He who drives fat oxen must himself be fat...

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


In Britain it would be unusual for a senior pastor to be paid much more than $US50,000 per year, equivalent. Parachurch organisations are no more generous.

At the risk of sounding mean and un-winsome, a risk I am courageously willing to bear, I don’t really agree with the suggestions being made here. What a man makes writing books, singing songs, speaking to the masses, or even playing baseball is a market decision. As long as the wealth is not through unlawful means masked or unmasked (think: google possibly) - i.e. licit. And we as believers should not seek to shame or punish them because of their wealth. Nor should we seek ‘remedies’ to either equalize their prosperity or to shame them into some kind of public piety i.e. celebrating donating it. If we can not celebrate their good fortune with them, we should be silent. A couple of distinctions not directly dealt with, but important are: (for Elders/Church Leaders) is clergy compensation somehow to be treated differently than market-driven compensation? And, is profiting by false teaching to be condemned beyond condemnation of the false teaching itself (spoiler alert: dispensationalism is false teaching, so Left Behind sales and their writers and their royalties are false profits - hold your applause, please). My own view is that leaders should compensate clergy according to what God brings in and according to the needs of the clergy in question. It would be inappropriate for a large urban mega-church pastor to be living on a 50k per year salary because that is simply not practical nor kind. Either, split the mega-church up into bit-size churches with pastors on modest salaries, or pay for the CEO Pastor with appropriate market-based perks. 2 points for anyone guessing which side I come down on. As to false profits: we as believers do best by simply not partaking in them. In other words, don’t whine about mega-stars and their money if you still have a Netflix subscription, season sports tickets, purchase a lot of music, or “gasp” watch TBN. There now, live simply in a Christ-honoring manner, and don’t worry about what other people make. Happy to provide Scriptural references if needed beyond Ex 20:17, but this one seems pretty obvious to me like sodomy.

There’s nothing mean or unwinsome in defending the prerogatives of the super-rich American celebrity Christians. This is how we got where we are in the church and assuredly it will continue to corrupt the church as long as men like you think it perfectly acceptable. The church’s standards for the handling of money are below those of the world. Don Carson writes a book promoting neutered Bibles in which he doesn’t disclose he took money from a corporation to help produce a neutered Bible. Even the NYT and NEJM require such disclosures, but not Christians. John MacArthur provides millions in sweetheart deals with his son-in-law. It’s so bad the accrediting agency puts his schools on probation, but Christians think it’s fine. The IRS requires public disclosure of amount paid to principals in non-profits, but churches hide the salaries of their pastors from the congregation.

Scripture warns against the greed of shepherds again and again and again, but you think it’s just fine and exit with talk about urban areas and a salary of $50,000. As if that has anything at all to do with what the OP was talking about. We read Moses talking about not coveting his flock’s wealth and the Apostle Peter speaking of his “own hands,” and we yawn, responding “that was then, but this is now.” When the people of God are more naive about money corrupting leadership than the world, you get what we have in the Reformed church today. Unreformed and never reforming.

Guess you had to be there among them for many years and actually witness the corruption firsthand… Love,


Ow! Let me respond to your comments, because they are good. But I feel like they are directed at things I didn’t say. Since I agree with much of what you said, allow me to respond/expand so as to not be misunderstood. And if I still warrant your corrective comments, then I am all ears. So with that introduction:

“There’s nothing mean or unwinsome in defending the prerogatives of the super-rich American celebrity Christians…as long as men like you think it perfectly acceptable.”

First off, I support capitalism and free enterprise. That is not a defense of prerogative, rather it is a defense of liberty. But I also eschew ALL and I do mean all celebrity Pastors. I particularly love what you and Paul Washer do, and read/listen to you both closely. However, when either f you get famous I will drop you. My point, which was apparently unclear, is the marketplace decides compensation in non-ministers, even if ordained people engage in non-Preaching activities such as writing, and this should continue. We as orthodox men should vote with our dollars and our voices. Elders, as you do with your blog, should teach discernment to their flocks. I do not find profiteering by MacArthur, Keller, Piper, etc. good, but I do accept it in the name of liberty. I don’t buy their stuff. But I will not support any kind of censorship done by third-parties. That is my job as a husband, father and churchman. You do a wonderful job of polemicizing the sinfulness of these men. And I also support that. I have been adding to this list many others as the days pass. Hence my wanting to know more about Carson. Which your team graciously provided and I am now inoculated about.

