Piper on Pastors’ Pay

I can’t say I relate to reports of pastors earning lavish salaries and building elaborate mansions. But conversations about money and ministry can be just as awkward and frustrating on the other end of the pay scale. For pastors scraping by while working two jobs and churches struggling to meet their obligations, money strains relationships and stretches faith. How do pastors know when they need to ask for more money? How do churches know when they should give it? Such common situations won’t attract investigative reporters, but they can cause just about as much consternation.

Piper SuitJohn Piper could have lived large on his book royalties and speaker fees. So why did he chose to live much more like an ordinary pastor during more than 30 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis? I corresponded with the founder and teacher of Desiring God about hard work, “poverty theology,” how he would advise young pastors, and more.

When did you first realize you would need some plan to handle the money earned from your speaking and writing? Were you ever tempted to keep the money for yourself?

When I began my ministry as pastor at Bethlehem, it had never entered my mind that I would produce a lot of income by writing. I received modest honorariums of one or two hundred dollars for weddings and funerals. I accepted these with thanks. I did suspect that, if I was faithful, income would rise, and sooner or later I would make more than I needed. Therefore, I believed from the beginning that plans should be in place to put a governor on laying up treasures on earth. Otherwise, little by little I might assume that my wants were my needs, and the expenses would expand, as they always do, to fill the income. So Noël and I put in place a “graduated tithe” from the beginning. That is, we tried to give a greater percentage with each salary increase, not just a greater amount.

With the successful sales of Desiring God starting in 1987, I saw that there could be substantial income from writing and speaking. I resolved that I should not keep this money for myself but channel it to ministry. I never doubted that the Lord would provide us with a salary that would be sufficient for our family. So I saw no reason to keep the money that came in from the books and speaking. These royalties and honorariums were being earned while I was pastor of Bethlehem, and so it seemed the church should benefit from them, not me privately.

At first, I thought I could do this simply by channeling the royalties to the church, but realized soon that this had tax implications. Since these royalties were technically in my control as the copyright holder, giving all of them to the church made me liable for income taxes. So we created a foundation. The Desiring God Foundation now owns all the copyrights of my books and intellectual property, and receives and distributes all the income. I have no access to the money at all. I do sit on the board of the foundation with my wife and five others. This board safeguards the aims of the foundation, and makes the decisions to which ministries the income should be given. It is a thrilling ministry.

In addition, we made the decision that all honoraria would go to the ministries we represent, not ourselves. That was usually the church while I was pastor, and now is Desiring God. While I was a pastor at Bethlehem, I never received an income from Desiring God. So for the last 25 years or so, we have lived on one stream of income. That is still the case, as I am now paid by Desiring God. I have never been in any serious need. None of this has felt like a sacrifice. I know myself incredibly rich by the standards of the world. Beyond all doubt, it is more blessed to give than to receive and keep.

Why shouldn’t a pastor of a growing and thriving church earn more money as a reward for his hard work and incentive to stay around? After all, the church would probably suffer financially and numerically if he left.

I never felt that I was the church’s privilege, but that she is mine. To be at Bethlehem was gift, all gift. The mindset that I am so valuable I deserve any benefits that come from my ministry is alien to the spirit of Christ. He came to serve and give his life a ransom for many. Jesus was absolutely indispensable in the ministry he came to achieve, and the whole orientation of it was give, give, give—not get, get, get.

My question is: Why would a pastor want to get rich? Jesus said it’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, and Paul said that those who desire to be rich “fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). These texts, and many others, dispose me to think: my soul, and therefore the good of the church, will be far better off if I put governors on my accumulation.

That “hard work” you mentioned is work for the advancement of Christ’s mission and the good of the church. And every pastor knows that even if “I worked harder than any of them, it was not I but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). And huge waves of this grace break over us from the prayers and partnership of the people in our church. Not only that, but while I am speaking outside and writing, my staff is covering for me in dozens of ways. That investment of time could have focused more directly on the church. It wasn’t. The last thought in my mind was, They owe me. They didn’t. I owed them. To this day, I know that Bethlehem Baptist Church was more a gift to me than I was to her.

