By Bishop Dave Chikosi
Let me be very clear: I am not here to defend the practices and procedures of any church. Nor am I here as a spokesman for any ministry other than the one I belong to. (And btw I tend not to share precious details of my calling with persons of doubtful spiritual perception or affinity. Jesus warned us to not “cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and tear you” – Matt 7:6).
But what prompted me to chime in on this debate was the brazen attempt by Mr Brilliant Pongo to misuse scripture to attack pastors he disagrees with. I couldn’t stand by and watch this charade go by unchallenged. Remember this is how Adam got us all into trouble. He stood idly by and said nothing as the serpent played footsie with the Truth.
Allow me reader, to refresh your memory concerning what is at the root of this debate. The main bone of contention between Mr Pongo and myself is the question of how Gospel ministers should be remunerated/compensated/paid.
Mr Pongo argues that (and I quote): “What must be happening is that these preachers are to be looked after by those with means, as the word says in (Mark 10) vs. 11 ‘and into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away.’ ”
I have rebutted that and showed how this line of reasoning is based on a careless reading of scripture. It turns out Mr Pongo was in fact blissfully unaware that these instructions were later reversed by our Lord in Luke 22. So much for the diligent study of the most important Book in the universe!
But the sloppy handling of God’s Word did not stop there. Mr Pongo later lambasted me for making 2 Cor 9:6-8 a “dollars” passage. Again, and very carelessly, he failed to read the whole of 2 Cor 9, which is the proper context of that passage. For a trained journalist, this kind of sloppiness is inexcusable. How do you fail to read a context that consists of no more than 15 verses? Duh!
But wait! The coup de grace was yet to come. Mr Pongo opined: “We also learn a very important lesson in the book of Isaiah that we should not seek payment in the ministry (Isa. 45: 13).” For real? This is a breathtaking display of exegetical gymnastics. How do you derive that “very important lesson” from this verse?
That verse has absolutely nothing to with seeking payment in ministry. It’s talking about Cyrus a pagan king whom God would use to rebuild Jerusalem. But this is the sort of carelessness that we have come to expect from Mr Pongo. Hopefully when he writes his political pieces he is factually more accurate than this.
So how should Gospel ministers get paid? Most Protestant churches (I think it’s true of Catholics as well) pay their pastors out of the tithes and offerings received at their church services. I don’t think there is any controversy there. I am sure that is how Mr Pongo’s pastor, if he has one, is paid (May be he can tell us when he got saved and where he goes to church).
But what people often are not aware of is that there are other streams of income available to the pastor. As a matter of fact, these other streams of income can be more significant to the minister than the regular monthly salary, usually decided by the Church Bored (excuse me – I meant Church Board).
Some of these Church Boards can be as tight-fisted as Mr Pongo when it comes to rewarding their pastor. A lot of them have the “we’ll-keep-the-pastor-poor-to-keep-him-humble” philosophy. But that approach is very damaging to the ministry as it undercuts the pastor’s ability to support his family. This in turn has negative repercussions on the attitude that a PK (Preacher’s Kid) grows up with towards the church.
As a PK myself, I’ve seen this sort of thing too often. Growing up in the church, my own personal view is that many pastors are undercompensated. This has caused a lot of hardships on the part of the minister’s family. In many cases the pastor has been left with no option but to take up what Mr Pongo called “gainful employment.” In Mr Pongo’s pastoral
theology, a man cannot be full time in the ministry and just live by the Gospel. He must also get a job. “What stops you from getting gainful employment like everybody else?” Mr Pongo asks in his latest article.
But its questions like these that reveal the depth of his lack of Bible knowledge where ministry is concerned. Mr Pongo doesn’t seem to be aware that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14). Notice that Paul says “the Lord has commanded” it.
So here we have Mr Brilliant Pongo with his own brilliant command – the exact polar opposite of what the Lord commanded. So who are we then to follow – Jesus or Pongo? Are we preachers supposed to ignore what our Lord commanded in favor of the theories of my journalist friend? Where will his theories lead us?
The Apostle Paul was very aware of the need for a church to compensate its pastors. This is why he gave Timothy these instructions: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of DOUBLE honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5: 17-18).
And then he quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4, saying “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.” He also quotes in the same passage from the saying of Jesus recorded in Luke 10:7: “The worker deserves his wages.”
