The Foundation of the Church February 5, 2011

The Foundation of the Church

David Hayward admits that some Christian churches are built this way:

You have to wonder how many rich pastors and televangelists would continue doing their job (preaching the Gospel?) if their salaries were reduced to what most of their audience makes. Would they have the conviction to keep preaching because “God called them to do it” and money doesn’t have anything to do with that? Would they transfer to a different church? Would they find another line of work altogether?

(via nakedpastor)

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  • Kayla

    Not all churches are built like that. My church pools the $$$ and pays ministers a reasonable salary — they’re not rich.

  • Peter Mahoney

    My parents used to get a new car every 16-20 years. Cash was tight.
    But our catholic priests each got a new car every two years.
    Vow of poverty…. yeah, right.
    Seems like con-men making their money on the backs of the poor, always asking their flock to give more (as if it’s god that needs the money).

  • I was a minister for about 10 years. During that whole period I don’t believe I received more than $500 TOTAL, all years combined, as a result of ministerial activity, including the brief time I was the only pastor. As an associate pastor I received $25 a week, but ONLY if I preached that week; most weeks the senior pastor did not ask me to preach. In many smaller churches, the pastor really does feel like it is a calling, and they keep a regular job in order to survive.

  • How much of a minister’s salary includes paid room and board? And other perks that don’t have to be reported?

  • plublesnork

    Hemant: Could you please provide an image description for those of us who are unable to see it?

    Thanks!

  • You have to wonder how many rich pastors and televangelists would continue doing their job (preaching the Gospel?) if their salaries were reduced to what most of their audience makes. Would they have the conviction to keep preaching because “God called them to do it” and money doesn’t have anything to do with that? Would they transfer to a different church? Would they find another line of work altogether?

    Probably not many – but in my experience, for every rich ‘prosperity gospel’ televangelist, there are thousands of ordinary preachers either being paid reasonably or less who preach the gospel in and out of season.

  • nankay

    Just FYI: the regular old clergy/diocese priest does NOT take a vow of poverty. When I was a kid, the nuns had to pool their meager funds to buy groceries and relied a good deal on the charity of the parishoners to buy and maintain their lowly ancient station wagon. The 2 priests living just across the parking lot had a nice big house, a housekeeper , played golf and yes, got themselves a nice new car every couple of years. It was sickening.

  • Dr. Cuddles

    I don’t think a degree in religous studies is going to be much use in any job but pastoring, probably why some of these churches are being run by closet atheists.

  • Justin Miyundees

    I believe most begin preaching out of devotion to their cause. Some get caught up in the money and some become out & out bamboozlers, but I’m of the mind that people are basically good and want to do good.

    This, however, this does not make their doctrine true or their tactics reasonable and ethical. It only means their motives are not (always) malevolent.

  • Sean Santos

    It’s sort of an odd thing. Obviously megachurches and televangelists have a lot of income. For that matter, even my old church, which was way smaller than the megachurch down the street, regularly had quite expensive projects done, such as renovations, additions, and new A/V equipment, television monitors put in, sound systems.

    I don’t think we made that much of it; those were all seen as good changes because they made for better experiences at the church. But in retrospect, I don’t think we would have noticed if the pastor had been drawing a fairly big salary.

    On the other hand, there are parts of the country that are absolutely littered with churches, which are having to close due to low attendance (either people just aren’t attending, or have been drawn to a few larger churches). I highly doubt that the clergy at those churches are rolling in dough.

  • The minister of one of our small town churches here and his family take several trips to NYC a year and take a vacation to Paris routinely. Twenty some years ago, the same guy was late to officiate my sister’s wedding because he was on a ski trip and had forgotten the date.

  • Rich Wilson

    @plublesnork The title is ‘Building the Church’ and there’s a person with a big smile sitting on a chair that says ‘Pastor’, and the chair is on a large pile of money, and four other cartoon figures are adding to the pile of money at the bottom.

  • Peter Mahoney

    In some ways, the amount of money the priests/preachers make is irrelevant. Overall, they are promising an afterlife that they can’t (prove they) deliver.
    Thus, whether they are meagerly-paid con-men, or lavishly paid con-men, either way they are ripping people off.

  • Bob Carlson

    To some extent the foundations of American churches are bolstered by federal subsidies. The article linked ends thusly:

    So in the end, the minster made $105,000, had $740 of total tax, but actually ended up getting a refund of a few hundred dollars because of various child tax credits.

    This is unfair. What makes his profession so special that he is able to take deductions that no one else can? Why is he able to elect out of social security? Why is he able to deduct his mortgage interest and property taxes twice?

  • P

    I’d be much more impressed with pastors in general, be they the ones who make alot of cash and don’t do much good, or make little cash and do alot of good, or a combination of the two, if I didn’t suspect that every one of them expects ten-fold (or some other substantial compensation) for it in the afterlife. I know a pastor who has built up an entire church around feeding people and he does outreach all over the place, mainly in New Zealand though, and I think to myself ‘Hey, he’s getting food to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it. That’s very respectable and indeed commendable.” But at the same time I can’t help but think that it’s not all coming from a truly selfless place. The whole philosophy of ‘eternal justice/reward’ really bugs me. I mean, you can see it in the arguments of those who ask why atheists don’t go around raping everyone and stealing from everyone if we don’t believe in an ever-watching arbiter. If an eternal arbiter is all that’s keeping them from stealing and raping, is that same eternal arbiter (and more specifically, the potential goods this being might bestow) the one who’s motivating them to do good? In the end I guess, good deeds are good deeds, and if hungry people eat then to hell (?) with judgement. But I’m not about to go above and beyond to praise these individuals.

