When a Pastor is paid too much?

Fellow blogger Mark Stevens, from the Land Down Under, finds the salary of mega pastor Brian Huston of Hillsong too much and downright offensive.

In an interview, pastor Huston was asked about his much speculated salary:

Reporter: Your personal income has been the subject of intense speculation. Are you prepared to say now what you earn?

Brian Houston: If it’s that important, yeah, I’ll talk about it. Our, my combined income from writing books, being an author and you know, our travelling and doing what we do around the world speaking and various groups and so on, including Hillsong churches, just a little over $300,000 for 2009, that’s what it was.

Reporter: Half of what’s Brian’s paid comes from Hillsong.

Then Mark Stevens offers his take on the mega pastor’s salary,

For any Minister of the Gospel to be paid this much money ($150K) on top of other earnings derived from church related ministry is offensive to me. There are no levels of minister. We all work for the same God and a minister of a church of 50 people is no less worthy appeals to the level of responsibility they undertake as a mega-church pastor.  (read more…, emphasis added)

Mark seems to be grounding his objection in the fact that “there are not levels of minister…”  But Mark, Are you prepared to propose a salary cap for pastors?

—but this too is impractical on so many levels.

In the end, as the various commentators have revealed, this issue over a mega pastors salary is a matter of perception.

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36 Responses to When a Pastor is paid too much?

  1. Iris says:

    It is true there are “no levels” of ministry, yet there are many differing responsibilities in ministry. Traveling is one, writing books another. Each of the items listed calls for monies beyond what most Pastors would need.

    However, as a minister that travels some, that is costly and it is very taxing on the person – leaving less energy to do things one might normally do. Hence, it really helps when it ends up in added income – one can then hire what might need to be done.

    Many things to think through. Judgment on another’s salary is not really the business of another. In non-profits (my company is on) there are guidelines. However, with churches – it would need to take into account all that a person does and needs to do.

    No judgment here. If the person serves a wealthy church – he should then be wealthy – etc… I remember as a child (pastor’s kid) having to live in homes that the majority of the congregation would not have lived in. It was not good. Praise God we have outgrown that – or have we?

  2. I was thinking it would be much higher than that before I read the post.

    One thing that may be an issue unfortunately, similar to hiring CEOs, is that you need to pay a certain amount to attract the “talent” you want. That’s very sticky.

    We don’t know how much he gives. He may not have said out of humility and just let people think what they think.
    Jeff

  3. T.C. R says:

    Iris,

    I quite agree. Yes, in this case, a healthy judgment call is in order.

    Jeff,

    Yes, there are the unknown variables.

  4. Ferg Breen says:

    A salary cap for pastors, brilliant.
    I wonder should there be transfer fees and agents?!

    What Brian Houston earns is not much of my business, it is the business of his congregation but not mine.
    All I know is that his chruch has incredibly blessed me with their recent music and heart for Jesus conveyed in that music.

  5. Peter says:

    I’m not offended at how much he makes. I am offended that not all lawyers make that much ;)

  6. T.C. R says:

    A salary cap for pastors, brilliant.
    I wonder should there be transfer fees and agents?!

    Ferg,

    Simply brilliant! ;-)

    Yeah, my family and I are big fans of Hillsong music – two kids, 4 and 5, sing to them all the time.

    Peter,

    Now if any profession needs a salary, we’re talking – the legal one. It’s too long overdue. :-D

  7. Kevin Walker says:

    I propose a salary cap on what members can earn at their jobs! If you make over $150,000 you aren’t allowed to come to church! :c)
    In all seriousness- this is kinda dumb. And I have no agenda, I’m bivocational!

  8. Nathan Stitt says:

    Money is simply a means to an end. Some things require a lot of money to do them.

    The amount of money a person has is irrelevant. How a person spends their money is the key to the entire issue.

  9. John says:

    Entertainers make big bucks…not too surprising.

    Actually, 150K is not that much these days!