Did you ever feel like your church could not or would not adequately provide for your family’s needs? How would you counsel a pastor who feels that way right now?

I never felt that way: $25,000 was more than I needed in 1980, and when my salary broke $100,000 for the first time in my last year at Bethlehem, it was more than I needed. I do not assume this is the case for every pastor. That is why I do not say that the strategies I have used should be applied by all. There are all kinds of situations that may warrant a pastor’s earning and keeping income besides through his church ministry. Paul made tents. But let us be careful here. Paul’s aim was, as he said, exceptional. The laborer should be paid his wages. Don’t muzzle the ox treading out the grain.

Paul’s aim was not to get rich with tent-making and forego church income, as though that little self-denial were a justification of making millions on tent royalties. His aim was to avoid the very appearance of wanting to get rich on the ministry. Paul feared giving the slightest impression that his life work was a “pretext for greed” (1 Thessalonians 2:5). Paul’s mindset was not what he had a “right” to do with his “hard-earned income.” His mindset was to renounce any rights that might make people think he loved money: “We have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).

Is there such a thing as an unbiblical “poverty theology”?

Yes. There is unbiblical everything theology. For example, it would be unbiblical to glamorize or idealize poverty. The Bible steers a middle way between destitution and opulence: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

When Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20), he meant: God will show himself especially precious and powerful for the poor who trust him, not the poor who don’t know the Lord (“These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God,” Jeremiah 5:4).

It would be a mistake to assume all the poor are humble or generous. The ten lepers were all poor. Jesus healed them all. Nine proved ungrateful (Luke 17:17). The rich have no corner on selfishness.

But it would also be a mistake to think that the Bible treats riches and poverty as equally dangerous spiritually. Riches are more dangerous. We never read, “Only with difficulty will a poor person enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).

How much is too much? Almost any of us in the developed West is much more comfortable than our brothers and sisters laboring for the gospel in the Majority World.

The impossibility of drawing a line between night and day doesn’t mean you can’t know it’s midnight. If someone is starving, they’re poor and need urgent help. If some pastor has ten-times more than the average folks in his church, he is communicating that material things are too important to him. It is a stumbling block.

The Bible commends fasting and feasting—not because food is evil or because no one is starving. It’s because it is evil to be enslaved to good things, and it is good to savor God in his gifts.

I told my children, when the behavior is questionable don’t just ask, “What’s wrong with it?” Ask, will it help me make Christ look great? That was Paul’s passion (Philippians 1:20).

Accumulating money, and buying vastly more than you need, does not make Christ look great. It looks like things are great. There is a reason why Paul said, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

How would you advise young pastors with regard to their finances as they begin to be invited to speak at conferences and write books? Would your counsel be different for a rising lawyer or doctor?

Talk to your elders about all these things. Serve them long enough and humbly enough that they know you care about the church, and are not just using the church for career advancement. Don’t move into a kind of ministry they disapprove of.

Put in place an accountability group among them (not from outside) to whom you report all your honorariums and other income outside the church. Work out with them an understanding of what is appropriate for you to keep and for the church to receive. Make the church you serve the place where most of your giving goes.

Plan to live on the salary of the church as soon as possible. Once you are meeting your needs and saving appropriately, increase the percentage of your giving beyond the tithe when your salary increases more than the increase of the cost of living.

Saturate yourself with the words of the New Testament on money. You will find yourself convicted more often than confirmed in your Western wealth. Let this conviction produce wise, wartime living that loves to give more than to keep. Enjoy God’s good gifts by enjoying God in and through them. Know that you will never have this figured out completely. Therefore, be thankful for the gospel of grace that covers all our sin.

  • Thapelo

    Great example from the humble Piper, praying for such a biblical view on money

  • chuck

    The best advice I have heard from an old pastor was “don’t live as the poorest church member and don’t live like the richest but stay in the middle.” I am sure it is a temptation to anyone in the ministry. I do know that there are a lot more underpaid servants than overpaid… especially youth ministers.

