Preachers and money


The year was 1981. It was a Sunday. I had a high fever, and my stomach was rolling. Julie and the kids went to church, and I stayed home. Although ill and home alone, I felt the need for some spiritual food; therefore, I decided to watch a TV preacher.

For transparency and honesty, I did not know who the fellow was then. I do not know his name now. Also, please do not write in and ask me my opinion of TV ministers – I never watch them and do not buy their books, so anything I know of them is pure second or third-hand.

The hour-long show began with about 15 minutes of singing. Then, a 15-minute sermon. I do not remember the topic, but I do remember there was nothing glaringly apostate. Then, the next 15 minutes were interesting. The man told the viewers that for a donation, he would send them a three-leaf clover that would bring financial benefits. With one of these clovers in their possession, God would send them financial blessings as they had never seen, and any money problems the viewer faced would soon be over, never to be seen again.

The last 15 minutes were striking. The preacher explained that the ministry was in a crisis because they may lose several stations on which they broadcast without increased funding. I could not help but wonder why he didn’t just go to the storeroom containing cases of these three-leaf clovers and grab a handful. After all, God is no respecter of persons, so if God would bless the man’s congregation who had these clovers, would God not bless him while he owned a warehouse of the things?

I hope you can tell I am not a proponent of the “three-leaf clover gospel.” I have never heard of any other Clover preachers out there, but some spout that if you send them money, God will bless you with a large quantity of earthly gain. Usually, this leads to a significant increase for the minister and nothing more than a tax write-off for the giver. Any minister in the ministry with greed in his heart does not meet the Biblical qualifications of a minister of the gospel (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2).

Again, for transparency and honesty, here is my financial situation. Except for a few months between churches (I have Pastored three), I have been a senior Pastor since 1987. I have been at Countryside Baptist since 1995. Until I retired from law enforcement at the end of 2009, I worked a secular job as well as preaching. In 2006, I finally convinced Countryside not to pay me. Since then, I have not received a salary, but they do pay about half of my gasoline expenses. This column, which I send to 38 newspapers (how many print it; only God knows), does not bring in a substantial income – three of the papers send me $5 a week. In all the years I have written the column, I have received two checks from readers. The total of the two gifts was $120. The mailbox is not overflowing with $20 bills. I am not telling you this for sympathy; I am trying to show you a bit of my heart. God has provided a pension from my secular job and a social security check. God is the one who provides for us, not me. How He provides for us is His prerogative, not mine. I am not in the ministry for money.

So, should ministers be paid? How much?

It is up to God and the church, not the preacher.

Paul tells us he knew how “to abound and to suffer need.” There were times he had more than enough, and there were times he needed some help (Philippians 4:12).

God does tell us that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel – 1 Corinthians 9:14, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Sometimes, however, this is impracticable, as we see Paul working as a tentmaker in Corinth with Aquila to supply an income (Acts 18:1-2).

The work of a minister is not a career or a job. It is a calling. God should call him to preach and call him to specific churches and ministries. For example – you would not be reading this column if God had not called me to write.

When someone is called to preach, and somewhere down the road, it becomes a job, it is time to repent or leave the ministry. When a Pastor has lost the heart of the call, the goals of the ministry change. Instead of God’s will being the only goal, the concerns move to money, numbers, and reputation, among other things.

How much should a church pay a minister? That is between God and the church. In the end, it is the heart attitude that matters. The preacher should be willing to do it for nothing, and the congregation should be willing to meet all his needs. When both those heart attitudes are in place, God will bless spiritually, which should be every Christian’s goal.

Preacher Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County Indiana. Website:; Email: [email protected]; Mail: 25 W 1200 N; Kingman IN 47952. Facebook: All Scripture KJV.

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