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In 1825, about the time Abraham Lincoln was splitting rails, 18-year-old frontier preacher Elijah Goodwin wrote, "I did not think it was right to preach for money; still, I thought a little money was very convenient when it came to paying ferriage at the rivers. In traveling and holding protracted meetings with others, I learned that preachers who said the most against paying preachers received the most money for their labors. Perhaps this was because, in preaching this way, the attention of the brethren was directed to the subject. I never took any part in this kind of preaching, and therefore got but little money."
Once, when Goodwin was to travel several days from extreme southern Indiana to northwestern Illinois to preach at a camp meeting, someone asked him how much money he had for the trip. "I told him that I had just twenty-five cents," Goodwin replied. "To this sum he added another quarter. … About dark [on the first day] I stopped at a public house and got my horse fed, but did not take supper myself, lest I should exhaust my little treasury and not be able to buy food for my horse. After my horse had eaten, I mounted and went on my way, traveling all night. … At noon I halted to feed my horse (not myself). This exhausted my funds. I rode all the way, eating nothing but grapes and hazelnuts. … The next day I reached my destination about 2 P.M., having eaten but two meals in three days."
So it was for many preachers a century and a half ago, and some of those memories linger. A salary of a bag of corn and a couple of chickens left on the back porch is well within many pastors' memories. But what is the state of pastoral compensation today?
Almost eight years ago, LEADERSHIP surveyed its readers. The results were published in "Clergy Compensation: A Survey of LEADERSHIP Readers" in the spring 1981 LEADERSHIP Journal. The news: mostly good. Pastors were, for the most part, not muzzled on the threshing floor.
But that was seven years ago. What's ...