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  • Phil

    Piper says

    I never felt that way: $25,000 was more than I needed in 1980, and when my salary broke $100,000 for the first time in my last year at Bethlehem, it was more than I needed.

    There are many different ways to compute a “minister’s salary.” It he simply means that his “base salary” broke $1000,000 for the first time in his last year at Bethlehem, then it is highly, highly likely that his “total compensation” (salary plus benefits) passed $100,000 long before then.

    As but one example, a minister’s “housing allowance” (a benefit) is usually tens of thousands of dollars, and could easily be $50,000 or more (as the allowance goes towards everything associated with the house, from things as minor as toilet paper to things as major as furniture, structural repairs, even art, etc.)

    So it is fairly easy for a minister to talk about his “modest” or “low” salary, when other things make it actually much higher.

    I am certainly not accusing Piper of anything wrong. I am simply saying that there are a lot of unknowns here–and it is easy to shade things to put one’s self in the best possible light.

    But maybe when he said “salary” he meant “total compensation.” I’d be curious to know.

    • Chris

      The pastor’s housing allowance can not be higher than the fair market rental value of the house (fully furnished) + utilities.

      • Phil

        Yes, that is correct.

        The problem is no one rents out fully furnished houses. So what is the correct fair market rental value for a fully furnished house, when there is no market? (Is it $2,000/mo? $4,000/mo? maybe $6,000mo?)

        • http://www.pastortimrogers.com Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers)


          Your problem is solved by having a CPA do your taxes and ask them to set the “fair market rental value”. The law, as my CPA advises, is the least of either; Fair Market Rental Value, actual costs, or set amount. Thus, if I set my breakdown as FMRV and my actual costs exceed that amount I lose the tax advantage b/c I can only claim the FMRV.

          All cards on the table for me here. I have never appreciated Piper due to his soteriology. However, his advice here is excellent. I am linking to this from my blog and FB status. He has given excellent advice to all pastors. Living in the Charlotte area, as I do, I can tell you this is a huge topic of discussion.

    • Loren Sanders

      Considering the large number of pastors (especially those who are “high profile”) who refuse to disclose their incomes to even the elders of their own churches, let alone their church members, for you to imply in any way shape or form that Piper hasn’t revealed everything he ought to, so we have no way of knowing how truthful he is being about living modestly is worse than an outright accusal. It is nothing less than an attempt to subtly color his integrity before others and implant the idea that he may be being disingenuous in this interview, and it is shameful.

      Any disingenuousness here is not on the part of John Piper.

  • Ben Musclow

    Excellent words of wisdom… Mr. Piper does an excellent job of using scriptural principles to explain his choices, rather than worldly self-justification…

  • JD

    “If some pastor has ten-times more than the average folks in his church, he is communicating that material things are too important to him. It is a stumbling block.” – I really wish that James Macdonald would have implemented this type of plan from the beginning of his ministry. It would have saved Harvest a lot of pain and controversy and allowed the strong foundation that the church was founded on to continue instead of the mess that it is currently in.

    • Ruth

      Thank you, pastor John for such wise words and for setting a biblical example.

      JD – I attend Harvest Bible Chapel and I echo your comments. I wish and pray that James MacDonald would be a good and transparent steward of money. I can’t help but to think of many folks at Harvest who make sacrifice to give above and beyond while they don’t make much money.

      • JR

        After watching the money session of Elephant Room 1, I walked away thinking James MacDonald has some sort of really wrong view of money. I don’t attend his church or know of any of the issues others are mentioning.

    • Deborah C.

      So many have left Harvest Bible Chapel because of the money scandal. I pray that James MacDonald reads and heeds these wise words from Pastor Piper.

  • Andy T.

    Phil, why is it important for you to know the particulars? He was speaking in general terms. If his total salary package and benefits exceeded $150,000 (instead of $100,000) for the first time last year, would you look upon him (or his advice) differently?

    By the way, we don’t expect this same precision in the secular world. For instance, if I tell you that I make $75,000 at my job, you don’t tap your feet and demand that I add to that all the payroll taxes, insurance and benefits my employer has to pay on top of the $75,000 (which is usually 40-50% of an employee’s comp). No, you take the $75,000 at face value. But I guess when it comes to a pastor, you demand more. Double standard and unnecessary nit-picking.

