What is the church's responsibility in caring for a pastor?
By pastor, I have assumed that you mean the senior pastor. This is important since God wants each church to be governed by a plurality of elders – more than one man! The man who has been selected as the senior pastor is the elder who has the responsibility to preach on Sunday morning. A church should care for its senior pastor in four ways: financial support, accountability, respect, and submission of the congregation to the Word of God.
A church should care for its senior pastor financially. Jesus set the example by accepting financial support from people during His ministry. Doctor Luke records the following for us in his gospel.
. . . and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. Luke 8:2-3 (NASB)
And on one occasion the Apostle Paul willing received financial support and indicated that God was well-pleased with such a gift. And on another occasion he encouraged people to give.
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 (NASB)
Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 1 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NASB)
Financial support should include a regular salary and benefits. In some churches the benefits include medical expenses, a book allowance, sometimes education, retirement, and even a life insurance policy. The Bible never tells us which ones to include. But a pastor should be paid close to the average salary of those in his congregation. In some churches, the senior pastor is paid very large amounts of money. While the Bible does not condemn this, it is hard to justify very large amounts when those who give to the church make less. The church is not a business. This statement is contrary to the modern view in some churches. But God is not interested in His church being run as a business. A business is interested in how many people come, how much money they receive, the latest program, and new ideas. God is interested in the depth of the ministry and not how many attend the church. God wants our focus on spiritual growth and holiness and not on money or numbers. God is interested in the work of His Spirit rather than new programs that discount the work of the Spirit.
Accountability among church leaders is also important. There are some senior pastors who are not accountable to anyone – even to the other elders. The pastor is in control. In God’s model of the local church all the leaders are accountable to one another. They are accountable for their attitudes, their spiritual lives, and their conduct. How can a church care for its pastor? Another part of the answer is by holding him accountable for his actions and life. He is not above everyone. He is not more sacred. He is a redeemed sinner just like everyone else in the church. Here is a wonderful quote from Gene Getz, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Plano, Texas.
People tend to extol human leaders, to put them on a pedestal, and – to make this item very personal and relevant – in a sense to become ‘pastor-worshippers.’ Most Christians would be horrified at this accusation. But, unfortunately, it cannot be denied. Every Christian leader must constantly strive to keep his people from becoming overly dependent upon him. He must strive to ‘equip the saints’ to minister to each other and to keep their primary loyalty centered on Christ. Unfortunately Christian leaders are human beings. To be honored and respected – both biblical injunctions – is highly satisfying psychologically. Ego-building is a pleasant experience. And it is tragic when spiritual and emotional immaturity causes a man to build a work around himself and not around the body of Christ, and particularly its Head – Jesus Christ. The work is destined for trouble, no matter how large it grows.
. . . multiple leadership in the church is a New Testament principle. The ‘one man’ ministry is a violation of this important guideline. The scriptures frequently stress the ‘mutuality of the ministry.’ No local church in the New Testament was ruled and managed by one person. Plurality of elders appears as the norm.
This also means that the minister or pastor as we conceive of him in many churches today is not ‘head of the church’ or the ‘president of the corporation.’ . . . Their flock, conditioned to such an approach, either dutifully attend each service and activity of the church and say ‘amen!’ or they react against such unbiblical approaches and leave the church to find a more pleasant pasture in which to graze. – Getz, G. A., Sharpening The Focus of the Church, Moody Press., 1974. pp. 120-121
God has also commanded the church to discipline any leader who sins, including the senior pastor.
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. 1 Timothy 5:19-20 (NASB)
While God never intended for any leader to be “beyond reproach,” He also does not want us to be finding fault with every flaw. We all have flaws; but when we consistently sin in a certain area, then each one of us needs help. God is more concerned about our holiness than our comfort.
God also asks us to respect our leaders, including the senior pastor.
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NASB)
Notice that God wants us to appreciate, esteem, and live in peace with those who “diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord.” This includes all of the leadership. If we put all of this together, we find that we can care for our senior pastor by not elevating him over the other leaders. Caring also includes honoring the senior pastor and being at peace with him, as well as the other leaders. The senior pastor needs to be respected because he is the one who ministers to the congregation day-by-day, week-by-week, and month-by-month.
Finally, if the church believes that God has called the senior pastor to preach and teach the Word of God, then the congregation has the responsibility to listen carefully and submit, unless he teaches error. The Holy Spirit urges Christians to submit to the teaching of the Word. This encourages the leadership to joyfully minister. What a great truth! Many godly leaders have been discouraged because the hearers ignored the teaching of the Word of God.
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17 (NASB)
How shall we care for our senior pastor? Hold him accountable for his actions, pay him the average wage of the congregation, lovingly respect him for his ministry of the Word of God, and submit to the teaching of the Word if you determine that he has spoken the truth. We can thank God for the faithful men who teach His Word each week. May God be honored.
Suggested Links:Who are the elders? Are they pastor?
Thoughts On Selecting A Pastor
Imitating Great Faith
Marks of a Mature Christian