Great Stuff — Can we afford NOT to have Pastors?

Another great stuff article by Pastor Peters on his blog, Pastoral Meanderings:


The Bible argues for a professional clergy – “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” The ministry is important work – worthy of the dedication of a lifetime, 50+ hours a week, and the sacrificial giving of God’s people.  So argues Pastor Heath Curtis in a recent post on the Gottesdeinst Online blog.

His point is well taken.  We have for too long intimated that Pastors do not really work or else their work does not require full-time employment and may be accomplished equally as well by part-time clergy.  In my own circuit, an SMP guy is soon to be ordained and it was said of him that he does not need to be paid since he has his retirement income.  Whether he chooses to be paid or not is one thing but to suggest that he does not need to be paid is quite another.  Are we setting out discount Pastors who work on the cheap because they do not come with a full blown seminary education and are geographically limited in where they will serve?

I have long spoken of the possibility of matching up CRM Pastors who are not serving a called position for one reason or another (error for which correction was made, marriage failure, congregational issue, short-term physical or mental disability, etc…) and seeing about matching these already bi-vocational people up with parishes for whom full-time compensation might be a reach.  That is the exception.  But the rule is always full-time clergy.

The problem is that we have begun to think of the Office of the Ministry in terms of function instead of office.  We have begun to think of those who hold that office as functionaries who are defined by what they do more than who they are.  In doing this we have made it easier to justify the part-time Pastor who works full-time in other employment or as the retired guy who “pastors on the side.”  The Office of the Ministry is not a side-line.  It is not a hobby.  It is not a distraction.  It is and our Lord expects that it will remain a profession, vocation, and calling.  Folks, we are in dangerous territory when we begin to think in terms of function instead of office and when we expect anything less than a full-time profession for the bearers of Christ’s Office to us.

What we might do in necessity is far different than what we do apart from constraints.  Yes, it may be that for some already earning an income for themselves and their families that a part-time position under certain circumstances will be a good thing.  But the idea that we need to shift to tent making clergy and that the sems need to begin to think and move in this direction is in direct violation both of the Word of the Lord and the confessional integrity of the Church.

The guy who comes once a month to take care of the pest control in our church also moonlights as a Baptist preacher.  He is a nice guy and does a credible job for us (as exterminator).  But his business is his livelihood.  Once in a discussion he said that Baptists don’t expect their preachers to babysit them in hospital or funeral home or family crisis.  He asked me how on earth I juggle the needs of all the families and individuals in my parish if all of them need to be babysat.  Hmmm… is that what we call it?  I thought we had another term seelsorge or pastoral care.  One of the great dangers of the way some seem to be defining and directing the Office of the Ministry is to give up this pastoral care for a Sunday morning role, function, and duty — setting aside the care of the sick, they dying, and the grieving as well as catechesis and private confession.  Last I knew, families do not schedule crises, death does not come by appointment, and the pastoral care of the people does not fall during the free time of the Pastor when family or other things are finished.

It is not for us to decide if a professional clergy is the expectation of the people or financially workable or feasible.  It is the expectation of the Lord.  It is up to us to make sure that the calling of the shepherd to take heed over the flock is supported and the shepherd not distracted from his service by a paying job that demands first priority on his time.

BTW, last time I checked the family of the Pastor had enough stresses and pressures without the need to share a dad with a job as well as a church.  In addition, if it has become our expectation that the wife of the Pastor subsidize the Pastor’s vocation, we have more problems than money.

I write NOT from the perspective of one who has suffered financial need or been forced to find other employment to support my family.  I have always enjoyed a fair wage for my labors in the church and found my people wishing that they could give me far more.  I do publish and receive a small income from that but most of that goes for a few techno toys and some family gifts.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — Can we afford NOT to have Pastors? — 10 Comments

  1. We should pay our pastors fairly, and if they feel that we can’t afford this or that they can afford to forego compensation, they can always donate the funds back to the church. It is not our place to say that they should do so, or even to know whether or not they do.