  • Blacksheep

    I know lots of people in various ministries of different faiths – for the most part, they aren’t getting rich. The guys I know who make a little more are the one who run a big church, with thousands of members – but their job is kind of a 24/7 thing. And even those guys are not making big bucks. You would be hard pressed to find many rich pastors out there.

  • Erp

    I suspect most pastors don’t earn much and some expect to be on call to their parishioners at any hour. Some earn a lot (and most of those same some run a ministry whose books are not open).

  • Lon

    hilarious cartoon. probably some truth to it, but I highly doubt the majority of ministers today are rolling in it. My guess is that even the ones who are sitting on piles of money never started out that way.

  • Two Cents

    reminds me of Cartman as a preacher. “Halleluyah! Praise the Lord! And now, I’m receiving a message directly from God-uh! God is telling me that… each and every one of you is to walk up to the stage, and give me one dollar! So I want everyone to feel the love of God by coming up heah , and putting a dollar in the box-ah!”

  • They probably wouldn’t stop preaching, but they’d do it on a smaller scale. Even poor people preach.

  • Steve

    Rich churches aren’t that rare though. Take this week’s JoeMyGod’s “Holy Crimes”:
    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2011/02/this-week-in-holy-crimes.html

    Among the usual assortment of child rape, every week you can find several cases of embezzlement. This time it’s a few hundred thousands. Sometimes it’s millions. It’s like that just about every week.

  • “Y’know, we’re all wasting our time writing this hack science fiction! You wanta make real money, you gotta start a religion!” – As reported to Mike Jittlov by Theodore Sturgeon as a statement L. Ron Hubbard made while at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society clubhouse in the 1940s.

  • the size of the church matters, as well as the economic class of the congregation. those megachurch types are in it for the money, i think that’s pretty clear. i mean, “prosperity gospel?” what a scam. but little churches and indie churches in poor communities? no, those ministers are not getting rich. but i would argue they are also enjoying a life with little actual work. as a slacker, i can appreciate that! sure, they aren’t rolling in dough, but they do get just enough people to pay them so they can feed themselves, and if you don’t have to pay most taxes, that can be a decent sort of life.

    I don’t think a degree in religous studies is going to be much use in any job but pastoring,

    “religious studies” is a very broad field. it includes a great deal more than just the study of theology and ministry training. many people with degrees in various subfields of religion are academics and teachers of history, philosophy, etc. there is a huge difference and utility between say, a Master’s of Divinity and a PhD in the History of Religion X, and divinity schools often grant both.

  • Blacksheep

    …if you don’t have to pay most taxes, that can be a decent sort of life.

    The only taxes that pastors legally can avoid paying is the social security tax. However, this means that they will never recieve social security benefit checks.

    (I would opt out if I could, too -since now the government is saying that they’re running out of funds for ss!)

  • Robert W.

    ChicagoDyke,

    those ministers are not getting rich. but i would argue they are also enjoying a life with little actual work.

    As the nephew of a pastor of one of these smaller churches you refer to, i can tell you that it is actually alot of work. They work all day and most evenings. They teach classes almost every day or evening, they make hospital calls, they prepare for funerals and weddings regularly, they co quite a bit of counseling, and they prepare for a service every week all while they are also acting as the CEO of a business. True its not manual labor but it is much more then a forty hour week and is very emotionally draining. The vast majority of them don’t do it because it is easy money.

  • My father-in-law is a Baptist minister, and he works on the side as a real estate agent to make ends meet. He also has rental properties that he bought over the years that he paid off with rent money, and he gets some income from that. He’s not rich by any means.

    I’ve seen what they bring in via the collection plate, and it’s not chopped liver. However, most of that goes to building new “worship centers” and “fellowship centers” and paying the upkeep on the church and property.

  • CSN

    I recently finished James Randi’s “The Faith Healers” which is all about televangelists, their claims of healing, and their flagrantly luxurious lifestyles. I highly recommend it, great book. It’s sad how many anecdotes he can tell of fake healings and those who died because of them paralleled with endless tales of excess and shameless begging on the part of the holy hucksters. Read that book, Hemant, and you won’t have to ask if they do it because of God’s call. Surprisingly though I came away from that book not hating the televangelists more, but rather being unsurprised at their greed and instead enraged at the fools who fill their coffers and let their children die. The gullibility is the crime of faith. Greed is to be expected by nature and can be fought when it’s not shielded by willful ignorance.

    And to all those whinging about “well they’re not all like that!” note that he same “some” and referred to “rich pastors” so enough of your canned excuses. I believe you, your miscellaneous acquaintances are truly, unselfishly dedicated to wasting lives and money. Congratulations.