  10. T.C. R says:

    The amount of money a person has is irrelevant. How a person spends their money is the key to the entire issue.

    Nathan,

    Partly true when we consider how a person may have amassed that money. But I do agree that the key is how the money is spent.

    John,

    Yep, a matter of perception. ;-)

  11. Kevin Sam says:

    Before, I would have seen higher salaries as be outrageous but I realize now that some pastors are more highly skilled in leadership, organization, preaching/teaching than others. If they have invested in themselves to improve their knowledge and expertise in ministry, then they deserve it. But when you compare millions of dollars vs 20,000 salaries, it’s similar to whether CEOs are worth that much. I still have reservations about pastors making that much.

    PS. Some pastors might have businesses on the side too.

  12. Gary Simmons says:

    Money is just a means to an end… but as Brian Houston says: YOU NEED MORE MONEY. He actually has a book by that title, though he no longer owns up to it. Since I got a copy off of Amazon, I reviewed it.

    Here’s a quote: “Money can accomplish tremendous things for the Kingdom of God. In order to do this, we have to become comfortable with wealth, and break the bondage, guilt and condemnation of impoverished thinking. Poverty is definitely not God’s will for His people. In fact, all His promises talk of blessing and prosperity.”

    He is a prosperity gospel preacher. It’s no surprise he makes a luxurious amount of money. The exegesis in the book is terrible. Brian equates the amount of money given as a one-for-one measure of one’s impact on the Kingdom. Read the review, or get the book.

    As for music, there’s plenty of better stuff that comes out of Australia than Hillsong. While they may crank out quantity catchy tunes, very few of them compare to the Sons of Korah or Newsboys. Those are songs with a theological depth and lyrical quality.

  13. carl sweatman says:

    If he wants to feel generous, I know a great charity where he can donate. It’s called the ‘Help Carl Sweatman Finish His PhD Fund’. £10,000 shouldn’t be too much of a burden for him. I’m thinking he could find that in his couch.

  14. T.C. R says:

    Kevin,

    Here’s how I see the matter: because we have created these kinds of church dynamics, we have pastors making these type of salaries. It’s the system we have created.

    Now given Mr. Houston’s 20k plus membership, Hillsong music, writing, and speaking engagements, ok….

    The system, if anything, is partly to be blamed, if we want to blame so bad. ;-)

    Gary,

    Yes, I’ve been aware for sometime of his roots in the prosperity gospel. But to be honest, I thought the brother was making a lot more annually.

    Regarding the music, I’ve sampled quite a few, but Hillsong speaks to me in a unique way – irreplaceable, at this point. ;-)

    • Gary Simmons says:

      I don’t out-of-hand reject all of Hillsong. There’s a few really good songs, IMO.

      And yeah, TC, I also imagined he earned more than that. The next question is how much does his wife, Bobbie, make? They both are in ministry at the church and they both are writers and both are speakers.

      So, let’s not forget it’s not a one-income household.

  15. Mark Stevens says:

    WOW, this has certainly caused some discussion! ;)

    “Mark seems to be grounding his objection in the fact that “there are not levels of minister…” But Mark, Are you prepared to propose a salary cap for pastors?”

    Well, salary cap is not the issue. I think some of my comments have been misunderstood. Salary Cap is the wrong language to use but we minister together in a collegiate (At least denominationally) and no minister should stand out this much above his peers.

    Yes I do find the amount offensive and irresponsible. That is my personal reaction. His 300K is more than our Prime Minister is paid. You say TC,

    “Here’s how I see the matter: because we have created these kinds of church dynamics, we have pastors making these type of salaries. It’s the system we have created.”

    Well, that is what I am questioning. I am questioning the culture. This is people’s money that they have given to God! The church is then responsible for paying a minister. I cannot see how this much money (Which is a huge amount here in Australia) is good stewardship. The culture needs to change

  16. T.C. R says:

    Well, salary cap is not the issue. I think some of my comments have been misunderstood. Salary Cap is the wrong language to use but we minister together in a collegiate (At least denominationally) and no minister should stand out this much above his peers.