“Even the NYT and NEJM require such disclosures… from the congregation”

I agree that disclosures such as you describe, and such as you pointed out in your articles on Carson, are excellent. I applaud and support you doing this. Disclosure failures such as Carson’s with the TNIV are immoral, and what I was referring to as being an inappropriate profiteering. Although until an hour or so ago, thanks to your articles, I suspected but did not know about his perfidy. Since I read the KJV I am somewhat ignorant of the Critical Text universe.

“Scripture warns against the greed of shepherds…”

Not sure what this paragraph was meant to convey as a counterpoint to my remarks. My point is simply that it is the Elder’s job to establish minster salaries, not the market place. I was taking exception to what I perceived as a concatenation of two spheres of labor compensation: market-based labors, and ministry-based labors. I know this opens a can of worms for some, but they are different. Tough. While the market place should determine labor value as noted above (including Pastor’s books, conferences, etc), minister of Churches should be paid based on God’s provision and the Elder’s discretion. That is all. I do not support the nonsense that has led to huge salaries for ‘ministers’. If there is abuse in this regard, it is the Elders who are the abusers or the sycophant faux Elders of their Churches. Unfortunately, in the Presbyterian world, it is difficult for the sheep to know how best to deal with such Elders due to lack of information. Your comment about publicizing Minister salaries is fine with me. I wasn’t criticizing the suggestion. Since I came across that way to you and possibly other readers, please accept my apology. My comment about ‘urban and 50,000’ was meant to take a swipe at the fundamental problem in the reported ministerial salary abuses: congregants demands for mega ‘rock star’ churches. Here sheep, like me, should be eschewing large churches - thus reducing the temptation for salary abuse.

Hopefully I have assuaged your concerns. And thanks again for the links to your articles on Carson. He now goes on my rather long list of people to steer clear of. But now I have solid reason for doing this.

Almost (if not) all these men are ordained church officers. Sproul, MacArthur, Mohler, etc. No marketplace has ever been morally neutral. There’s always an invisible hand, and not just the hand of God. John Piper does not profiteer. He is the exception to the rule. You can find it on Baylyblog. Liberty is always being reined in somehow. It’s only a question of whether the reining in will be for the glory of God and the good of man or the rebellion against God and the harm of man. Liberty is no pristine good. Not even morally neutral.

The rest I think we agree on and thanks so much for the exchange. Love,


I think it’s a good thing that the churches are exempt from the non-profit reporting rules, but I agree that pastors, elders, and congregants should insist on volunteering this information. At the very minimum, members of the local church should have access to that information, even if it’s not publicly disclosed beyond that.

The proposal was not to get the IRS involved. The point is that the godless are doing a better job at assuming Total Depravity than reformed Christians.

Regarding making the info known to the local church vs the public, the moment a man has national renown or aspirations the information is a going concern for the general public, not just his local church.


Recently my pastor lamented that when he meets with other pastors, all too often the conversation turns to pay packages, which my pastor said were already set pretty high. He wants to direct the attention of these pastors to ruling elders, who are doing a lot of work for the church without financial recompense.


Good brother. Encouraging.


I was just talking about this reality in the church w some brothers. I also think that these parachurch workers need to make their salary open and clear to everyone they’re asking for support from.

It’s awful imo that these campus workers for Cru in our town are making more than most pastors are getting paid. They carry a smidgen of the responsibility and they get the summers off, but let me make sure I support them so they can have a good retirement plan while my pastor and his family drown. It’s ridiculous. 2 cor 4:12 - Death is at work in us, but life in you. I’ve seen this be true in my pastor’s ministry countless times and I’ve yet to see it in a Cru staffer’s.

It’s kind of off track, but if you’re in a smaller church and your pastor/his family aren’t taken care of yet, I’d encourage you to consider taking care of your pastor first before sending your extra funds to ministries that are (imo) overpaying their staff and are often hurting the church more than they realize (did I show too much of my hand regarding how I feel about Cru uhhh…)

A former member of our church and her new husband joined Cru at a school out east. They want to meet about support. I’m thinking of laying out our church’s budget (with my salary) and seeing if they want to support my wife and five kids instead, since their family of two will most likely be making more than us. Too far? :slight_smile: much love,


