As Ur's readers weighed in on Steven Furtick's controversial mansion, it was clear that opinions on pastoral compensation vary widely. Your comments ranged from blistering critiques of ministerial excess, to defense of the pastor's right to spend his money any way that he #*$@&! chooses. Here's Bob Hyatt's balanced take on the bigger issues at stake.
Another week, another mega-pastor breaks the internet. This time it's the $1.6 million mansion of North Carolina pastor Steven Furtick (7.5 bathrooms???). Add to that the revelation that Pastor Furtick's salary is set not by his own church and its elder board, but by a coterie of other celebrity pastors. In any such "scandal" you have the detractors, the defenders and caught in the middle, the Church as a whole.
We've long struggled with the question of wealth; in particular, how should money be handled by ministers of the Gospel? The problem is that we want to maintain that wealth can be, though is not necessarily, a blessing from God that should be enjoyed, used for good, and seen as a means, not an end. But when we see what to many of us appear to be outrageous salaries and expenditures in the church, whether huge building projects or expensive and lavish living arrangements of pastors, we begin to question just where the lines are between enjoying what God gives us and flaunting it, between love of the One who blesses and pursuit of the blessings for their own sake.
Here's how I have struggled to answer this question in my life, as a pastor.
A few years ago some investments of my time and effort began to pay off financially. I was suddenly staring at a pile of money, and a freedom that came with it that many pastors can only dream of. And if I can be honest, I struggled. Money is a challenge for everyone, and large amounts of it only increase the challenge (though I realize many reading would love to try their hand at that particular challenge). With increased cash flow came the ability to give more, to save more… and to spend more.
I did all three. But I had some questions that ruled me as I did so, because I knew that God dropping this windfall in my lap was a piece of my spiritual formation, and I didn't want to miss that. So, I continued to ask: Am I giving away more than I am spending on myself? Am I being transparent with close friends and the elders of my community? Am I being lavish in such a way that those in my church who didn't know all the details of this side income would begin to question where their tithe money was going and on what it was being spent?
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