Why should we have one pastor (or more) who is paid while the rest of the elders are volunteers?
That’s a question I have contemplated a lot; and it is one I had to wrestle with since – well – I’m a paid pastor.
Ultimately, it boils down to the New Testament. The Apostle Paul makes it pretty plain:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. [1 Timothy 5:17]
In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. [1 Corinthians 9:14]
There is a pretty clear indication here that some elders are paid while others are not. But it does not work the way most American churches work, where we hire a guy and then expect him to rule well. This is what has produced this professional clergy that is often the plague of the church.
We, as a church, must seek out those who already rule well, already proclaim the gospel, already labor in preaching and teaching and recognize the calling of the Lord on their lives. These men (and they were only men in the New Testament) are worthy of receiving their living from the preaching of the gospel.
Thus, we see that there is a distinction between lay elders and pastors. As we draft the constitution of “The New Church” (we don’t know the name yet), we are keeping this distinction in mind and building in some structure we have not seen in many places, balancing the role of the elder who rules (we call him the Senior Pastor) and the other elders.