5 reasons to rethink full time, paid local leadership within the simple/organic/house church context

  1. It reinforces or creates a clergy/laity distinction. 
  2. It can cause others to aspire to "move up the ladder" spiritually.
  3. Others in the body are tempted to let the paid person do all the work (after all, they are paid to do it!)
  4. Within a network of simple/house churches, there isn't enough work to do to employ someone full time.
  5. Those who work in a secular profession for a living tend to be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim 3:7).

However, I'd like to let the last word on this subject go to Ross Rohde, who commented in an earlier post:

The real issue is calling and obedience. Our Lord speaks into our hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10). This is part of our covenant relationship with God. His calling is different for every single individual. He may call some to be full time missionaries, which has its advantages and drawbacks. He may call others to be tent makers, which has its advantages and drawbacks. Other he will call to be a plumber or investment banker, each with its own unique set of issues. But if we try to understand this as the which is better, being called full time, part time to ministry or having a "secular" job we miss the point. What we should be doing is asking God what he wants us to do and responding in obedience. If we have a friend who is struggling with this issue we lovingly help them discern what God's call is for their life. The issue is obedience to a loving Lord.

If you think of it, please pray for Tony and me. We head down to south Texas on Sunday and then on into one of the Mexican border towns on Monday for three days of church planting training. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://JoeyandCarminBasta.com Joey Basta

    Felicity … is it OK for the person who starts Home Churches to take a % of the tithes that come into the home churches so he can have income so he can concentrate on the ministry? Or should NO on get a % as a salary and ALL should work a secular job? Please email me the response also with commenting back so your readers can see your response :)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/fdale Felicity Dale

    Joey, I am no authority on this subject! When the Bible isn’t clear, we have to seek the Lord for our particular situation and do what he says. That is the situation you describe.
    The Bible is also quite clear that those who minister the Gospel deserve to be paid. This series of posts will go on to look at the need for full-time people and our responsibility to provide for them. I also plan to tell the story of the best network of home churches I know at the financial level and how they handle things.

  • Daniel Helbling

    Felicity, I pastored a home church for sixteen years, most of that time working at whatever jobs I could find to keep my large family fed and educated. Our fellowship members decided to provide me with some monthly income, but kept in view a goal of giving as much as possible to missions and to persecuted believers. Ross is so right. We don’t do a system; we respond to God’s call to obedience in the things that please Him.

  • Jimmy Russell

    I@ve been reading this blog for quite a while, and others re house churches or whatever name we want to give them.I am concerned that they seem to be very similar to the extablished denomination selling books etc.I would say in fact that its putting me off fellowshipping,it seems the motivation is always fulltime “ministry” or money What about just serving your fellow man through the anointing and blessing of the Holy Spirit ,Jesus and God.What about God supplying all your needs. If you want to give, give thats what the Bible say’s very dissalussioned with christianity and its greed .Watched the god channel the other day, most channels were about money in fact could nt find anything worth listening to but if i wanted to blessed i could send $1000 dollars and recieve anointed soap or water. Have’nt met many people doing it because they love God.
    Jim

  • http://francisdrakeprivateer.wordpress.com Frank

    Jimmy, unless I am misreading your words, I am not sure how you equate this and other house church blogs with established denominations in their promotion of full time ministry or hunger for money.
    I see the exact opposite of that when I read this blog, (and like you I am merely a visitor adding a comment). I find simplychurch.com a wonderful place to find encouragement for and from those who want to experience the simplicity of walking in a love relationship with Jesus, rather than a relationship with a hungry institution which needs constant feeding.
    When I read this blog, to me it has always been a source for those wanting to ditch the very things you (and I) decry. This very post is a good example of that. The purpose of this post seems to be encapsulated in the central quote from Ross Rohde which is worth a reread. Ross’s comment is a precisely about serving, through following the anointing and blessing of the Holy Spirit.
    I would counsel that you read a little around this blog and allow the Holy Spirit to minister encouragement to your heart.
    Brother, be really blessed, and don’t give up on seeking fellowship, nobody here is after your money!
    Even if I don’t agree with your view of this blog, I do agree with your stated desire for what church should be like.
    P.S. My wife and I meet about once a week with a mere three other saints. We have a wonderful time together and have really grown in the Spirit since fleeing the institution. I have no interest whether anyone else thinks we are a church or not, who cares?
    I simply know that we are exactly where God has called us to be, and that is enough for me.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/fdale Felicity Dale

    Daniel, the way the Lord has led your fellowship is great.

  • Pamela

    I have really enjoyed these posts on finances within the simple church context. Thanks so much for doing this, Felicity. I get that the Bible is clear that those who minister the Gospel can be paid. I am still trying to find my way from the institutional church to a simple church, so right now I have to say that I tithe/give purely out of obedience to God. But I don’t think my giving is being used for what God truly intended (personally).
    If a minister were to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke; if they were to share their food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter; if they were to see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from them (Isa 58:6-7) – I would gladly work as hard as I could to be able to give as much as I could to financially support such a minister.
    But the idea of financially supporting someone so they can give a speech once a week with a smattering of counseling appointments thrown in between just doesn’t seem quite right to me.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/fdale Felicity Dale

    Pamela, I think that many share your frustration! My next post (and the final one on finances) will be a story of a network of simple churches that has done a great job on their finances and I think will be an encouragement to you.

