The Preacher’s Salary

By Mike Willis

The Scriptures authorize and command that the local church provide support for a man who gives his life to the peaching of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote about his liberties in Christ and spoke concerning the support of gospel preachers.

Have we not power to eat and drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof.? Or who feedeth a fock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar. Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:4-14).

This Scripture and others authorize gospel preachers being supported while they preach the gospel.

Thanks For Those Who Have Gone Before

Having read of the sacrifices of preachers in previous generations, I have concluded that my generation of preachers owes a debt of thanks to those brethren who have gone before us who have worked to educate brethren on the need for supporting gospel preachers. The living standard of most preachers has been enhanced by brethren who have tried to live by the “Golden Rule” in supporting preachers: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). 1 am thankful for these brethren who have this attitude and for those preachers who, despite criticisms such as “You are just preaching for money,” preached what God said about supporting preachers that my generation of preachers could be so wen supported. I express my appreciation to each of you.

Different Problems For Today

Paul stated that “the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:31), as he spoke of the constant flux and change which occurs in human affairs. Because what is true with the world is also true regarding preachers’ support, there are some changes occurring about which some brethren may not know as they relate to preachers’ support. I write them, not to complain (for I have no basis for complaint), but to inform those who are in positions to make decisions which affect preachers’ support. Here are some things you need to know:

1. Health insurance is out of control. The costs for medical care have exceeded inflation for several years. The result is that insurance costs are spiraling. In order to inform brethren of what is happening, I am disclosing my personal expenses for health care cost. I purchase my insurance through the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (200 Barrister Bldg., 155 E. Market St., Indianapolis, IN 46204). This is the group coverage provided for preachers in the Christian Church. The organization has been kind enough to allow preachers from the churches of Christ to participate in their group program.

The rate increases for 1990 were recently mailed to me and are as follows:

  Current Monthly Rates 1990 Monthly Rates
Family (1 or more dependents) $335 $400
Single employee 135 161
Participant over 65 58 69
Couple, both over 65 116 138
Member over 65, dependent under 258 308
Member under 65, dependent over 193 230

The coverage is through Travelers Insurance and is pretty good (not to be compared with the coverage provided by large companies such as General Motors). It does not include dental or eye benefits.

A church which gives a preacher a $25 per week increase in salary has barely kept up with the increase in his insurance costs. If any of our readers thinks that these rates are out of line with the industry, I am sure that the directors of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church, whose only business is administering insurance coverage to their membership, would be delighted to receive what information he has to find less expensive prices for the same coverage.

I would like to recommend that churches consider providing health insurance coverage as a part of the salary provided a gospel preacher. By so doing, the health insurance is treated as a fringe benefit for tax purposes and the preacher is given some protection from the inflationary spiral of health costs. Then when raises are given, an actual increase in spendable income can be seen.

2. Social security costs. Being treated as self-employed, the preacher pays the full costs of social security coverage. Social security taxes for the self-employed for 1988 were 12.3 percent. On an income of $600 per week, $3800 + is paid in for social security taxes. If a church owns the house is which the preacher lives, the house is considered in his income; hence, the social security tax is paid on fair rental value of the house in which the preacher lives. Of course, income taxes must also be paid from the income which the preacher receives. On the illustrated income of $600 per week, $166.11 must be deducted to cover social security and insurance, leaving $433.89 from which to pay income taxes and to live.

I would like to recommend that churches at least pick up the employer’s half of the social security taxes. By so doing, the preacher is brought to the same level as employees in other occupations.

3. Housing costs. The cost for providing a house also has gone up. When the preacher moves, there are several things which happen to his housing costs. A few years ago, I moved during a time when interest rates were excessively high; my interest rate on my house changed from 8 percent to 13.5 percent. Obviously, the same amount of money bought a lot less house. Too, there are real estate fees involved in selling property. In our area, real estate agents charge 7 percent commission. Every time a preacher must move, he pays out 7 percent of the selling price of the house, eating up a portion of the equity he has accumulated in his real estate.

No one should need to be told that houses have increased in value in recent years (although the inflation rate for housing has slowed in recent years). Some brethren who have lived in the same location for 20-25 years may not be aware of what housing costs are. They built their 3-bedroom brick home in the 1960s for $20-30,000 and their payments were around $200 per month. To buy that same house today would more nearly approach $75,000. In our area, a $75,000 home is not above average. The mortgage payment on a $75,000 loan (at 10 percent for 20 years) is $723.77. On top of this must be added taxes and insurance, easily bringing the house payment over $800 per month. Utility costs must be added to this figure. Most of our readers know this from experience, but some who have been settled in one location for an extended period of time may not be aware of what housing costs run.

4. Automobile expenses. Providing transportation also has increased in recent years. The car which could be purchased for $3500 in 1973 now costs $17,000+. The gas which was $35 per gallon is now nearly $1.00 a gallon. Inasmuch as many preachers use their cars extensively in visitation among members, traveling to and from meetings, etc., a car allowance is recognized as a legitimate deduction on income taxes. Brethren need to remember that preachers have to buy cars at the same places they buy them and their car payments are just as great.

5. Other expenses. The normal expenses in a home also are incurred in a preacher’s home. Kids need clothes and shoes; grocery bills, spending money, and school expenses are incurred. Then when the teenagers graduate from high school there are college expenses. Next the costs of providing a wedding comes. Preachers face all of the same expenses as everyone else and have the same desires as other families.


When calculating a fair salary for a preacher, brethren should not manifest a spirit which tries to pay a man the least possible salary which will keep him. Such attitudes generate resentment in the hearts of the preacher, causing some men to quit preaching. Rather, brethren should try to be informed of a preacher’s needs. The statement in James 5 applies to churches, as it does other employers.

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth (5:14).

Woe be to the brethren who withhold a fair salary from its preacher while the church accumulates a large account and the brethren live prosperously!

I recognize that the same problems mentioned above which are faced by preachers also are faced by the rest of the American population and a number of brethren are suffering, not receiving salaries which keep up with the increased expenses. My heart aches for them, just as it does for the preachers. Nevertheless, where churches have the ability to meet the preacher’s need, they should do so.

Knowing that good brethren will rectify poor situations when they become aware of them, this article was written to inform brethren of matters which their own local preacher may be too embarrassed or reluctant to mention. Why not initiate a discussion of this subject in your next business meeting?

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 22, pp. 674, 694-695
November 16, 1989