    Mark,

    With a church 20k plus, a $$ amount is hard to regulate, esp. when you’re the founding pastor, as is the case (now, something must be said about that).

    Yes I do find the amount offensive and irresponsible. That is my personal reaction. His 300K is more than our Prime Minister is paid.

    But I’m sure other professionals make more than your PM. What then?

    Well, that is what I am questioning. I am questioning the culture. This is people’s money that they have given to God! The church is then responsible for paying a minister. I cannot see how this much money (Which is a huge amount here in Australia) is good stewardship. The culture needs to change.

    Good stewardship is still possible. Besides, it seems like the amount is amassed from various ventures, not just from pastoring the church there.

  17. Mark Stevens says:

    What ever happened to the Christian virtue of simple living?

  18. my salary cap suggestion for church boards might be that the pastor’s salary not exceed more than 20-30% the average wage of the congregation in which they serve.

    in a day when the average CEO salary (especially in Pharmaceutical companies) is around 200%-250% greater than the salary of the average worker,

    capping the pastoral leadership salary at possibly no more than 30-50% would be a strong witness to the world,

    i suppose though that in the end, its not how much you make that matter so much as how much you give that matters, especially to God.

  19. It seems nobody saw my comment. :(

    I like what Gary said.
    Jeff

  20. Tim Worley says:

    Brian,

    I certainly understand how a 20-30% proposal might work in affluent communities, and would indeed send a powerful message, just as Paul set a powerful example by willingly embracing a meager lifestyle among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:18).

    On the other hand, in the same chapter Paul taught that, as a general principle, ministers *ought* to be properly supported for their labor. He clearly sees himself as a voluntary exception to the rule. Not only in the NT, but throughout the OT, we see the pattern that God’s ministers (e.g., priests and Levites) were to be properly provided for by the congregation. Would it be biblical to offer a pastor 20-30% of the average wage in an inner-city congregation where the average income is $20,000/year? Should we require a pastor in that situation to live on, at most, $6000 per year? Would it honor God to have His ministers too destitute to support their families?

    I know that some ministers live lives of opulence that turn people off to the gospel. But I think we have to take this issue on a case-by-case, congregation-by-congregation basis.

  21. T.C. R says:

    Brian,

    Not a bad proposal in light of your mention of being a good witness to the world.

    Jeff,

    I replied to your comment. ;-)

    Tim,

    Yep, a case-by-case, but again, we’re speaking the various denominations here and their traditions.

  22. Tim,

    not sure how you got the $6000 – (I see where it might have been confusing in my original comment) by the 20-30% I meant that it should not be that much more than the average as in, if the average was $20,000 then he or she should be emabrassed to make more than, say, $35,000-$40,000 (including housing allowances, etc). In my opinion, a $65,000 salary in this case would be way too much (and something like $80,000 would be flat out ridiculous). In an inner city context, 35-40 thousand might be fine and doable (depending on the inner city).

    If that is not doable, then perhaps the pastor need rethink his or her calling or consider foregoing the salary altogether or cutting it way way back and consider a bi-vocational career, which many many pastors do.

    for the record, we do not take a salary from the church of which we oversee here in the Grand Canyon National Park – it’s too small and taking a salary in this situation, in my opinion, would be unethical.

    does this help?