  • Link

    I can see the benefits of having unpaid church leaders and why some people would see supporting them as leading to a clergy-laity divide. You may also have a valid point about some house church work not being suitable for ‘full-time’ support. But I am a bit concerned that, while some traditional church people are too concerned with full-time support, many house church people are against any kind of support for those who dedicate their lives to the ministry to which they are called. I think sometimes we can be tempted to make decisions based on problems that we see from the clergy-laity distinction rather than what the Lord has commanded. I hope you don’t mind if I use your blog post as a spring-board to address this issue.
    When Jesus sent the Twelve out, He commanded that they eat what was set before them, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. They weren’t allowed to take money or a change of cloths on that particular journey.
    Jesus even instructed the apostles to inquire if there was a worthy person in the town they were preaching to and then go stay with that person. If he accepted them in peace, their peace would rest upon him. Otherwise, they would be judged so severely in the day of judgment that the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah would be more severe than their judgment. (Remember how inhospitable the Sodomites were to the angelic visitors).
    So the apostles had such a right to expect to be supported that Jesus told them to impose hospitality on people like this. The Lord Jesus even invited himself over to Zaccheus’ house.
    Paul refers to the principle of the labor being worthy of his hire in I Timothy 5, where he writes that the elders that rule well are worthy of double honor, especially they that labor in preaching and teaching. Time (pronounce roughly similar to ‘tea May’) in Greek is translated honor, but it could refer to compensation as well. In the Illiad, Achilles ‘time’ for his work in battle included various spoils including a slave girl. When the slave girl was taken from him, and he lost his ‘honor’, he got angry and refused to fight.
    In I Timothy 5, the widows who are being ‘honored’ are apparently being supported materially. Otherwise, Paul would not have instructed that their sons provide for them if possible that the church not be burdened.
    Paul gives two reasons for supporting elders. One is the verse from the Old Testament that says not to muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the grain. The other is that the laborer is worthy of his hire. These are the same principles used by Christ and Paul to argue for the right for material support of those who preach the Gospel.
    In I Corinthians 9, we see that Paul, Barnabas, Cephas, and the Lord’s brothers had a right to expect to be supported materially. They had a right to bring a sister or wife with them. Paul waived his right to support while among the Corinthians. It was his right, but he waived it. Paul wrote that the Lord ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.
    The other side of the coin is that Paul told the Ephesians elders how he had worked with his own hands to support himself, and encouraged them to follow his example. It is good for all preachers of the Gospel, like Paul, who labor in evangelism, and local church elders who focus on pastoral ministry and teaching to be willing to work to support themselves and work for free.
    But we shouldn’t be teaching congregations not to materially support those who preach the Gospel and elders of the church. If those who would not support the Twelve by offering hospitality were to come under judgment, is it good if house church people have the attitude that no one should be supported for their work in the Gospel?
    Paul did receive gifts to fund his work at time. He accepted a gift from the Macedonians and told the Corinthians that he had robbed other churches to serve them. Clearly, this is hyperbole, but it would seem to imply that Paul had a right to be supported by the Corinthians while he was ministering among them.
    Some churches have equated pastoral/eldership ministry with being ‘on staff’ and receiving full-time support. This is not a good thing. It keeps qualified elders from being recognized in their ministry if they want to work a ‘regular job’ full-time or part-time. We need to beware of going to the opposite extreme of not teaching the saints to provide for those who evangelize and support elders who rule well.
    I do not like to see many of the traditions regarding clergy-laity distinctions exported overseas to missions fields. But house church has an obvious appeal to many evangelists in foreign countries. If we aren’t careful, we can export harmful unscriptural notions of not supporting ministry which we have developed in reaction to the traditions we see around us. This can harm the work of the Lord on foreign fields just as some of the other traditions can. Ironically, on some missions fields, it seems like ICs in the west are doing more to support the growth of HCs in these countries than HCs in the west are.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/fdale Felicity Dale

    Link,
    Great to hear from you. I agree with much of what you say. As far as I can see, the NT promotes giving finances to the poor, widows (who fit within certain parameters) and those in traveling ministry. I think there was also a lot of giving to those in need in a non-organized fashion too. I totally agree with you that as a movement, we have been very lax, especially in supporting the latter. Did you see my blog post here? http://bit.ly/pLlic0
    As regards support of local leadership, our friends who are seeing massive numbers of house churches start in other countries have moved away from using outside support because they say it limits multiplication. Added to that they have sadly seen that it can produce “hirelings” who will go with whoever offers them more money.
    Where the Scriptures aren’t clear, we need to seek the Lord and do what he tells us. If he tells us to support someone who is locally based, then we should do it.