A Thought Question: Should Preacher Salaries Be Disclosed?

From Monday Morning Insight

Senator Chuck Grassley’s efforts to hold a group of televangelists accountable has decided that there would be no penalties for the group of preachers, saying that they were unable to make any conclusions about whether the ministries violated IRS rules.

Two of the ministries involved in the probe, Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn Ministries say that they have made changes in their ministries because of the probe.  Four others did not provide full information or cooperate fully.  Those included Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Creflo and Taffi Dollar, Randy and Paula White; and Bishop Eddie Long.

In the end, a long and expensive investigation that yielded little to no results.  Go figure.

A couple of thoughts to lead off the discussion.

1. I don’t think the federal government has any business telling churches how to pay their preachers.

2. But that doesn’t justify fraud by church leaders. Contributors assume their donations are going to worthy causes, not to buying the preacher mansions and jets. Shouldn’t there be some disclosure to the congregation of how their money is being used?

In a smaller congregation, is it appropriate to disclose the preacher’s salary to the church? Is there a point where the salary should be disclosed.?

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Thought Questions, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Thought Question: Should Preacher Salaries Be Disclosed?

  1. James says:

    Absolutely. Every expense by a congregation should be openly available to all members.

  2. Anonymous says:

    On balance, I favor disclosure.
    Most of the arguments for keeping it private seem to be founded on a lack of trust in the congregation,

  3. James says:

    I don't think I've ever been a part of the congregation where the preacher's salary wasn't disclosed, as part of the regular budget. How would a congregation present their annual budget without it? All these things are open in our congregation because we do not yet have elders, and the budget meeting is a congregational meeting (young church plant). But, even when I've served in larger, established congregations with elders, deacons, and committees, the budget was presented annually, copies available to all, and no secret salaries.

    A healthy congregation is a well-informed congregation.

  4. Alan says:

    The burden is on the donor to hold the recipient organization accountable for the funds. Surely there is no proper role for government in church finances, unless a donor brings charges and evidence of fraud.

  5. Brett White says:

    Should preachers even be paid at all?

    Jesus said give to poor, not to preachers.

    What kind of impact on the world if professional preachers got "real jobs" and preached for free?

  6. Grizz says:

    First of all, the lack of intimacy in most congregations is such that most 'staff' salaries are the only incomes that are actually reported or even known among the members. Do we consider that an open and honest disclosure policy? Do we review member giving in relation to member resources of income and properties? In the account given by Luke of what happened with Joseph who was called Barnabas and Ananias and his wife Sapphira and the rest of the members of the Jerusalem church, it is evident that enough was known (revealed by the Spirit?) about the couple's finances that Peter was able to challenge their account of what they were giving. It became clear as a result that God knows what some would try to keep hidden and fraud is not just an offense against fellow Christians but also against God.

    Second, for Brett's sake, perhaps a post or two reviewing financial and resource stewardship would be a good reminder that preaching the gospel IS a 'real job' and there is more to be read in God's word establishing godly standards of stewardship than there is about remaining faithful to your spouse. Perhaps Brett has been blinded to the reality that there is a lot more to loving one another as Jesus loves us than dropping a twenty into the collection plate every month or so. Shall we question whether a brother or sister who is a movie actor or actress has a 'real job'? Shall we question whether professional athletes who are brothers and sisters in Christ have 'real jobs'? And shall we question the brother or sister in Christ who is a CEO or COO of a corporation receiving more than 100 times the salary of a first level supervisor has a 'real job' that justifies their salaries?

    The anti-preacher bias and failure to pay elders at all among S/C-RM churches is embarassing and offensive to anyone who has actually read and taken to heart the many admonitions about supporting the teaching and preaching of the gospel. Allowing such ignorance to not only thrive but also control the conversations in many congregations that have impoverished those who give their lives to share the greatest treasure known to mankind is a criminal shame and affront to God that claimed the lives of Ananias and Sapphira, who were at least giving something. If there is a financial fraud of life and death proportions going on, it is most certainly NOT because we are supporting the men and women who are laying down their lives to do what many members will not take the time to do at all.

    End of rant.


  7. Tonycocciajr says:

    Workers are worthy of their wages 1 Timothy 5:18. This verse is related to elders who work at preaching and teaching, and is correctly applied to those who preach only. No one should be expected to work for free. Any church that does not allow the disclosure of salaries of all staffers is asking for trouble. Google Jim & Tammy Faye Baker and you'll see what I'm talking about. It's a sorry state of affairs when members blindly give and do so without any curiosity as to where their money goes. Look at 1Ti 3:8, 1Ti 6:5, Titus 1:7, 1Ti 1:11, 1Pe 5:2. These verses speak of elders, deacons and others who use the Word and distort the truth for dishonest gain. Keeping church employees, whomever they are, accountable to those WHO PAY THEIR SALARIES by disclosing all movement of funds within a church will prevent abuses of the past. The same problem in present if our government because we the people do not know how our elected officals spend our money. It's only now becoming apparent to the masses. Money corrupts when it goes unchecked!

  8. Dear friends,

    Interesting question here. I would not be troubled if the congregation I work in were to know what I am paid as a minister. In fact, I've yet to serve in a church where it was not widely known what I was paid, so this hasn't been an issue for me. Most churches do not pay a ministry salary that is so extravagant that we wouldn't want it disclosed anyways. The reality is, most ministers in the Churches of Christ are laboring for wages that in the 'real world' (whatever that means) we would likely be compensated better, given training, education, hours spent 'at work,' etc. I don't say that to be sharp towards the church, it's just the reality. Most ministers I know do what they do because they love the Lord and love serving his church, not because of the salary. I realize this might not be always true, but I'm speaking about the majority of ministers, not the few bad apples.

