Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Monday, October 5, 2015

SBC Mega Church Compensation for Sr. Pastors - As Malachi Said in Mal 3:10, the Pastors are Robbing God, Not the Pew Sitters

In 2014 Lifeway published pastoral compensation data they collected from SBC churches, and Lifeway has provided a searchable database to access the data. Here is the link to the database search tool.

I decided to look at compensation for pastors of churches with an average attendance of 1000 or more. For a list of these churches, look Thom Rainer's blog. There are about 575 SBC churches that range between 1000 and 27,000 in weekly attendance. Perry Noble is #1 on the list.

In Lifeway's study, there were 139 churches of the 575 who reported their Senior Pastor's Salary/Housing and Benefits data. Not a bad sample size. According to Lifeway's data, average compensation for pastors whose churches are 1000 or higher is $142,575 in salary/housing, and $31,495 in benefits.

Those aren't typos. Yes, can you imagine, $31,495 in benefits? Let's assume average health insurance is about $10,000 annually, and the churches are paying all of it. That leaves nearly $20,000 MORE - life insurance, retirement, etc.

Now you know why your pastors are focused on "growth" of their churches. They know that growth in noses, means growth in their nickels.

I decided to slice this up a bit by making multiple quires on the Lifeway data. My results are below. The search engine won't give you data unless there are a minimum number of churches in the search criteria selected, so when I got above churches with average attendance, I had to do some conservative estimates based on a calculated "Salary/person attending", and those estimates are shaded, and I made the very, very conservative assumption that the largest of the churches are contributing only $60,000 to the senior pastors benefits, when we know it would be much higher based on the upward trend.

However, notice that most of the money is this set of data is in the churches between 1000 and 5000 in size. More churches of that size, and these guys are raking in a hefty compensation package.

That should make most SBC members angry. They listen to many of these pastors tell them they must fork over 10% of their gross income to avoid the cursings of God - yet these pastors are pulling down six-figures, and a huge benefit package on top of that, not to mention their extra perks they get from speaking gigs, book deals, holy land trips. Oh, and not to mention sweet jobs for family members, as nepotism is rampant in these larger SBC churches. Oh, and not to mention again, the free use of church media and advertising resources for their personal benefit - some so brazen as to actually use their church's TV air time to peddle their Holy Land trips and European cruises.

But look, the Watchdog has calmed down a bit after I've pointed out some of the dangers of fundamentalism over the past month or so. I do want to point to a silver lining inside of this data. Yes, I want to show the positive. This data presents an OPPORTUNITY.

This is where the IMB annual $21 million short-fall is. These pastors, and their sycophant church trustees have taken money that could go to missions. "That's wrought!!!" as the country-boy pew sitter with his southern drawl exclaims when he hears truth.

Just how much money would be available to go to the IMB to close the shortfall? Well, let's shoot for the $21 million needed to close the annual budget gap. That is a good target to shoot for, since most of the hot-shot mega church pastors or retired mega church pastors are the ones calling for pew sitters to give more money to close the gap!! These are the guys whose salaries and benefits are represented in these numbers, for crying out loud!

So here is the plan: if these pastors gave up 15% of their compensation and housing, and they agreed to cap their benefits package to a "measly" $18,000 per year, churches the size of 1000 or more alone could close the IMB gap.

Short version: hey pastors, we've already given the money for missions. YOU HAVE TAKEN IT FOR YOURSELVES.

If these pastors would agree to do this - I'm sorry, let me rephrase that: I mean if the trustees would decide to do this and let their pastor know God told them to do it - here is how much money would be saved: $21,000,000. Wouldn't affect the operations of the church, any building programs, other staffer' salaries.

It will ONLY affect the pastor.

I can already hear the arguments from the cuff-linked church trustees: "We might lose our pastor, he might go to another church if we cut tens of thousands of dollars from his package. He's our draw, he's our money-maker. People come to hear HIM. He is wanting more money, not less."

Really? I thought God "called" these men. Who calls them, God or money? Don't these guys want the rest of the world to hear about Jesus? Don't their wives  - helping them spend the cash - want people in Europe and Africa and South America to hear about Jesus?

So come on, messengers to the 2016 SBC Annual Meeting - pass a resolution calling on church trustees of large churches to scale back their pastors' compensation package.

The problem is not with the pew sitter. It is with the mega church pastors who are taking the money that the pew sitters are giving, and spending it on themselves.