    • Phil

      Andy T,

      Phil, why is it important for you to know the particulars?

      Because the particulars could matter. (And the language he used–“a salary”–raised them as a question.) No one I know (besides religious clergy) can get a huge part of their “salary” as a housing allowance. If I told you my “salary” was $75,000, but I had $10,0000 deposited in my checking account every month to meet my and my family’s expenses (including the mortgage on our house). Would you consider my salary to be $75,000 or $120,000?

      He was speaking in general terms. If his total salary package and benefits exceeded $150,000 (instead of $100,000) for the first time last year, would you look upon him (or his advice) differently?

      No. I couldn’t care less if he made $100,000, or $500,000. But he is the one who put a number out there ($100,000), and people (including lay church members, other pastors, and church leaders) are going to see that number and think it means certain things. (And I am sure he is aware of that–pastor salary is something everyone has an opinion about.) Now does that number actually mean what people thinks it means? I have no idea. Maybe yes, maybe no.

      By the way, we don’t expect this same precision in the secular world.

      Well, we do with CEO pay (and being a senior pastor at a big church is a lot like being a CEO). In any case there is a “morality” associated with how much people earn, especially when it is related to the job they do. So precision seems important here, especially when we are talking about pastors.

      For instance, if I tell you that I make $75,000 at my job, you don’t tap your feet and demand that I add to that all the payroll taxes, insurance and benefits my employer has to pay on top of the $75,000 (which is usually 40-50% of an employee’s comp). No, you take the $75,000 at face value.

      That’s true. But that isn’t the situation here. Piper is being interviewed specifically for his thoughts on how much money people in his line of work should make. At that point, issues like benefits could become very important–especially when the amounts involved can vary hugely.

      But I guess when it comes to a pastor, you demand more.

      Given the circumstances, I think I am raising reasonable points.

      Double standard and unnecessary nit-picking.

      I don’t think it is a double standard. First, this is an interview about how much Pastors make.. This isn’t some casual conversation in the church lobby between you and me. Second, the benefits in your job (most jobs) are probably pretty “standard”–and thus we can know what they are. The benefits for a pastor can vary widely and are, in fact, entirely contingent upon the contract the pastor has with the church.

      It may be nit-picking, that is harder to know. It is certainly possible that the extra money he received for doing his job (like his housing allowance, retirement accounts, reimbursements, etc.) never amounted to very much. Or it could have been another $100,000 on top of the $100,000 he made in only his last year.

      • Andy T.

        Sounds like you resent the housing allowance exemption afforded to pastors. Why else would you make an exaggerated statement like “No one I know (besides religious clergy) can get a huge part of their “salary” as a housing allowance.” A “huge” part of their salary? You do know the housing allowance is limited to mortgage payments and upkeep, utilities, etc. Unless the pastor is living in a mansion (and I doubt Piper does) the max housing allowance would probably be 20K. We don’t know if Piper’s 100K includes the potential 20K – but if it doesn’t – I wouldn’t consider 20% a “huge” part of his salary.

        It’s clear you have a bitter ax to grind here with either pastors in general or Piper in particular. Which is it?

        • Phil

          Sounds like you resent the housing allowance exemption afforded to pastors.

          Not at all. But I do think it is important that people understand how pastors are compensated.

          (Just like it is important that people understand how CEO’s are compensated (when that compensation is paid by the shareholders), how our military is compensated (who, btw, also get a housing allowance–and who are compensated by the public), how public officials are compensated, university officials, etc). Basically, whenever that compensation is tied to the consent of a group. The group should understand what/how that compensation is calculated. In all of these cases, there are ways to “hide” compensation–in ways that are entirely ethical, somewhat ethical, or entirely unethical.

          With regard to John Piper, we really don’t know what his compensation was. Throwing out the number $100,000 doesn’t (ultimately) tell us anything.

