Putting the 99% to Work

Justin Johnson

According to recent reports, the number of unpaid ministers is on the rise… to 2%. The number is higher if you include pastors who only get paid for part-time work.

By ministers, the surveys mean those chosen or appointed by denominations to do the work that keeps the modern mainline church functioning.

The Bible rightly divided says that every part of the body is supposed to be providing “effectual work” (Eph 4:16), and that every member should be workmen zealous of good works (2 Tim 2:15, Eph 2:10).

If we counted all members of the body as ministers, the number of unpaid ministers would be much higher, closer to 99%.

How Modern Churches Functions

The way a church functions in our affluent society is that the 99% of potential ministers pay 1% of willing ministers to do work for them.

If one man is paid to be spiritual, pious, religious, and learned, then the rest are exempt “laymen”, except on Sundays when they make their payment and receive a blessing.

This is why part-time and bi-vocational pastors are scorned by some congregations. How can they be doing the best work for God (and for nice elder ladies) if they are splitting their time with other responsibilities?

Unpaid ministers are seen by these churches as the worst of all, because they know ‘you get what you pay for’, and they are looking to get something from the paid minister.

A Lack of Ministry

Paying the pastor is exactly why the 99% do not put in their own work in Bible study or ministry. They do not get paid to do it. They forget about their being bought with a precious price by the Lord (1 Cor 6:20, Acts 20:28).

Ministry is not a paid profession, but it is paid for. It is the duty of every member of the church (2 Cor 5:14-15).

The mercenary mindset of ministry raises the role of the pastor to that of a spiritual broker for the Lord, and diminishes the responsibility of every other member of the Body of Christ to minister to others.

Not only is this idea doctrinally wrong, but it requires one man to do the work of 10 or 50 or 100. This is impossible.

The pastor/teacher’s responsibility is not to do the Bible study, visitation, counseling, and praying for 100 men, but rather to teach those 100 men in the congregation to each do the simple work of one man.

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

A Proper Functioning Church

We each have many responsibilities, many of which are not paid opportunities. The work of one man includes doing the necessary work to provide for themselves, their own family, and their own ministry (Eph 4:28, 1 Tim 5:8, 1 Thess 4:11).

Instead of looking for a place to pay them to minister, more pastors should set the example of one man’s work of paying their own way to provide for their own ministry.

“Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” – 2 Thess 3:8-9

Fifty men doing 2 hours of work a week (20 minutes per day) can replace a paid pastor. What if their wives and children were doing work as well? The returns multiply.

The church will not function properly by paying super-ministers to do the work of ten men. The church functions by an assembly of faithful men who each put in the work of one man (1 Cor 12:14).

The design of the church is to make an army of ministers, not a 99% who pay for the 1% to provide them Sunday services.

A workman is worthy of his hire, but that is very different thing than hiring someone to be your workman.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest…” – 1 Cor 3:13

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Published: October 26, 2013
Last Modified: March 15, 2018
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