And by the way, your seminarian won't tell you this: Malachi was not talking to people in the assembly - the "pew sitter" if you will -  about robbing God. No, actually he was talking to the priests. He was talking to the pastors. He was talking to YOUR pastor, perhaps. And your pastor KNOWS this, but figures you are too stupid to look it up yourself,

But don't take my word for it.

Don't argue with the blogger, brother.

"Take it up wit da book."


Anonymous said...

I once asked a mega-church pastor why God never calls a man from a 10,000 member church in Jacksonville to a 200 member church in Omaha. That was the last time I was ever afforded a meeting with the most holy and blessed pastor.

The Govteach said...

Anon- stole my thunder...:)
When I was in seminary, I had an older professor, who had retired and was teaching one-two courses for fun ponder the same thing..." Why do ministers never move down when 'God Calls' them to another church? It's always for more money...or to build up a resume?"

Anonymous said...

I used to attend one of those but saw the light many years ago. Of course the sheeple will never know the salaries of these guys since that is confidential. I said Bravo Sierra to this and I chose never to attend another church where there is not total transparency with finances. If salaries are not disclosed to the total congregation then probably the dude is making a killing off the peeps in the pews. Is is dishonest to say the least and they very well know it. I'll not have any part of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm always up to read about clergy compensation and am familiar with the LifeWay studies, done bi-annually.

Looks to me like compensation levels for megachurches (the number most often used is 2k in attendance) could be eye-popping but only for 'super-megas' above 6k in attendance. Most of the survey responses are not megachurches and the averages for 1-2k in attendance churches are about what I would expect. I think the small number of super-megas is where the outrageous compensation levels are found. These handful skew the averages.

This is self-reported data. I'd guess that if you had insiders send you actual financial statements from the super-megachurches the numbers would be higher. There are some pretty clever ways to get the megapastor paid without it showing on paper.

The hundreds, perhaps a few thousand, of SBC pastors who have large churches, 1-2k, supervise and manage a staff of a dozen or two and a budget of $2-4m or so don't look to be overpaid.

William T

Anonymous said...

Interesting data.

However, your gray boxes seem to imply that Perry Noble makes $800k. The database cited doesn't support this speculation.

Using the compensation study, you can search South Carolina and see that the highest paid pastor in his age range (36-45) makes $148,244 (including benefits).

It's possible (it seems likely) that NewSpring Church didn't participate in this compensation survey. I can't imagine he makes $148k.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

5:07: please read my explanation of the larger church data. I extrapolated the data since Lifeway won't give summary compensation figures with a small sample size. But no matter as I said, most of the money is in the 1000 to 5000 size churches due to larger numbers of churches in that range.

William, thanks for chiming in. Hope you're doing well. I guess this is somewhat objective but I do believe a pastor of a church in the 2000 member range and "managing" a budget of a couple million, is overpaid making $150k to $180k total compensation. That would mean his take is in 5% to 8% of the total take. Where does that exist, where a CEO is earning that high a percentage of the organizations total revenue??

William, maybe you can shed some light on why the large benefit number. I know hose numbers are not in line with average American worker. What gives?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why a pastor should be paid based on how many attend or how much revenue the church is generating. He is called to preach the word. Whether it be to 10 people or 10,000. The preparation and delivery and time required should be the same. Sure, if he has that many attendees, the church trustees will need to hire secretaries, and associate pastors to help him, but it shouldn't effect how much he is paid. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

8:00 What you are missing is many are called but few or chosen. People make mistakes by laboring under the false premise that the more you pay a man the better preacher he is. Unfortunately, after listening to all types of clergy all over the country that is untrue. I once knew a Baptist preacher who pastored and started several churches in Ky., In., Fl., and S.C. for 55 years and did not take a dime in salary for most of that time. Deacon boards sometimes have too many corp ex's who don't mind spending money which has not been their's and never will be either. Just a shame.

Anonymous said...