    • Tim Worley says:

      Brian,
      Ah! – so sorry for the misunderstanding. I misinterpreted your proposal. You cleared it up. Your proposal makes sense, and might be a good guideline. :)

      – Tim

    • Alison Crawford says:

      Obviously, you have never done inner city work and you do not know how hard it is. It is difficult when you put your entire life into serving people 24/7, are worked hard on so many different levels, are under appreciated, complained about for not doing enough and on top of that you can’t even afford to buy your kids back to school clothes. Please get your hearts right. A pastor gives more than anyone could ever know. You don’t know what someone goes through behind the scenes to do what they do. If there is wrong doing, God will expose it and set it straight. God knows what happens behind the scenes. He also knows if someone needs to be reduced and He also knows who needs a blessing from Him. If someone needs to be blessed for their labors, rejoice with them and don’t be a hater. Let’s support and not starve out our ministers. The irony of the situation is that most ministers are living below poverty level since people make up any reason they can not to give out of their own selfishness. If we want to be truly scriptural let’s reference Paul when he said that a “worker is worthy of his wages” and not try to starve out those who give their hearts and souls to serve us so much. We gladly pay money to put our kids in football or baseball. We do not go to the grocery store for free. Let’s be a blessing to those who are with us in the storms of life and work so hard to make the world a better place for us.

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  24. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    Just wondering…
    Is there anyone with the “Title” and “Postion” of **Today’s**
    “Pastor/Leaders,” in the Bible? Receiving a salary? ;-)

    ”It’s the system we have created.”
    “The system, if anything, is partly to be blamed”
    IMO – NOT partly… “The Corrupt Religious System” is the whole blame.

    Hmmm? Mega pastor? Earnings derived from church related ministry?
    A minister of a church? Serves a wealthy church? His chruch?
    Come to church? In ministry at the church?
    The church is then responsible for paying a minister.?

    Can’t seem to find any of these terms or ideas in my antiquated KJV.

    Isn’t it called “The Church of God?”
    Aren’t “you” and “I” “The Church of God?” His body?
    How, and when, did it become the “mega-pastors church,” “his church?”

    Doesn’t anyone know what “Church” refers to? AAARRRGGGHHH!! ;-)

    But, maybe we’re talking about – the church of man? :-(
    You go to a secular Government organization, IRS,
    and ask permission to be called “Church,”
    you fill out a form, called a 501 (c) 3.

    When/if you’re approved, you become a Gov’t approved, Gov’t inspected,
    501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation.
    Does that sound like “The Church” (His body) that we find in the Bible?

    Did Jesus shed “His Blood” for a building, an organization, an institution,
    a denomination, or a corporation?
    Hmmm? Should we call a $ Corporation – “The Church of God?” AAARRRGGGHH!! ;-)

    Love NOT the world and the things of the world…

    In my experience…
    The question of **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader,” and salaries, only exists in
    the 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious Corporations.
    the church of man. the church of baptist. the church of methodist. etc..

    Seems the 501 (c) 3 church, is playing by a “Tradition of men” set of rules.

    Any congregations being “led” by a pastor/reverand in the Bible?

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear my voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.

  25. What Pastors get paid? Now you tell me, all this time I have been working a full time job and co-pastoring? ;-)

    But seriously I don’t get paid for being a pastor I do it on a volunteer basis and I do work a full time job. It would be nice not to have to work full time but it is what it is.

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  27. When pastors take too much money from the people who tithe that is stealing from the people that think the money goes toward helping spread Christianity and helping others. Even worst, it’s stealing from God.
    Pastors are telling people the money is for God but many pastors are buying mansions with God’s money.
    Please go to this government petition website and sign it if you think there should be a salary cap on pastors.

    http://wh.gov/lkQGi

  28. weelee says:

    From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

    I consider his salary modest (by the size and standards of their churches). He invested lots and worked extremely hard. Hillsong is the largest export out of Australia, so when you put it in this terms £300,000,00 is tiny compared to the billionaires who are exporting each year.

    I am a wife of a pastor, we have no salary until we grow the church to help provide for us. We know only too well how hard this role is and I don’t think anyone who is not involved can understand. Pastoral work was voted one of the most demanding and stressful jobs yet most rewarding. I wish we had support and I am glad that he can support his ministers financially. He has put the the church in a position to support their pastors, which is a very good thing.

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