I love it. 20 chars


The really obvious step is for every church to publicly list the salaries of its top five employees, as non-church nonprofits are all required to do on their 990 forms to the IRS. The scandal is that so many churches don’t even let their members know what the pastors’ salaries are. It would be a good project for someone in my town, Bloomington, Indiana, to call up all the churches and find out the salaries and put them on a list somewhere. I wonder how many would refuse. It would be very good to have a list of those refusing.
I think churches should be required, like other nonprofits, to file their budgets and top-five salaries and which relatives of the leaders get contracts and make money off of the organization. I can’t see a downside to this, actually, for honest churches, and it would help tremendously in warning people about corrupt churches. An atheist group was trying to sue to get this done last year. They’ll lose, and they should, but I considered filing an amicus brief saying they should lose (because the Constitution does not require this) but it would be good if Congress would legislate to require it for tax-exempt status.

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I would rather churches be under as little obligation to the federal government generally or the IRS in particular as possible. That said, I was ignorant to the fact that there are churches that don’t explicitly state the salaries of their pastors in church budget meetings. Every member ought to know what their shepherd receives in compensation.


What is a fair salary for a pastor, then? In one church I was in, we were told that the pastors’ salaries were set with reference to what a secondary school teacher with comparable time served would be paid, on the basis that this was a robust external benchmark. The church, which was fairly well-educated & middle class, was quite happy with this.

Disclosure: I am a pastor’s son, so have some idea how much resentment can be seen whenever this topic comes up at home (not from the pastor himself, I hasten to add …)

Whatever I make and not a penny more.


Edit for clarity: The church God has me in has historically been abusive to it’s pastors and has taken this line, more or less. By God’s grace we’re coming out of that.


The best answer today may be that the pastor ought not to be paid at all. If people today think paying their pastor gives them the right to control his words and actions or to diminish and demean his God-ordained authority; if they think there’s a quid pro quo and with money being exchanged for specific ear-scratching; it’s time to exercise the Pauline Option. Only accept money from Bereans and Philippians, for instance. Otherwise, your ministry is corrupted by cynicism or actual greed (your own).

About proper pay if ox is not muzzled, the secondary school teacher is a joke although for many, many pastors, it would give them a raise. Not going to spend time saying why it’s a joke because anyone ought to be able to compare the work and get it, but one thing I’ve often said is, in a church where there’s a real plurality of the eldership (a number that’s more than two or three), the pastor might well be paid an average of the household income of the ruling elders (assuming he’s not in a normal presbyterian church where only rich men and professionals are ordained to the office).

Note I said “household income.” This is assuming the pastor’s wife spends at least twenty to thirty hours a week caring for needs and souls of the church, which I believe is mandatory for the wives of pastors. If the pastor’s wife serves the church faithfully while other elders wives work part or full time, fairness would lead the congregation, not to ordain or hire or pay the pastor’s wife. This would ruin her effectiveness. Rather, to provide her husband the same income the other families have whose wives have a half-to-full time job alongside their husband serving as the primary breadwinner. What I’m trying to say is that when the Western world has left the family wage behind and expects two incomes to be the norm in populations, the church has to make a decision whether it will forgo the Titus 2 leadership of their pastor’s wife or call their pastor’s wife to it and make allowances for it, financially, in his pay. Love,


“This is assuming the pastor’s wife spends at least twenty to thirty hours a week caring for needs and souls of the church, which I believe is mandatory for the wives of pastors.”

I don’t know if I have ever seen this practiced, but wondered for those that have. What does it look like for a Church where the Pastor’s wife (and Elder’s wives for that matter) spend that kind of time ministering to the congregants? It seemed like it would be impactful on so many levels. But I agree with the thought that Elder’s doing pastoral compensation should take into account the pastor’s wife’s work. Can the counter argument also be used? I had a previous Pastor whose wife was highly compensated for her work, and who was not involved in the life of the Church except on a very superficial level. Should the Pastor’s compensation be decremented because his wife effectively made enough for the household to live very well?

I’d like to see pastors making at least $100,000/year, as a sign of the dignity and importance of their vocation. I’d also like to see their salaries made public, and their tax returns too, with the addition of the breakdown of how much they give to charitable causes. A talented pastor should make $300,000/year, just like a talented businessman-- though a pastor with fewer talents should make $50,000/year. If those two pastors lived in the same city, however, the best thing might be for both of them to spend $50,000/year on themselves and their families. The more talented pastor should be giving away more of what he earns.

My coffee just burned the interior of my nasal passages.