What I have often found fascinating is when reviewing county tax records online, you can research the property that many of these pastors live in under their names (many over the years have since tried hiding their property under LLC's, alias names, and other means to avoid scrutiny from the outside...). How is it, that many live in gated communities, million dollar homes, and isolate themselves from those they are suppose to have been called to preach to...the lost. Those on tv are worse still, when one sees that they live in homes that exceed $5 million to boot. One, TD Jakes is the 2nd largest water user in the state of Texas on a property that tax records estimate at over $25 mil. Of course, Jakes is not legit anyway. But again...and as pointed out by FBCJax, some of those he follows live in fairly large homes, $400,000+, placing them in the upper echelons of their congregants, probably in the top 5% versus the medium. Again as FBCJax argues, and a fair argument to boot, why are salaries hidden? Why are the "sheep" not informed and trusted in supporting those who lead them? Since, many false religions have taken the tax avoidance bait, all churches should not bow to the government, thus no tax exemptions. A church is a church. And then to have the ability to hide tax filings from the public is ingenious and doesn't bode well for the establishment of the Church. Good posting. And Lifeway only presented just a small sampling. My gut tells me the numbers are alot more unreasonable than what the current documents indicate.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is any question that IF a mega pastor's salary had to be voted on and approved by those giving their hard earned money to the "lord", many would be "called" to a different vocation. No where else can their "master of divinity" or PhD in "Old Testament history" or honorary doctorate pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

Total bull shit for any man o gawd to pull down these kind of salaries...

Anonymous said...

I pastor a church running between 150 and 200. My benefits are well over $20,000 simply for Health care.

Charles Page said...

What is Steve Gaines salary at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis?

Rory said...

What did Jesus mean b=y using the word "hierling"?
Why would a "man of God" need health insurance when Jesus promised healing was part of the gospel?

William Cook said...

Hi everyone...I enjoyed reading all the comments. But I want to ask a question. Where is the Bible does it say there is title of Senior Pastor? Can someone provide chapter and verse please?

Anonymous said...

John Wesley left behind a great model for other preachers, not that I promote the methodist church but kudos to this mans unselfish efforts. Because of his charitable nature he died poor, leaving as the result of his life's work 135,000 members and 541 itinerant preachers under the name "Methodist". It has been said that "when John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown" and the Methodist Church.

Anonymous said...

The average income for families in our area is $25,000. They are asked to keep giving more, more, more to the 501c. 3, who then use it to "fancy up" their buildings and grounds (lawns, landscaping, tarred parking lots, play equipment, digital signs, etc.), all the while the pew sitters need help paying rent, medical bills, providing food in many cases (yes, there are very poor people living amongst us whom the church systems are supposed to be caring for!!!!)

and the organized church is failing..........for we send them over to the government services for help because the churches are a failure. The early church did NOT ask Rome for government services to provide for the needy, the sick, the widows, and the poor; Jesus commanded US to do this.

And the Assembly of God pastor stood on the pulpit and proudly proclaimed, "My wife and I even tithe on our Life Insurance plan to this church!" And the wolf licks his chops.

The Govteach said...

Anon@ 9:07- these guys no longer live in the real world. They are so far removed from actual work, it isn't funny.....they think because the " say" they are called by " Gawd" they deserve the money, the health insurance, the 401k,'s pitiful....they could care less about the folks in the pews....except for when they miss their tithe....

Anonymous said...

I pastor a SBC church averaging 225, and my benefits are between 25 and 30 thousand, with most of that being health insurance. I like the general premise of the story, but insurance and retirement benefits should be allowed to be higher in your suggested scenario.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

OK, pastors, help me out. I really want to understand.

I have one pastor here posting that he pastors a church of 150 to 200 in size, and his benefits are well over $20,000, "mostly for health care". OK, like $12000 for health insurance? $8000 for retirement perhaps? I want to understand.

The last commentor above, maybe is the same pastor, but he averages 225 in his church, and bennies are $25 to $30k, most of it health insurance.

I don't get it. This doesn't add up.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Perry Noble comment. Noble has stated his personal pastor is Robert Morris. Morris' base salary is over $1.1 Million per year plus benefits. Robert's last Form 990 showed outside speaking fees of $328,000 for 2013. I would note that these salary amounts above do not include these 6 figure speaking fees and book royalties that are typically made off of books based on sermons that the Senior Pastor was already paid to deliver. Perry taking in over $800,000 before his book royalties and outside speaking gigs sounds about right for the crowd he runs with. I would also note that the SCBC kicked Noble out over claiming on Christmas that there are no Ten Commandments (and dropping the N-word during that same sermon didn't help I'm sure). Is it possible that Lifeway didn't have his current salary data due to the break with SCBC (which is the state not national Southern Baptist Conference)?

