus 1:9) Hence the elders become building upkeep and finance men. (This is all too common among churches of our land.) Let each Christian do his own personal work, visiting, and teaching. and let the preacher do the work of an evangelist. In many congregations, there are men as well qualified to handle some of the chores we normally expect the preacher to handle, such as editing a bulletin. And no scripture that I am aware of prohibits the elders, and other qualified men in the congregation from "filling the pulpit" from time to time. Let the preacher listen occasionally. The preacher will be judged by our Maker on his conduct as a public proclaimer of God's word, and his conduct as an individual Christian. He does his visiting, for example, as a Christian, not as "the Preacher."

In some congregations, especially those without elders, the preacher sometimes becomes "the Pastor" also. Most preachers try to prevent this. But when it happens, you find the preacher in complete control, making the decisions, and thereby giving the men of the congregation very little opportunity for personal growth. Chalk up one dead congregation!

And, in the same way, you find the "anointed one" concept. This attitude suggests, "he is a preacher, he is bound to be right." If a disagreement should occur between the preacher and one of the members, especially over a point of scripture, the preacher is automatically assumed to be right. And he can use the pulpit to fling his darts, but let the other brother attempt to explain his side and he is being contentious. Brethren, remember, the preacher may be more familiar with scripture, but he can be, and sometimes is, wrong. Many congregations have men who aren't full-time preachers, but who do have a solid grasp of the scriptures, perhaps even more so than the preacher. The preacher is simply a man who has decided to devote his life to preaching the Gospel. He is not inspired or called in any special sense. And, preachers, we need to remember this also. Let us keep in mind that there are often men in our audience or congregation who are perhaps more intelligent or more talented than we, having a real knowledge of the scriptures, and are devoted to God, but who have chosen not to preach for a living. We, as preachers, are merely supported by a local group of Christians to study, and preach from God's word. We need not be the "Tower of the brotherhood," but just a teacher of the book.


We understand that congregations have scriptural authority to pay a preacher, (I Tim. 5:17-18; II Cor. 11:8-9.) It is, of course, a matter of judgment as to how much salary to pay. I know of congregations who pay a preacher for the week only if he "fills the pulpit" on the Lord's day. He might spend 75 or 80 hours a week studying, and working for the church in many ways. But, "no preach — no pay." Brethren, let's use our heads! Why not pay a man a yearly salary; agree on the number of meetings per year, vacation, and other matters, and pay him by the month, week, or whatever you choose. Why worry about him making a few dollars in meetings. If a man is in this work for "the love of money," he will have to answer to God for it.

Speaking of money, brethren, preachers are at your mercy. If you don't pay them enough, they have no union to force you into higher salaries. There is generally no retirement plan, profit sharing, paid health insurance, and other benefits that many of you have. Think about it! They have, usually, more car expense, clothes expense, and entertainment expense. (You'd be surprised at the number of people who drop in on the preacher). But there seems to be some silly notion that preachers should be expected to sacrifice. Here is a man that must move every four or five years, because that's the way we have always done it. He stands in jeopardy of losing his job for "stepping on the toes" of some influential sister or elder. He has a lot more problems than most of the brethren ever know, and we expect him to shout with glee when we offer him six or seven thousand dollars a year. We ought to thank God daily that there are men who will "sacrifice" to preach. But brethren ought to hang their heads in shame at our treatment in general, of preachers. I have heard some of the most absurd reasoning that I have ever witnessed in business meetings where brethren were discussing the preacher's salary, such as "give him the average salary of men in the congregation," or "I've worked hard for twenty years, and don't make that much." Brethren, why not pay a man a good salary if the congregation can do so? Depending upon the ability of the congregation, preachers across the land with several years experience ought to be making a minimum of $10,000 if they have any talent and ability at all. But, preachers, maybe we are to blame in part for not putting it on the line with brethren. We have an obligation to our families, and just because some brother might "get the wrong idea," we should not hesitate to expect a good salary, and let the brethren know that we do.

Yes, Bro. Little, I agree, we need to wake up. Let's give our young preachers a chance, pay all our preachers a good salary if we are able, and then let them do their work, and you do yours. Don't build the church around them, but honor them for their work. And let us all, in our conduct toward one another, show that Christ lives in us.

— Rt. 3, Box 374 S, Baytown, Texas 77520