The other night, I sat in my mom's dining room table as a dear family friend who is the pastor of a small church on an Indian reservation, opened up her heart and shared some of her struggles. This friend, a single woman, has labored tirelessly for over 35 years in a place no one wants to go because it is "too hard". Occasionally she will receive some much needed help. A church will send a mission team, a couple will come to help out over the summer, funds will be sent to do some much needed repairs and so forth. The thing is, no one cares for the pastor...
Now, many of the people live in poverty so one could argue that is the problem. I thought that too until something slipped out that startled me. The pastor was sharing with me how God was seemed to be blessing people when they turned their lives around. People who had low-paying jobs or even no job at all, would be offered government jobs which are the best and highest paying jobs in that area. As a result, those attending the church were becoming much more financially stable.
This puzzled me. If the lay members overall were getting better and even well-paying jobs, why was the pastor struggling so hard to pay her bills? Why did so much of her meager income have to go toward the monthly bills and upkeep of the church? This didn't make sense!
My friend caught the look on my face and fell silent. She knew what I was thinking. In a soft, sad voice she said, "Few people give."
From time to time, I will come across arguments against tithing. I have even seen, over the years, articles and posts that boldly condemn pastors who receive tithes and offerings. The claim is that these pastors are doing it "for the money" and that it is wrong to pay them for doing the work of the Lord.
Are there dishonest people who seek to use the Gospel as a means to get rich? Sadly enough, there are but I do not believe for a moment that most pastors entered the ministry to get rich! I've personally known a lot of pastors and evangelists over the years and the vast majority of them either struggle to make ends meet or live very modestly. Many of them work an additional job and as a result, the local church suffers. You see, being a good pastor requires more than delivering a message on Sunday morning.
We need to care for those in the ministry. These are the people tirelessly give of themselves daily. We drain them dry seeking their knowledge, wisdom, help and prayers and often when they themselves are in crisis, they have no one to turn to because we think they should not have any challenges.
We need to recognize and get rid of this spirit of selfishness which seeks to destroy local churches. It starts by thanking God for those who faithfully serve the Body of Christ and stop looking for reasons not to give. When the local church is transformed into a giving church, amazing things happen.