Chris Gilliam said...

I pastor a church of 125. most of my ministry has been about that range with two exceptions (one at 350 range and another at 700 range). Last time i checked heath insurance (2000) the cost was over 1300 per month. I was 33 and excellent health. This was the best rate I could find. In do no have health insurance. In 1992, I made more than i do now. I do think there is some real points you make. Just shedding some light as you asked.

rory said...

I would think if you trust God for health and healing, you have likely been in excellent health. We stepped out and away from health insurance in the 90's and have been blessed to see the Lord heal us numerous times. In 2004 we saw the error of money tithing and ended up leaving our church (which believed in tithing and many were often sick). After leaving in 2004, we have not been sick and our family the healthiest by far among extended family. Well, I was briefly sick a couple days but it was because I had sinned and was being chastised. Over the years, we have ministered freely, at our own expense, working most of the time and there were times when God supplied us through others He spoke to and put us on their heart to minister to us in giving.
One year our income was in the $9,000 range, yet we never lacked and we always were able to give to others. The greatest blessings have come to us by giving in secret to the needs of others, instead of dutiful putting in the offering plate. God has blessed our giving to others far beyond what we once did from the pew and platform.

Anonymous said...

The jig is up "pastors." People are starting to figure you guys out. You are nothing but self serving cons.

Anonymous said...

Pastors steal from churches more often than we think and sadly they often get away with it.

Anonymous said...

rory, you've been indoctrinated by the charismatic church that God wants you free of sickness. That's not in the Bible. It's not even reality...But once again, it is another twisting of scripture by the con men and women in the "church."
Being sick is just a part of living in this world.

Anonymous said...

We stopped tithing years ago, once I saw some of the cars these guys were rolling up in, once my children were kicked out of school because there was a discrepancy at our bank, once I found that Raul Reis makes over 800,000 per year, once I the scales were removed from my eyes.

I do donate to causes that are trustworthy and people are really in need.

God doesn't need my money to go to some greedy snakeoil salesman,

Preach the word in season and out.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous and the people commenting about a pastor's salary being too high are very hypocritical (guessing most are not even believers in Jesus Christ). The pastor spends 40hours preparing his message to touch peoples lives to help them with whatever life may be throwing at them.
When people are in trouble, the pastor is usually the first person they call; when their children get in trouble with the law, pastors are there to support and be a shoulder to cry on for mothers and fathers; fatherless children, the sick, the orphans, being a voice in the community when injustice occurs. The pastor is constantly on the road to away from his family to make sure his parishioners are prayed with.
Put a price on that!

Donald Smith said...

I love the comments, I'm a local Pastor in Texas and I might add a working Pastor I believe the scripture below, The Apostle Paul was a tent maker by trade...Judgement day is coming..
God help us to see clearly..

King James Bible
And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that most of these con-artists would be quick to highlight the example of the Apostle Paul when it comes to authority, "vision", "church planting", etc.

I find it interesting that you never hear Ronnie Floyd, Creflo Dollar, Robert Morris, or any other of these hustlers highlight Paul's quote from from 1 Cor. 9:12, "Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel."

What exactly is it that these hirelings making over half a million bucks are "enduring for the sake of the gospel"?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Here is what Anon 11:56 says:

"When people are in trouble, the pastor is usually the first person they call; when their children get in trouble with the law, pastors are there to support and be a shoulder to cry on for mothers and fathers; fatherless children, the sick, the orphans, being a voice in the community when injustice occurs. The pastor is constantly on the road to away from his family to make sure his parishioners are prayed with."

That is the biggest bunch of baloney. No, no, no, the pastor is NOT the first person people call when they are in trouble. I've blogged about this recently in detail. If people's children are in trouble, they absolutely do not call the pastor. They call professionals: doctors, counselors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Pastors can't do a thing. Ask anyone who has had troubled children.

If I get in trouble with the law, or need legal advice, a pastor can't help me.

If I'm sick, I go to the doctor.

Pastors can't do much.

They can pray with us. They can tell stories on Sunday. They can raise money for buildings.

But with real issues in life, we don't call "pastor" - they are powerless.

Anonymous said...

The author actually thinks a pastor of thousands of people should make $18,000 a year? Maybe God hasn't called the author to set those gentlemen's salaries because the author cannot think that large.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I read incorrectly about $18,000 reduction, not cap.