Some time back I listened to the audio book The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard. He’s authored two New York Times Bestsellers, speaks to thousands, and offers a plethora of training materials. He became a multi-millionaire before he turned 30. His inspiring book (even for pastors) challengers its readers to become experts in their field and become millionaires in the process. Unlike other self-promoting gurus, Burchard comes across with a servant’s heart. I don’t believe he’s in it for the money. I thoroughly enjoyed his book yet it raised this question in my mind. Should pastors aspire for material wealth?
One of Burchard’s theses is, the more money you make, the more you can help people, which raises these questions.
- Is it true that the more money a pastor makes, the more he or she could help people?
- Should there be a limit on how much a pastor makes?
- Would it be wrong for a pastor to become a millionaire?
- Is the phrase “millionaire pastor” an oxymoron, an apparent contradiction in terms?
Contrasting answers to these questions abound.
Rick Warren made millions from the sale of The Purpose Driven Life yet gave away 90% of the profits, lives in a modest home, and drives a used suv. On the other hand, a few years ago I watched a TV preacher deliver a sermon justifying his ownership of a Bentley, a $200,000 car.
Lifechurch.tv, pastored by Craig Groeschel, gives away all their stuff for free on their website. On the other hand, when I wrote my first book Daughters Gone Wild-Dads Gone Crazy, I asked a mega-church pastor for permission to use a quote from one of his books. He charged me to use only five words.
I don’t offer clear answers to the above questions. However, the Bible seems to provide some guidelines with these ideas.
- Scripture clearly endorses paying pastors when it uses phrases such as don’t muzzle the ox, a laborer is worthy of his hire, and its use of the phrase ‘double-honor’ which implies providing pastors with a salary.
- Pastors are not exempt from these biblical teachings: spend frugally, save wisely, and give generously.
- The Bible never condemns money per se nor does it condemn the rich. It only cautions us about money’s potential harmful influence.
So when Burchard contends that mastering your message is a ticket to wealth (in our case the message is biblical truth) should pastors exempt themselves?
What do you think?
3 thoughts on “The Millionaire Pastor – an Oxymoron?”
While living in Africa I had the chance to experience what it was like to live as a millionaire missionary. Our lean missionary salary was still the equivalent of a millionaire in local currency. I learned from African Christians who had just as much income as we did, that the key is to live as a redeemed and generous millionaire. One must be patient with requests from others for material aid, not resentful, but develop a reputation for generosity. One problem with excess income is that it insulates a person from the normal knocks of daily life, and tends to insulate one from accountability to others. Wealthy people come and go from church life due to business demands and ability to travel to vacation places and cottages. This erodes relationships of accountability with brothers and sisters. There were many lessons to learn, and we had not plumbed the richness of this topic in the 5 years we lived there.
but know this: Every Pastor in Canada is a millionaire in contrast to hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world. So is the poorest of our church members.
Good insight Scott!
Paul states, “We are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us” (2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT). His example (and that of all the true NT apostles) demonstrated a very deliberate effort to separate their message from any sense of monetary gain. Simon the sorcerer is soundly rebuked for his envy of the apostles’ spiritual power, because he saw it as a means of financial gain. And Christian leaders are never instructed to aim for financial wealth as a key to gospel fruitfulness; if anything, Paul saw the greatest potential for gospel fruitfulness in his weakness and poverty, so that the abundance of God’s power and grace could shine through. The only instruction we have for the compensation of Christian leaders is directed to the churches they lead, that they would be adequately compensated so that they can focus all their attention on the work instead of having to look for other sources of income (although Paul chose to do this in his own ministry). As soon as a Christian leader starts writing books, touring the speaking circuit, making videos etc. for the purpose of financial gain, they’ve slipped into very dangerous territory, because they have to begin thinking, “How can I frame my message to sell the most materials?” The fact that people pay for these things, sometimes leading to profit, should make us especially mindful of the dangers of wealth, and we should spend most of our time wrestling with the tension, not coming up with justifications for why wealth is okay.