          Why else would you make an exaggerated statement like “No one I know (besides religious clergy) can get a huge part of their “salary” as a housing allowance.” A “huge” part of their salary? You do know the housing allowance is limited to mortgage payments and upkeep, utilities, etc.

          First, I was wrong. I forgot about the military. They get a housing allowance as well. In any case, I think it is entirely realistic to think that a Pastor, who only makes a “salary” of $30,000/year, may also be getting $1200/mo housing allowance. That amounts to $14,400 a year, an increase of approximately 50% in their salary. I call that huge. I also don’t see anything wrong with it. My point is that people should simply understand that the pastor is not earning $30,000/year, but is in fact earning $44,400 (and that there may be other ways the pastor is compensated, as well).

          Unless the pastor is living in a mansion (and I doubt Piper does) the max housing allowance would probably be 20K. We don’t know if Piper’s 100K includes the potential 20K – but if it doesn’t – I wouldn’t consider 20% a “huge” part of his salary.

          I know nothing about Piper’s housing situation. Neither do you. And the article doesn’t tell us. That’s my point. We simply don’t know anything about his compensation in this regard.

          It’s clear you have a bitter ax to grind here with either pastors in general or Piper in particular. Which is it?

          I don’t think either accurately characterizes me.

          • Roy

            As a Pastor, I’ll add my two cents here:

            1) The few instances that I encounter where my salary needs to be known, I report the full income ($27,500 per year, including everything – medical, housing, pastoral resources, and income) rather than the tiny portion that actually is salary. Most other Pastors I know well do the same, unless someone needs line 37 of our 1040 tax form for some reason.

            2) The housing allowance is a tremendous blessing to Pastors. Most non-Pastors do not realize that the IRS considers most Pastors as self-employed. Thus, we have to pay a double portion of social security (very few can and do opt out) and Medicaid tax. The housing allowance is a benefit that very nicely offsets the increase in tax.

            3) Most Pastors are not well-to-do, which might be a good thing in the long run, though being extremely poor and in need for years on end is tough. Proverbs 30:8 (Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
            )should be the prayer of many of us.

          • Mike

            I do not think you know what housing allowance is. It is not normally money given over and above salary, it is the portion of the salary that can be classified as tax-free for the provision of housing. 20,000 of the 100,000 might be considered housing allowace. That’s different than saying 20,000 + 100,000.

            • Aaron

              agreed. Hey Phil, . . you don’t know what the housing allowance is. I get a big one as a pastor, and all it does is help out with taxes at the end of the year, and, yes I get a bigger return (that category capping out around 6k) in that regard than most people who aren’t pastors. You’re talking about rental/mortgage assistance which a church could do for it’s pastors, but I’ve only seen it in small rental payments for younger pastors, . . not mortgage payments.

              You’re housing allowance is not money given to you to pay your mortgage or rental. That kind of assistance would be a separate thing from your church.

            • Phil


              That is certainly possible. I believe different churches do it different ways.

              It would also be easy for any pastor who wanted to de-emphasize his salary to, when talking about his salary, to cut out the portion related to housing. At least a plausible argument could be made that it isn’t “salary.”

              See this IRS Q and A, which uses the word “salary” in both senses:


            • Aaron


              that link was broken. . but you’re talking about “compensation” which certainly includes a housing allowance (again, we’re talking tax purposes there. . ). But, Salary is not included. Total compensation includes health benefits, conferences, housing, etc. . . .But, rental/mortgage assistance is a different thing than housing allowance.

            • Phil


              My point, which you seem to agree with, is that total compensation is different than salary. Salary is a term that does not have a strict definition, and exactly what is included in the word “salary” is unclear.

          • Jonathan

            As a pastor and a licensed CPA, I think there exists some confusion on the topic of the housing allowance that I wish to clarify. The housing allowance provision allows you to exclude a portion of your salary from being taxed. There are limitations for the housing allowance (for example, it cannot exceed the total salary). The housing allowance effectively saves the minister effectively lowers his federal income tax.

            An example would help illustrate how it works. Let’s say Pastor Bob makes 40,000 dollars total salary per year. Out of that 40,000, Pastor Bob designates 25,000 of it as housing allowance. That means for federal income tax purposes, Pastor Bob will be taxed as if he made 15,000 for the year (40,000-25,000).

