Pastors: Are You Kingdom-Driven or Paycheck-Driven?

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I have not once met a pastor who entered into the ministry because it was a lucrative career. Pastors enter into the ministry because it is a calling by God to serve Him fully and completely in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming kingdom of God.

Pastors enter into ministry with the kingdom of God in their eyes. This is the ultimate goal: to serve our savior fully and completely. They go through seminary or become commissioned pastors. They become excited for what will come next.

There are a number of pastors who are kingdom-driven in their ministry. They wake up each morning and think “Wow, I can’t believe I get paid for this!” But sadly, there are also a large number of pastors who wake up in the morning and say “Wow. Thank God I get paid for this.” These have become paycheck-driven pastors.

In kingdom-driven pastors, there is a desire to go all out for the kingdom of God. There is a desire to live in a reckless abandonment in serving Jesus wherever they can. Their very fiber and DNA resonate at the frequency of Heaven. They see the blessings in the future to which they are working towards. There is fire in the bones for doing God’s ministry is something they can’t not do. Each little step in serving the kingdom of God is a massive victory for them. They are joining God in mission and the mission is to live out the kingdom of God today for tomorrow.

And every pastor I have met desires to be like that. But so many I’ve met over the years don’t feel like they can be like that. Something has been removed from them, a joy in serving, a passion for the kingdom. Gone. Stability for family, student loans, being able to live day to day are the key now. The paycheck is what keeps them moving each day to do the routine of ministry.

How can a pastor move from being kingdom-driven to paycheck-driven? There are many congregations that have sucked it out of the pastor. I do not want to do a disservice to congregations here, blaming them for it all. Problems occur on both sides. I do acknowledge that there are pastors who contribute to the situation they are in. But I want to think about the leadership of some congregations. There are desires and expectations that are expressed but do not coincide with the actual unwritten desires and expectations looked for. The paper did not match the pews during the search process. Other times, there are congregations whose members and leaders push hard to have their pastor fit a certain mold. When the pastor doesn’t, conflict happens. In order to prevent conflict, to please the leadership, to keep the church together, to avoid an article 17, the pastor submits (because that’s what a good pastor does, right?) to the demands. In doing so, joy and passion are sucked out.

And so, a pastor bides their time. They put their heads down and work. They work for the income and stability they need for their families or for themselves. Many pastors wouldn’t know what to do outside of doing ministry. Some pastors had great congregations before but now it’s a struggle. Some don’t leave because the devil they know is better than the one they don’t.

Again, I do not want to blame congregations and their leadership. There are times when pastors erupt out of pain and hurt due to being shoved into a mold. There are times where a pastor falters because the passion and joy of ministry has been sucked away. But congregations remember, this work you have called your pastor to do is to do the work of the kingdom of God which is bigger than the walls of your building and the people who come weekly into it.

Pastors, remember your first love. If you feel paycheck-driven, strive to move beyond that. This could include counseling, this could include pushing for a spiritual retreat and renewal. This could include joining Deeper Journey. Paycheck-driven ministry leads to a bad type of burn out that will implode and cause dry rot in the heart or explode and ruin both you and the congregation. Find ways to become kingdom-driven once again and move forward with the fire in the bones in serving Jesus with reckless abandonment. 

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I think this issue is particularly prominent in so-called "mega" churches.

Mega-church pastors tend to make a lot of money. And why not? After all, the sheer size of their congregations means the giving totals are huge. They often write devotionals and life books. Their worship leaders write music we all sing each week. And, really, there are relatively very few people qualified to lead and sustain those types of organizations. Rare talent commands exceptional remuneration. There's nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, we don't worry about whether other successful Christians are paycheck-driven. Why should it be so different for pastors (or worship leaders)?

Still, how does one hear the call of God through all that? How can one keep the heart open to missions serving the poor or marginalized, if that mission means giving up the highly-paid position one had worked so hard for? It's tough for a mega-church pastor to feel led to serve at a small church or in a third world nation.

