Eagles for Chicken Feed


Dan Reiland made a unique statement recently. He said, “The days of hiring an eagle for chicken feed are over.” Before you turn me off, this is not all about money. It’s about an attitude. Up front, let me say the involvement in a local church – or any other ministerial function – is the will of God – the will of God – the will of God. However, having said that, the Bible does say, “The laborer is worthy of his hire…” It says, “Those who labor in the Word are worthy of double honor…” In the original it says ‘honorarium’- it’s talking about money.

One of the greatest outward pressures I see in the ministry today is financial pressure. In addition to all of the spiritual conflict within a church – attempting to reach out and win new ones, there is constantly this nagging claw that wreaks in the mind about present finances and the future of the man and his family. Anytime a man steps out and declares God has called him into a full-time vocational Christian service, the devil paints a special target on his shield. I have seen times when the bull’s eye was money. What can we do to assist in at least lessening this pressure?

John Maxwell said several years ago, “You will pay the price one way or another. It is much wiser to pay the price up front.” That advice is good for both preacher and laity. Before a man enters the ministry he should come to grips with the fact that he has not entered the most lucrative financial field in the world. If you are called of God, that’s it.

Old Brother Dexter Rushing used to tell us young preachers, “Don’t ever worry about money. God will see that you get what you are worth.” Good medicine, but tough to take. Pastors and other ministers should be wise stewards. They should be good managers. The parable of the steward is especially applicable to men of the cloth.

Some time ago a professional grouch had this to say about his pastor. He said, “I go to church every Sunday. I’ve gone for thirty years. I’ve heard something like 3,000 sermons but for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them that any of my pastors preached. So I guess I’m wasting my time and my money. The pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons to me.” This observation created quite a controversy. Someone retorted back to the complainant in a unique way. He said, “I’ve been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife’s cooked about 32,000 meals but for the life of me I can’t recall the entire menu of a single one of them. But I know this, they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals I’d be physically dead today. Likewise, if I’d not gone to church for nourishment I’d be spiritually dead today.” So, just remember, we all have down times. There are even personality conflicts between the parson and the pew. When you are down to nothing. God is up to something. Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible. Thank God for our physical and spiritual nourishment.

My grandmother used to say, “There are some people that can throw more out the back door with a teaspoon than you could bring in the front door with a wheel barrow.” Some men, yes, even preachers, are not good managers. In that case, you need a good financial covering by someone who is – who will assist you.

Having said that, after twenty-five years as District Superintendent, I have never had a church board that wanted to devise a way to give a preacher/pastor more money during a pastoral transition. Many times, though, I have had them want to talk about how they could cut him so that as they say, “There will be more for the church.” I can honestly say that after well over 50 years in the ministry, I could count on one hand the pastors/preachers that I thought took undue advantage of their position or their church to line their own coffers. Without exception, I have seen these men meet not the judgement of a church board but the judgement of God. Ultimately, all of us will answer to Him. That’s the supreme court. He’ll not say, “Well done…” if we don’t do well. God doesn’t lie.

Back to another however – consider this: There are few other jobs on earth where a man is literally on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It could be the middle of the night, the middle of meal, or the middle of a vacation – and some dire need or tragedy will cause them to interrupt whatever they are doing and rush as a good shepherd to assist the flock. That’s the way it should be. I can remember several years ago returning home from a General Conference three times for three different funerals. It was my responsibility. But few other vocations require that type of dedication.

For church image sake, if nothing else, congregations want the pastor and his family to dress nice, drive a decent car, live in a decent home, be able to respond to community needs, be visible at community functions, be well-read (books cost money!), and, on top of all of that – please everybody. Only in a calling will a man do for nothing what he wouldn’t otherwise do for anything.

Think of this. It could be that God is playing catch-up. Maybe at some previous place and time this man had sacrificed greatly financially. Now the Lord has moved him to a new charge and is blessing him because of past sacrifice. If he has chosen your congregation to especially bless this faithful servant who has been loyal through the years, why complain? The Bible teaches, “Don’t ever judge another man’s servant…” The church belongs to His Majesty, the Lord Jesus Christ. If He transfers from one position to another and in the transfer grants a performance raise, praise Him for it!

I really don’t understand. A friend can open a grocery store on the corner and do well. Everybody says, “Let’s keep going there to help him.” A man gets a promotion on a job and is able to upgrade his home. The family and all concerned rejoice in his good fortune. The only one I ever heard anybody say made too much money was the preacher. All others were lauded for their expertise if their funds were earned honestly.

I thought I needed to tell you that eagles have become expensive. I’ve told more than one church board and church, “If you are just interested in a hireling, I can probably get you someone who is just beginning who will preach for virtually nothing and you can pretty well frighten him in his immaturity and continue to do as you please.” No, they don’t ever want that. It seems they have a caviar appetite with a cracker mentality.

Let me close by saying the object of this article is obvious. You will get what you pay for. Be as generous as you possibly can. That’s all God asks. You cannot do anymore than you can do – but you can do what you can do. That’s deep, isn’t it? You will find an eagle is worth the investment.