An Apology to Part-Time Preachers

I need to apologize. I'm a preacher. My daddy was a preacher. His daddy was a preacher. Preaching is what I know. It's in my blood. I love it, and I've never seriously considered doing anything else.

But because of that, I've developed a sinful prejudice against a certain segment of preachers. And I want to come clean, confess my sin, and apologize.

For too long, I've harbored an arrogant, elitist, selfish prejudice against those preachers not employed full-time by a congregation. In other words, I looked down on those who labored only part-time, scornfully concluding that they somehow "couldn't cut it" as a full-time minister, that their talents were not "up to par." Such prejudice was based on the (faulty) assumption that a man worked part-time as a preacher/minister only if his talents were not good enough for a full-time gig or if his heart wasn't truly in it.

For such prejudice and arrogance, I want to say that I'm so very very very sorry.

In the last couple of years, I've come to know many men who labor in the kingdom part-time, but only in terms of their financial compensation from a church. The reality is that they are indeed "all-in" and their talents far surpass other men who labor full-time. It is, believe it or not, a myriad of circumstances that dictate their need to work "part-time." Perhaps he is forced to work elsewhere so that his family has health insurance. Or perhaps the congregation is going through financial difficulties and simply cannot pay him what he is worth. Or maybe he finds plenty of evangelistic opportunities by holding a secular job (when I tell people that I'm a minister by profession, a lot of walls go up, and I find personal evangelism becomes more difficult; having another profession to claim keeps people more receptive). For so many reasons, a man's part-time work with a church should never be taken as indicative of his talent or commitment.

But there's another reason I want to go public with my sin and confess my prejudice: I fear that the day is coming sooner than later (but when, I do not know), when more preachers in the church will be forced to take on work elsewhere to supplement whatever salary they receive from ministry. As the Lord's church becomes more oppressed by our culture, we must entertain the possible scenario in which our churches lose their tax-exempt status. If we are forced by Uncle Sam to send half our weekly contribution to the IRS, many churches will simply be unable to support a minister (or ministers) full-time. At that point, an abundance of part-time ministers will be indicative of a quickly shifting economic situation for our congregations, not a man's talent or commitment to the purposes of the gospel.

I do not intend to sound alarmist, but I believe this scenario could become a reality very soon, especially if churches feel growing pressure to recognize same-sex marriages and lose their tax-exempt status if they do not. Only God knows the future, but we must prepare for the worse while praying for the best.

To my preaching brothers, whether they receive full-time, part-time, or no pay for their kingdom work, let me encourage you to begin thinking about how you will provide for your family should your church's economic situation change. Some in the church look down on preachers who seek to secure additional sources of income in order to support their families. It is certainly true that the love of money is the root of all evil, and we must guard against greed as much as anyone. But it is not wrong for a man to work diligently and with ingenuity in order to provide for his family—in fact, it is commanded that we do so. Some would have the preacher and his family live near poverty level, but this is wrong. In fact, a financially-secure preacher can be a great blessing to a congregation in many ways. As in all things, seeking and doing the Lord's will in this matter is what's most important. Also, let me assure you that no one has the right to look down on you based on how well you are compensated for your ministry. The greatest missionary the church has ever known believed it was his right to receive financial aid from churches, but nonetheless served as tentmaker by day so that he could bless Lord's church at all times. I'd say Paul did OK for himself with this arrangement.

To my brothers who have served as vocational ministers for many years, I want to say again how sorry I am for my attitude. And I now want to honor you with the realization that you are far ahead of the curve compared to the rest of us. Let us learn from you.

To all ministers, your labor is never in vain in the Lord. Thank you. And may God continue to bless his people.

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