Friday, February 5, 2010

How Much is Enough?

I haven't blogged in a long time, but there was a news report that's getting some attention around here that has started me thinking. A news article aired yesterday about Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine. The report charges that he is taking advantage of his position at Fellowship by being too wealthy, using a private jet, and engaging in business transactions outside of Fellowship using the church's resources. See the video and read the article here.

I don't attend church at Fellowship and I don't know Ed Young or his heart for ministry. What I do know is that apparently thousands of people who worship there think the world of him. (And, by the way, I don't consider Fellowship the "competition" - we are all partners in ministering to the Grapevine community.) What I also know is that it's very difficult for pastors and other Christians to answer this question: How much is enough? Or the flipside: How much is too much? Who gets to say when the pastor's salary is too much? When his or her house is too big? When the church spends too much on travel? Who determines all of that?

I was doing a favor for a friend last night... delivering some gas money and dinner to a family in our church. As I drove away, I was contemplating this: What would it be like to have no food in the pantry, no gas in the car, and no money to fill either? I can't imagine it. Although I feel like I live "paycheck to paycheck" - I don't really. I usually have at least a little money in the bank when my next paycheck hits. I have a little in savings. I have enough to give a little away. I have some space on my credit cards. I doubt that I'd ever go without a meal because of lack of funds. So does that mean that the church pays me too much? Umm... in my opinion, no. I don't think working for the church has to mean that you must BECOME one of the poor. But what if the church paid me $200k? Would that be too much? Umm... probably. But honestly, I don't know where the line is between "enough" and "too much."

What if they paid the pastor $1 million? Imagine if you were the head of a large organization. You were on call almost 24-7. You had to travel a good part of the time. You have a lot of stress and a lot of people expecting perfection from you. THEN would your time and expertise be worth $1 million? How do you put a price on the call to ministry? There's no great formula, and yet we (the church that employees the pastor) have to come up with an amount that is fair compensation in return for what we expect from that pastor.

I don't know the answer to the "how much is enough" question, but I've pondered it a lot. I think we all have since we've been reading The Hole in Our Gospel. There is so much poverty in the world, we feel compelled to share our wealth. Even if it's just a little wealth. I would hope that all of us (not just pastors) would take a look at our level of compensation, our lifestyle, etc. and decide for ourselves how much is enough. Then use the rest to do good wherever we can. Is that pie-in-the-sky thinking? Sure it is. We live in America. Enough is never enough. But maybe it's worth the effort. Put some limits on our own "needs" and make a real difference for someone else. That's crazy talk. But lots of people are doing it.