Question: “I attend a church which is a part of the Assemblies of God. I am a Christian. My pastor and his family have taken a trip to Hawaii, Disneyland, Arizona, and to other places. The church and the AOG pay for these. We have people in our church who are struggling financially and there are families in our community who need help. Is it right for the pastor to take these trips? I am confused. Peace and Love and God`s Blessings to you.”
Answer: There is little question that a church should provide for the daily needs of their pastors (1 Corinthians 9:12-18, 1Timothy 5:17-18). However, it can be a bit more confusing to know if the pastor’s “non-essentials” should be a financial priority for the church. A general rule of thumb can be found in Galatians 6:6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” Here we can see that the pastor’s wages and benefits should be reflective of the congregation or denomination in which he serves.
Of course each church will have congregants with higher and lower incomes. Generally speaking, though, the pastor’s finances should resemble the majority of his congregation’s finances. It would speak negatively of a church or denomination if they refused to support a lifestyle for their pastor similar to their own. Likewise, it would speak negatively of a pastor if he demanded his lifestyle be excessively more lavish than that of the majority of his congregation or denomination.
Additionally, Jesus often commended people for lavish financial gifts that were given with the right motivation to honor the Lord. Judas grew angry when Mary “wasted” expensive oil on Jesus, and his reasoning was that this money could have been used on the poor, even though he really just wanted it for himself (John 12:1-8). Rather than rebuke those who lavishly blessed Jesus financially, Jesus encouraged these generous acts (Matthew 26:13).
Likewise, it is commendable if a congregation or denomination seeks to bless their pastor with abundance as a way to honor Jesus. God calls his church to love the poor (James 1:27), but he also calls his church to love and support their pastors (Galatians 6:6). To neglect either of these for the sake of the other is wrong. Wisdom from God will surely be needed for each individual scenario.
Hebrews 13:17 states, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” In reference to this verse, congregants should respect the financial decisions the body of elders or denominational leaders are making. It is important to not judge those in authority over you who have been given the role to make financial decisions, including how to best bless the pastor financially. One should focus on the areas they have been given authority over, including how they are spending their own money to benefit the needy, before spending too much time judging others (Matthew 7:1-5).
Also, it is practically wise to bless the pastor and his family since the work of the ministry is so difficult. To give the pastor rest and relaxation not only benefits him and his family, but it also benefit the congregation, for if the pastor is not joyful, “that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17). No one benefits when the leader is burnt out. Children of pastors go through many trials other children do not. It is a great help to the pastor in raising his children to love the church rather than despise it when the church blesses the pastor so he and his family can enjoy the benefits many in his congregation are enjoying.
Having said that, if a congregant feels financial decisions by the church or congregation are ill advised and a poor use of resources, that person should loving ask those in authority over the finances to explain their reasoning and decision making criteria. If the congregant disagrees and thus finds reluctance in his or her heart to give financially to the church or congregation, the proper response is not to withhold giving but to become a member of a Christian body where they are more cheerful to give. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 explains:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
If one must error on the side of being too lavish or too pragmatic with the finances towards their pastor, it seems biblically wise to error on the side of lavish. It would seem more likely for Jesus to rebuke a body of believers for being stingy towards their pastors rather than rebuking them for being lavish.
However, God wants his people to give cheerfully. So if you must attend a different church to be able to give lavishly with a cheerful heart, this may be necessary. Wherever one attends church, the way finances are spent will always be a difficult topic, so it is all the more necessary to pray for wisdom since only God “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).