Mr Pongo wants pastors to be paid, not according to the “double honor” rule, but according to prevailing poverty-level wages. He wants the pastor to live, not in a nice house, but in a hovel. He wants the man of God riding a bicycle or scooter and not a nice car. And God forbid that the pastor’s kids wear nice clothes. That would be too worldly.
And if the minister dare ask for a raise, Mr Pongo would simply read them the riot act: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and body than raiment?” (Matt 6).
But while he’s reading this he himself is nicely ensconced in a beautiful home in England, drives a smart car and is well-groomed from the bottom of his shoes to the tip of his beard! If Mr Pongo doesn’t believe in prosperity, here is my challenge to him: quit your job sir, give away all your physical assets and material goods and go live under London Bridge.
Will he do it? No he wont. He loves his comfortable English life too much. But why then is it wrong for pastors to also aspire for a better and more comfortable life? What hypocrisy and double standards!
But what Mr Pongo fails to notice in the Matthew 6 passage he quotes is the last part that says: “and all these THINGS shall be added unto you.” Things added? And here I thought God is into the subtraction business! Mr Pongo’s version of the Gospel says God wants to subtract, not add, things to you.
Its likely that he has never come across Mark 11:22-23 where Jesus says: “What THINGS soever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them and you shall have them” (Mark 11:22-24). Them what? Them THINGS! You mean God wants us to have THINGS? Yes.
The Apostle Peter echoes the same thought when he says: “God’s divine power has granted to us all THINGS that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). The Apostle Paul also chimes in and says:
All THINGS are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God (1 Cor 3:22-23)
Are you beginning to get the picture? The truth of the Bible is this: God is not against you having things. He’s against things having you. Big difference! You cannot serve God AND mammon, but you should serve God WITH mammon. (And mammon is not money per se. Mammon is money deified and regarded as an object of worship).
But let’s go back to the possibility of the pastor having multiple streams of ministry income. If you are going to criticize a minister’s affluence, make sure you have your facts correct about his sources of income. Don’t assume that because he has stuff, he must be ripping people off.
In today’s ministry landscape, pastors do not have to just depend on a regular monthly salary set by the Board. There are ministry products (books, CDs and DVDs) honorariums, direct gifts from congregants and well-wishers etc that can constitute very significant income streams.
As a matter of fact, we know that the pastor of the largest church in America, Joel Osteen, does not even draw a salary from his church. Income from various ministry products is more than enough to enable him and his family to live the life
of their dreams. The same is true for Rick Warren, author of the best-selling “Purpose Driven Life” book that has sold over 30 million copies. He says that he will never need to get a pay check from his church. I could cite about a dozen other pastors like this but I think you get the point.
And so if you are going to attack someone for being rich off of poor people, back it up with evidence to show the veracity of your allegations. That is what good journalists do. They don’t just make wild accusations. A good journalist will back up his accusations with facts and figures.
If you are not privy to all the facts surrounding how a preacher earns his income, then just zip it and wait until you do. Otherwise you are just a hater motivated by that green-eyed monster called jealousy and risk losing credibility.
Of course where the facts and figures point to clear wrongdoing, I’m all for the offending party being called to account. But until then, wild and baseless finger-pointing serves no purpose except to reveal the smallness of the minds of those engaged in such futile exercises. Like Jesus said to John: mind your own business.
Mr Pongo has taken it upon himself to raise his tongue against ministers who undoubtedly God is using. He is aware of the “touch not mine anointed” admonition of scripture, but he somehow thinks it doesn’t apply to him. He thinks its a device to stifle criticism.
Let me tell you something sir: in my over 30 years of ministry I have not seen a man or woman succeed in life who actively trashes something that God has anointed. Even Balaam, the prophet-turned-sorcerer knew it when he said: “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?” (Numbers 22:8).
It is interesting that young David, knowing fully well that he had been anointed to succeed demon-possessed King Saul (who was afflicted by an evil spirit), still refused to kill the king when he had the perfect opportunity to do so. His reason? “Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Sam 26:9).
And when a young man finally killed Saul, thinking he was doing David a favor, David’s reaction was very interesting:
David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (2 Sam 1:14-15)
It will be very interesting to watch the trajectory of your life Mr Pongo, six, twelve or eighteen months from now. It is no small thing to curse what God has blessed. I am praying for you for a change of heart. Muri kupinda nemoto mudziva mukoma. Anokuvara ndiwe.
Bishop Dave Chikosi is founder, Bishop and senior Pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship International Churches.