            If Pastor Bob did NOT have the housing allowance, he would owe 5035 for federal taxes as a single filer. WITH the housing allowance, he would owe 911. However, since Pastors are considered self-employed, they are subject to an additional 7.65% self-employment tax on their entire income, which amounts to 3060 (40,000 x 7.65%).

            Bottom line: Pastor Bob as a single tax filer gets 1064 dollars more of “hidden income.” So Pastor Bob makes 41064 instead of 40000. I offer this explanation so that people in the church will understand that the housing allowance is NOT additional income.

            • Phil


              Thanks for the response. This conforms to my understanding as well. However, when a pastor uses the word “salary” it isn’t immediately clear exactly what he means. Does he mean total compensation? Does he mean salary and housing allowance as a part of that? Does he mean just salary, without housing allowance? Does he mean other allowances at all? What about benefits?

              For example, see this for definitions (which doesn’t even use the single word “salary” at all, but does use “base salary”):


            • Aaron

              Phil, you’re asking Dr. Piper to address his tax status in a question about his salary. I don’t understand why? This seems like a huge red herring. . . Must a CEO say “I get a tax break on charitable contributions” every time he’s asked about his compensation package? I don’t think so. I don’t understand why you wanted him to answer that way. Jonathan lays it out well. It’s an option for all pastors to set aside some income in this way. It has nothing to do with take home pay, it’s a tax issue.

            • Jonathan


              I have re-read your comments about Piper’s discussion of his pay. In light of your request for more details about his pay, I think we need to be fair here. If you re-read the exact questions Piper was asked, you will find that he was NEVER asked for a dollar amount of how much a pastor should be paid. In fact, if you removed the salary figures from his response, it would not change the thrust of his answer. The closest Piper comes to talking about a dollar amount for salary (however you want to define it) was when he was asked about adequate provision.

              I think the reason people have responded in frustration over your posts is because you’re looking for a more detailed response from Piper even though such details were never the focus of the interviewer’s questions. If there is something to desire, it would be that an interviewer would actually ask a question that demanded a quantitative detailed response about a pastor’s total compensation package.

              Like you, I would also like to see how a church board quantitatively reasons through a pastor’s total compensation package. What factors go into that computation? How does a church address the pastor’s financial needs? Are there provisions for the amount and type of ministry experience? Should the church board expect the pastor to afford to live in the community of the church? How much weight should be given to the cost of living in the church area?

              If anyone here knows of such an article, could you post it?

            • Phil

              Good points. I think you are right.

  • Wayne Wilson

    I would just like to say that if you don’t have a pastor with a heart like this, go somewhere else.

  • Ralph Cooper

    As one who has sat on church personnel and finance committees, I commend Piper for this approach and for his teaching on it. I disagree with him on many, many things, but this shows an honesty and a servant heart that I had not expected to see from a famous modern pastor of a sizable church.

    On the other side of things, I was often asked (usually by the wife of a pastor) how much time should he spend on church matters every week. My answer was, add a typical work week for employed members of the congregation (say 40 hours) plus the amount of time you would expect a deacon or non-paid elder to spend (committees, attendance, visiting, etc.), and treat that as a target for the pastor (and staff), since they are paid for Sunday attendance and the laity are not.

    • Steve

      If a pastor is “paid for Sunday attendance,” then something is askew (and sadly, something probably is).

      Christians who treat pastors as fee-for-service employees of the church seriously undermine the ministry. Too many of us regard pastors in exactly this light, and our fundamentally consumer-based relationships with them bear that out. Pastors can be/are guilty of this self-image, too.

      About 80-percent of the comments to this interview make me want to cry for the state of the church in North America.

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  • Ryan

    Good interview and commendation from Pastor Piper. I do agree with Phil that there is some ambiguity with the total level of compensation through the years and what any number may represent in terms of benefits. Some churches, will pay a certain “salary” but will include part of the ministry and office budget in that figure. I believe this is a wrong accounting method. Other churches will include housing, vehicles, book and media along with insurance as benefits separate from the salary figure. So this remains ambiguous.