    But to put this issue in perspective so that we all know what it feels like to be probed in this way, let me throw out the following thought experiment. What if the elders at your church wanted to know what your gross income was so they could calculate whether or not (based on your salary) you were offering a reasonable tithe to the church (say around 10%). How would you react to this request? Would you stay at the church? How would the idea suit you?

    Matt Dowling

  9. Bob Brandon says:

    Growing up in the Church of Christ in the 1960s-70s in Nashville and Davidson County, there were few (very few) preachers who were technically full-time: that's been a relative innovation of the last 40 years and is remains one available pretty much to the wealthiest congregations, urban, suburban, or rural. I'm not convinced that being "part-time" was such a bad thing in hindsight. Many Nashville preachers were teachers, either at Lipscomb or in the public schools: they worked in the world they were also preaching to, not a whole unlike what Paul often did in the first century. Bro. John Hurt of correspondence course fame taught at a Nashville public high school during the week and gave the morning and evening sermon on Parkwood on Sunday.

    As for knowing what the salaries are: of course, anyone in the congregation should be able to know – that's what their contributions are going for, among other things. I work for the state of Missouri: my salary, like that of every other state employee, is a matter of public record.

  10. aBasnar says:

    There are two ways of approaching the salary of elders:

    One is that they ought to be paid be those who profit from their service:

    Deu 12:19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

    Mat 10:9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts,
    Mat 10:10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

    Gal 6:6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

    1Ti 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
    1Ti 5:18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."

    On the other hand Paul encourages by his example and by word to neglect the right of being paid for serving in the Kingdom:

    Act 20:33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.
    Act 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
    Act 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

    1Co 9:12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
    1Co 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?
    1Co 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
    1Co 9:15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
    1Co 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

    I see a strong emphasis on the last words. Being an elder, a teacher or an evangelist is not having a job like any other job. If we don't feel the necessity, the urge to preach and teach, then we are the wriong persons for this calling anyway. And if we are driven by God in this manner, then we would not ask for money but trust God to provide for us. This he may as well do through tha hands of the congregation, and the church is encouraged to consider the needs of their servants.

    But I have a hard time finding an example in the NT that pais the preachers according to an agreed upon regular salary, since this would mean we'd have to charge the congregation a certain amount of money. But we all are to give freely and voluntarily according to our prosperity (1Co 16:2). This indicates to me that the donations for the ministers of the word did not receive a regular income, but rather alms and the necessities.

    The Didache exhorts the church to give also material goods:

    (Didache Ch XIII) ANF07. 1. But every true prophet that willeth to abide among you is worthy of his support. 2. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. 3. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. 4. But if ye have not a prophet, give it to the poor. 5. If thou makest a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. 6. So also when thou openest a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; 7. and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to thee, and give according to the commandment.

    This also confirms the impression that the income of teachers is similar to receiving alms – or at least not very much more than alms.

    This, anyway, does not fit at all the salaries Joyce Meyer and the other aforementioned servants (of whom? – Mat 6:24) receive. But isn’t that connected to their theology as well?


  11. RLBaty says:

    A more important observation about the Grassley Report would have been to note its recognition of the pending FFRF IRC 107 lawsuit which should be decided this year by Judge Shubb of Sacramento, the constitutional doubts about IRC 107 and the possible need to limit any ministerial housing allowances.

    The report sounded like Congress and the President, unlike in the Rick Warren case, are more than willing to wait and see what the court(s) will do regarding IRC 107 before taking any necessary legislative action.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It’s a great question. I think it would depend upon how the church is set up. If it follows a corporate model and the congregation is considered share holders all expenses should be fully disclosed. If the congregation is consider to be clients of the preacher or pastor it would be at the discretion of the leaders. The larger question is “Is the church an institution or a fellowship?” If the church is an institution either way would be appropriate.

  13. Adam Legler says:

    I have a hard time giving to a church that doesn't disclose everything. That doesn't mean a preacher can't get paid a decent salary. He has a family to support and the right to the luxuries that money can money just like everyone else. But there's a point where I believe my money is better spent going to the local Christian Pregnancy Center to save babies and convert to be single moms than an excessive salary. If I don't know the range of the salary, I consider it an excessive salary.

  14. Twistersinbama says:

    I think that, as Christians, we should let all in our circles of relationship know how much money we make. For instance, last year I made around $72,000. It shouldn't be a secret. I don't have to hide that number.

    The interesting thing is how am I using that money for God's Kingdom? I gave away around $8800 of this money. That is an embarrassingly low number. I live in the richest country in the history of the world, and I can give away maybe 12%? That is sin shown in numbers – a condemnation on me and my culture.

    I would suggest we are private with our money because we are private with all of our sin. How we use money is sin. There is no excuse for any American to be giving away less than 40% of all that they make. It is inexcusable for us not to do that. That is why we hide and play these "games".

    The question isn't should we disclose what the preacher makes. The question is how are all of us held accountable in how we treat our money?

  15. Kent Gatewood says:

    I've never known what the pulpit preacher makes. Have to ask around now.

  16. Royce Ogle says:

    Anyone dim enough to send money to some of the hucksters you listed deserve to get taken.

    I don't know what your preachers earn and don't care. If I can't trust our elders who can I trust? Many of the problems that arise in churches is that people try to run them like business and they aren't. I don't think you can find any biblical support for a local church being governed by a democracy.

    When I give, I do so as unto the Lord. I trust Him with the money I give. This isn't rocket science.

Leave a Reply