  2. Thank you, Carol, for this point.
    Some are able to give back generously, and do it, but it should be the individual’s choice. [“The church” doesn’t necessarily mean that congregation.]
    We do not always know what other obligations a Pastor may have. To expect a Pastor to work for little or nothing is demeaning to the Pastor and to the congregation.

  3. People, remember, a pastor is a pastor whether full-time, part-time, whatever-time, etc. Ordination does not care about money, the office of pastor is what it is. Now sure, it all depends where the pastor executes the duties of his office. That little part-time, worker/priest can do far more than the full-time pastor in a huge Church.

  4. @Carol Broome #1
    I thank God that I have leadership in my two congregations who view it precisely that way, Carol. They’ve told me that, if I think it’s best, I can “give back” whatever raise is planned via our envelope, and that’s my own business.

  5. Here is a potentially fatal danger in the sort of thinking described in that bit about the Baptist preacher/exterminator. The article gets toward this–doesn’t quite come out and say it. Congregations that think this way are moving toward, if not fully engaged in, a *consumer* mentality regarding “church” and its work. We figure out how much we can “buy”, and find ways to “economize”.
    Beyond that, there is a terrifying “compartmentalization” aspect to this “babysitting” mentality. “The ‘services’ of the preacher are only needed on Sunday, wedding day, Christmas, and funeral day.” But that means that the *Word of God* is only needed on those days, though they may not consciously think of it this way. For the PreacherOffice is precisely the Office of the Word.
    The longer I live, the more I realize just how HUGE a blessing it was to me that I grew up in the family of a pastor. Life revolved, and now still revolves, entirely around the rhythms of the Church and the Divine Service. My life has always “swum” in the life of the Church–Sunday morning, religion classes in Lutheran schools, Wednesday chapel, Advent, Lent, Holy Week services, etc. And that’s inestimably a good thing because Life only comes from Christ who is present in the Divine Service. I seriously have a hard time comprehending the mindset of those whose lives *don’t* revolve around the Liturgy/Divine Service/Christ. They are missing out on SO MUCH!

  6. its some cc’s and dp’s who have no need for faithful members pastors and their families-CONFESSIONAL is passe’-

  7. ” have long spoken of the possibility of matching up CRM Pastors who are not serving a called position for one reason or another (error for which correction was made, marriage failure, congregational issue, short-term physical or mental disability, etc…) and seeing about matching these already bi-vocational people up with parishes for whom full-time compensation might be a reach. …”

    This is a great idea. I know a handful of pastors who are “waiting” for a call. They keep on getting passed by because they are not serving a church but are willing to serve a church. So they wait. And wait..
    I also feel its worth mentioning those congregations that can afford a pastor but are vacant. The DP’s tell them that they cannot afford a full time pastor because their church cannot afford paying for a pastor a full time salary PLUS the expenses that go along with the Concordia Plan Services. If you remove the high expenses associated with Concordia Plan Services, then smaller churches could afford paying for a called servant of the Lord.

  8. @Walter Troeger #7
    Aha…the stark reality, it ain’t easy in the new world of Church to the post-moderns. You simply cannot get rid of the high cost of health care, just is not going to happen. And the cost of living, only so many Churches can truly afford a full-time dedicated man. Now as to working together, the hardest part of the equation. In our congregational system, pastors (sad to say) become entrepreneurs to the Gospel in their own place, they do not like to work and play together.. The future will be a mixture of full-time, part-time, better use of the emeritus, etc. Not easy.

  9. but we can afford to go w/o high priced unfaithful dp’s so get out there with that saved money and support saving inner city churches and the world and not dp golf and cg

  10. LETS SUBMIT OUR CONCERNS TO CC’S AND DP’S-AND THEN PROCEED TO CALLS FOR PUBLIC DEBATE-if they show indifference and apathy towards our dying churches by way of sinful teaching and practice-2013 LCMS Reformation

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