    Whether or not this was true for Pastor Piper or your pastor, the wisdom of everything Pastor Piper has shared still remains. Money has always been an important issue for the church at large. I believe that the recent pinch in the economy will bring this discussion front and center in ways previous generations did not think about. In times of economic peril, economic discussion becomes far more critical.

  • Luke

    It does not seem right to me that Piper would only earn over $100k in his last year of ministry. This is less than many high school principals in Minneapolis and his organizations and influence are more complex and significant. He’s worth far more than that.

    I’m thrilled that even this lower amount is more than he needs. My concern would be for the pastors on his staff who clearly make much less (and should). Without knowing what they make, I’d be concerned about whether they make enough. I would advocate Piper making much more and giving it away (if he wants) so that the other pastors on staff can also make more (that they may actually need).

  • http://www.drhusband.com Dr. Terry

    I really don’t see the issue here. Why is it okay for a Superintendent of a large school district in the U.S. or a surgeon,or athlete to make well over 100,000 dollars per year and it “wrong” for a Pastor to make just as much or more? To me the real question here is how well the Pastor stewards the money. If the Pastor pays tithes and gives offerings and practices “kingdom/biblical” financial principles (i.e., investing, budgeting, saving, giving, etc.), what is wrong with pastors who are “rich” in material wealth? Like anything else that has given us freely to enjoy, I believe the issue is really about idolatry or worship of money. Does the Pastor have money or does the money have the pastor?
    I see this issue as being no different than drinking or media consumption. For some Pastors and churches this can become a stumbling block, for others not quite so much so. I think this is one of those areas where we have to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into what is best for our own lives.

    Also, we always tend to think about the “down and out” when we talk about money. However, we seldom think about the “up and out”. In other words, what happens when a millionaire (let’s say from the corporate arena) is saved and joins a church where the pastor preaches about his goal is to keep has salary at $100K at all costs? Automatically, this sends the message that this person’s hard work, effort, achievement, and money is not valued by God or that church.

    What we need to really do is teach people who to use everything for the “glory of God”. We need to teach people that “all good and perfect gifts come from God” and therefore should be used to glorify him and help others.

    We seldom tell talented singers or musicians to stop being so good and becoming better and better. Why would we tell folks who “God has given the ability to get wealth” to stop getting wealth?

    While all are not called to be rich, we can not negate that fact that some are–this includes Pastors. So, we have to think about this in terms of personal conviction. What is “too much” for some may not be “too much” for others.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    The interview is interesting, I am glad to see John being so transparent. Many other well known and respected clergy are not quite so forthcoming. What is more interesting are the comments. Some call for more specificity. Some wonder whether making “only” $100,000 is enough. No one questions the underlying notion that pastors should be paid by the church in the first place. Most conversations like this throw out the “The laborer should be paid his wages. Don’t muzzle the ox treading out the grain.” verses and move on as if those verses negate the need for a broader compensation. They don’t. If we want to have an honest conversation about clerical pay and benefits we need to start at the beginning and ask not “how much” but “if”. The case for a permanent salary and benefits package for clergy is pretty thin, and that is being generous, when you get past the handful of out of context proof text that are generally thrown around. Whether a pastor should make as much as a school superintendent is less pertinent than asking if men should demand payment in order to “serve” the church in the first place.

  • Stephen

    For those wondering, I think on DG recently (few months?) they posted a “day in the life” story about John’s Sunday routine as he was finishing up the pastorate. If I recall, he lives in a modest home only a few blocks from the church in not exactly the greatest urban neighborhood and typically walks to church.

    • Phil

      While I couldn’t find the article, I have no reason to doubt that it exists.

      That is, I think, very, very impressive behavior on Mr. Piper’s part. Wow. Good job.

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Best line: “The mindset that I am so valuable I deserve any benefits that come from my ministry is alien to the spirit of Christ.”


