2015—clergy salaries, Mayhew
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute
A while ago, I read an article by a man named Ray Mayhew, a megachurch senior pastor in the Chicago area entitled, “Embezzlement: Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity”. What he writes about is not the actual legal problem in modern society that every day, in the U.S., an average of five and a half million dollars is being embezzeled from one Christian church or another by persons entrusted with the monies collected, which is in and of itself a significant problem, but a matter of the heart that is connected to how over half of all money in today’s churches are spent.
The subject of the article is what the church was like in the day that was the cultural context that the books of Acts through Revelation were written about, with respect to the subject of helping the poor. Mayhew concluded that the early church, which I might remind you were underground groups in cities and towns, first in Jerusalem and Israel, then around the Roman Empire--that those groups were officially illegal. Therefore, they had no fixed expenses, unlike the temples of Roman paganism. They collected money for only two things—first, helping the poor, both within the group of believers in Jesus, and in helping their neighbors and, secondly, helping to send apostles, which meant gifted and mature fellow believers to be able to go places where the message of Jesus had not been communicated, help guide persons there to faith in Jesus, and teach them how to be the church, God’s group of people desiring to live to honor him, both as individuals and, more importantly, as a group. Even then, the example of an apostle that the New Testament tells us the most about, Paul, in having formerly been a Pharisee and having had to learn to make tents, had a culturally transferrable skill such that he didn’t need to be tied to receiving funds from his church home, Antioch in what would be now modern Israel, as he traveled to as far away as modern Spain.
Now, this conclusion had some personal problems for the writer, who, you might recall, I said was the head person of a megachurch in a modern suburb. The example of the early church leaves no room for 1) his salary, as a local leader of a congregation, 2) his position, as, a paid local leader by any name did not exist back then, and 3) his responsibility over a religious corporation that 4) owned buildings that need to be maintained. In the article, Mayhew only brings up only points 1) and 4), but publicly recognizing just one or two is a theological and ethical dilemma he addresses slightly, and doesn’t offer any resolution to.
I believe the reason for not offering a solution is because there is none. I do wish to show respect to his publicly mentioning the problem. I know there are others in his position aware of these problems, but are not going out of their way, as he did, to mention them, particularly where in those who are not in the clergy class might hear them. If you are listening to me today, this is a problem that is not the making of any pastor or denominational leader or anyone on earth today. In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire forced the church--whether intentionally or not, I have no clue--to adopt the ways of beliefs they were familiar with, which included buildings and specially trained religious ritual performers and heads over organizations in a manner similar to governments, the military, and businesses. The problem is that that was not then or now based on scripture. Governments, businesses, and the military have leadership grids, with one person at the top. The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation. In a fallen world, it works. In the Bible, Jesus is Head of the church, and there are believers, of which some are more mature, some have a spiritual gift that another doesn’t, but are are equal in being before God, and equally a child of God. Today, if one is a leader of a corporate church, and one realizes this problem, that the corporate structure with expending most of the money collected on itself isn’t scriptural, it isn’t a matter of just refusing to accept a salary. In almost all cases, the people on the staff have families to support, bills to pay, and almost no businesses find theological training of use to them, particularly in the amount of persons who have such training in our society’s job market, which, I might say, is where the vast majority of persons who are not believers are spending 40 or more hours per week. I wish to believe that none of us care for this observation of A. W. Tozer: “The church is like a constitutional monarchy, where Jesus is allowed the title, but has no authority to make any decisions.”
To read the article I referred to in this commentary, you can find it at:
The Tozer quote is from a sermon, “A New Type of Preacher”, SermonIndex.net.
The statistic on actual embezzlement is from Barrett & Johnson, World Christian Trends, p. 3, quoted by Steven S. Lyzenga, Assessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission, p.19, http://house2harvest.org/docs/Simple_Churches_Releasing_Resources_S_Lyzenga.pdf .