The question is definitely personal. Each of us has to decide how much is enough. I pray that every highly-paid pastor is always able to hear God's voice. And I pray that every not-so-well-paid pastor has the strength and means to keep serving God's people. Either way, it's going to be a struggle.

Community Builder

Christy, thank you for your reflections. I think the same is true for the mega-church pastor to the small rural pastor, from one who pastors a 2,000 member congregation with multiple staff to one who does it all (including the bulletin) in a small church. I think you are right in that it is personal for each pastor. My concern is more for the burnout of pastors more so than the pay for pastors. As I wrote, I've never met a pastor who went into it for the money. To expand on that, I've met people who've left lucrative businesses and jobs in order to be paid far less in order to serve God. Burn out in pastors can lead to a loss of kingdom focus as the spiritual leader of God's people. Please continue to keep pastors in your prayers, from the mega church to the small church, that they still keep the focus on serving God where they are at. Thanks again. 

Come on, Joshua.  Give us readers a break.  It sounds to me like you are living in a fantasy world.  I think you are a little bit (maybe more than a little bit) out of touch with reality.  What you say about the pastor could be said about all Christians working in any occupation whether a doctor, lawyer, biologist, veterinarian, press operator, maintenance worker, etc. etc..  As Christians, should anyone be driven by the pay check?  Living in “reckless abandonment in serving Jesus” is likely to get you fired whether in ministry or in the hospital or in the manufacturing plant.  If you are living in the real world, you know that church members are all over the map as to how Christian commitment and service takes shape.  Recklessly serving Christ in a way that inspires you may be completely different from 3/4 of your congregation.  But go ahead and throw caution to the wind.  You’ll likely be out of work next week, though.  There are countless things that cause a pastor (or any Christian) to exercise caution, such as a wife and children, as well as the countless people that we all rub shoulders with daily.  Your reckless abandonment attitude may work in a fantasy world, but most of our lives are lived out in the real world.

Community Builder

Roger, yes, real world application is important, thank you for bringing that focus in. Pastors though are more than just a lawyer, mechanic, maintenance worker, etc. A pastor is one who is called to be the spiritual leader of God's people. A pastor is called to lead God's people, to be the shepherd of Christ's flock. There are many ways one might live in reckless abandonment for Jesus in being kingdom driven. I think of my wife's grandfather who passed away in 2002. Decades ago, he was serving in his church and felt a call to move forward to serve full time. He sold his business (some of the story says he actually gave it away to a returning war veteran) and started planting churches in the Chicago area. He planted them in numerous areas, two of them are still around today--Immanuel CRC in Burbank, IL and Hammond CRC in Hammond, IN. His kingdom driven focus in preaching the gospel led to many people coming to faith. He wasn't a person driven by a paycheck but rather driven by a vision to see people come into the kingdom. Both his sons became pastors both with a kingdom focus. Reckless abandonment in serving Jesus can manifest itself in so many different ways. Many pastors try to live their own reckless abandonment, and get shut down because it's different, or it's not how the church has always done things, or it's not what they've paid the pastor to do. I understand the need to exercise caution at times. This blog post more so wants to focus on burn out in pastors and how to help pastors retrieve that kingdom vision they once had. It is also to encourage the church to look past roadblocks and to dream together with the pastor into new ways of doing ministry in serving God's kingdom. The real world is that too many times people act in fear rather than in faith in kingdom work. I wonder if my wife's grandfather used caution instead would the churches he planted and the people God reached through him would be around today? It's amazing how many lives one person touches when they focus on the kingdom of God... Pastors get brought down many times and told to just do the work rather than look forward towards the kingdom. Pray for your pastor and your church that the kingdom of God might be preached and lived. Pray that your pastor continues to be driven by a desire to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in reckless abandonment because that's how Jesus did it for us. 

Community Builder

Amen and amen!