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  • http://johnmarkharris.net John Harris

    Paul clearly says those who preach the gospel have the right to “refrain from working for a living. He also tells us Jesus commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from the gospel. Come on folks, Piper has sold over 2M books, and took no money from them (in the last few decades). Grow up, stop thinking someone owes you something. Work.

  • http://www.pastortimrogers.com Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers)


    Your link to the Siburt pdf is still not clear. For example the definition for “allowances” is contradicting the definition of “reimbursements”. Also, “benefits” are misleading. My church provides medical insurance and a term life insurance policy that is equal to my “total compensation” But, I choose to provide additional life insurance that I can take as a “salary deduction” The medical and life the church provides is not part of my salary. It is like your company providing that for you. You certainly do not count it as part of your salary.

    As to your earlier comment about housing allowance and no other group is allowed to do that outside of the ministers. Have you checked out the officers in the military lately? http://www.military.com/benefits/military-pay/basic-allowance-for-housing/basic-allowance-for-housing-rates.html

  • http://www.beafullyfundedmissionary.com Darius

    I would also be interested to know how the church decided the salary amounts.
    Also, does anybody know if Piper addresses salary for missionaries anywhere?

    • j k

      Oh my! Yes, this would be very interesting. We also live off support as missionaries and I will say that sometimes I’m embarrassed and concerned by support raising techniques and standards of living in my body, my community. Plus, we’ve lived in China for nearly a decade now so I have no idea what a regular salary is anymore…. I think it would be so incredibly helpful to see some standards for this.

      And there are pieces of our lives overseas too that should not escape the accountability spotlight…. The entitlement attitude does NOT skip over foreign workers. Oh for grace and wisdom, for generous and sacrificial support as well as sacrificial servant-hearted simple living, for each member, each limb, of Christ’s body…..

  • Chris Wozniak

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that for many pastors, they are expected to have wives who are also heavily involved in both the ministry within the church (leading women’s bible studies, hospitality, visitations, discipling, etc), as well as within the home…meaning that many pastors do not have duel incomes as those in the congregation do. It makes sense to me then that a pastor should be paid a slightly higher salary than the average in the congregation. You’re basically getting a two for one deal.

    That being said, I think it’s a wonderful blessing to have a pastor like Piper who takes what they need and uses the rest to serve others. There are some pastors out there that live so lavishly that it is a major turnoff to unbelievers, as well as those within the church. I live near a large church where I know many people have left because of the pastor’s financial dealings and extravagant lifestyle…and I have been fortunate enough that my own pastor takes a similar approach to Dr Piper.

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  • Jack Parrish

    I go to churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and am aware that many of its pastors have salaries in six figures. Its state boards of missions pay most of its management employees in six figures. These boards and other southern baptist entities also pay their management types in six figures. None of these organizations (except perhaps one) publish these salaries. Nor will they provide this information when it is requested. In my view salaries for anyone who claims to be a servant in God’s Kingdom should be enought so that person’s wife is not forced to work to make ends meet. What could I say to Christ to justify a six figure salary, whether as a pastor of a large church or in management in any of the associated entities? Why should anyone be asked to help pay an exorbitant salary to anyone who will not divulge what he is being paid? In Matt. 20:24-28 Jesus makes it clear we must not serve Him using the value system of secular organizations. While Paul recognized and approved paying the laborer his due he was deeply concerned no one thought he himself was in it for the money. The Lord also said He did nothing in secret.(John 18:20) This should also be our mandate if we serve in
    His kingdom.

    It seems to me that Piper is pretty much on track and understands his resources are a trust, himself being a steward charged with putting money where ever God directs.

    • http://timfall.wordpress.com Tim

      Nice job bringing the light of Scripture to this, Jack. I remember a church starting up near Silicon valley long ago, when the place was full of promise but no one even knew what a dot com boom was, let alone when it might happen. The elders/founders asked one of their members to become the pastor, meaning he’d give up a tenured position as a professor at a major university.

      When they talked salary, he didn’t name a figure he’d like to earn. Instead, he told them he wanted pay that would allow him to provide for his family in the same way their own salaries provided for their families.

      I don’t know exactly how that worked out, but it sounded like a great conversation starter.


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