Is Tithing For Pastors?

In my reading through the Bible plan I stumbled across the following verses from Numbers 18: 25-26:

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.

So the people of God were to tithe. A tenth of everything was to go to God, given to the Levites. But then the Levites were to also give a tithe from those tithes! It was their income like everyone elses, and they were to give a tenth of that to God in the same way that any other average person was supposed to.il_fullxfull.328187965

I know that some of you will think that there is no connection, but it makes me think of pastors who think they do not need to tithe or give offerings to God. I believe the Bible makes it clear all the way through that God wants us to give at least a tenth of our income to Him and to His work. I as a Pastor have to also do the same with my income from the church. If there were ten tithing families and the pastor received an income that was the average of those tithing families, and if the pastor also tithed, then not only would you have the pastor’s income paid for but would already have some money for ministry. Any extra tithing families would then just increase the amount of ministry that your church could pay for.

But the real point here is, even the Levites were to tithe. Even the pastor should tithe. A pastor can’t say, “well I don’t get paid what I should get paid so I won’t tithe.” It doesn’t matter what we get paid, we need to show that we trust God to provide by tithing from our income. Some think, “I’m giving so much of my time to the church, I don’t need to tithe.” So what? It’s your job. Your time you are giving to the church has nothing to do with whether you tithe or not. Your tithe is over and above your normal service.

Tithing is a reminder to us pastors that we too want to honor God. We too trust that he can provide our needs even though we regularly give a large amount to the church. And as we tithe, it is an example to others. We can then preach on tithing with more boldness because we are doing what we are preaching about.

Do you tithe?

Are we in Danger of Chaining the Bible to the Pulpit Again?

I had the privilege of having four weeks of vacation. It wasn’t so much vacation as setting up one daughter in Vancouver for Vancouver Film School and the other daughter in Toronto at Tyndale University. One of the neat opportunities was to take in four different churches, and it was an eye-opener to me.

C1900PULPITMINIATUREI’m wondering if we are in danger of “chaining the Bible to the pulpit” again. When the Bible was first printed, the average person couldn’t afford one, so there was one in the church, which only the clergy had access to. Only the clergy studied it. Only the clergy explained it to the people. I’m wondering if we are coming back to this system today.

In three out of four churches I felt like they didn’t really preach the Bible. Walking across the parking lot and into the service carrying my Bible – I actually felt a little embarrassed to be carrying my Bible. I’m a pastor. I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but even walking in there seemed to be a culture that no one else was carrying a Bible. Only in the fourth church did we see others opening their Bibles and following along with the sermon.

In one church the pastor preached from his iPad, he did not open up a Bible and preach from it. It wasn’t that he had bad things to say, but they didn’t really come across as being “God’s Word” for the people. He was just a great charismatic preacher, with not a whole lot of content.

In another church, the text of the morning was read during the singing, with the whole text up on the screen. Later when the pastor begin his sermon, the first slide told us they were doing the “Stories Jesus told” – parables. Well, the text that had been read earlier was a parable – I can’t even remember which one. The preacher referred to it but never read it in the sermon. He talked about how the parable was about Grace and then proceeded to preach on Grace – not on the parable. He never once asked people to open their Bibles – or even to open it on their phones. He quoted Paul a couple of times but didn’t tell us where it was from. It was on the screen so you could follow along, but he just said: “As Paul says, …” and then quoted. He also quoted Dallas Willard in the same way. And I was left with the feeling that Jesus and Paul and Dallas Willard all have equal authority in what they are saying to the topic of Grace.

In the fourth church, the pastor opened the Bible, he held the Bible in his hand as he preached. And he walked through the passage in Acts he was preaching on. Occasionally the verses he read were on the screen, but he asked people to look in their Bibles – unlike the “iPad pastor” who only read the scripture from the screen.

All of this to say, I’m concerned. If people are not encouraged to open their Bibles in church, will they at home? And if people don’t see that you are preaching Scripture and let Scripture speak as God’s authoritative Word to the People of God, then the authority rests in the hands of the preacher like the clergy of the chained Bible.

Our churches need to see that we are preaching the Word of God. And they need to be clear that nothing else speaks with equal authority. Quoting from others is fine, but people need to understand when it is the Word of God speaking. Preachers – we need to open Scripture for people in such a way that they are hungry to read more and so that they see they can actually understand and apply it to their lives personally.

Ask your congregation to open their Bibles and read along. Take them back to the passage again and again as you walk through it. Some read on their phone – but again – are they understanding that this is the Word of God – not just something else they can find on Google? I still like for people to read from a Bible because just opening the Bible to a certain passage physically reminds you – oh, this is New Testament, or This comes after the Gospels, or this is the last book of the Bible. There are aspects of Bible understanding that will not be as evident when people are looking at their 2 inch screen.

The Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Let’s make sure we treat it as such and make that clear to our people. And let’s make sure we do our best to make them thirsty to read more.

Invite Your Congregation into Your Sermon Planning

I love preaching. I enjoy the creative process of building a sermon, but I especially like preaching a sermon that connects with me first, and then with the congregation.

And then I recognized that one of the men in our church was really interested in learning how to teach better. He is leading our men’s ministry and has a desire to teach the men at our monthly men’s breakfasts. So I invited him to help me in the preparation of my next sermon series. We met together for a couple of long afternoons, working through a series I called Rethinking the Big Ten. We were looking at the Ten Commandments and asking how they did or did not apply to us today in light of what Jesus and the New Testament had to say about them.

I really enjoyed this time. It gave me an opportunity to pass on some of the tools of Bible Study and sermon prep that I generally use. The end result was that he even preached two of the sermons for me. What a win! I had the privilege of learning along with another person who was seeing things in the text that I hadn’t seen, and I now have someone who is willing to preach for me occasionally! That is a great asset, especially in a small church where I’m expected to do most of the preaching. And I think the people appreciated hearing one of their own, a voice different from their pastor.

Now I’m on to round two. Except this time I have 3 new people at the sermon preparation table.  Five of us are working through preparing a sermon series on the Holy Spirit. The first guy is there, along with two of my elders and one of their wives. The elders had been in a study on the Holy Spirit and were suggesting I preach some sermon on it, so I invited them in.

It gets a little more difficult when you have that many voices at the table, but the first meeting went quite well. They seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to speak into the sermon series. I’m not sure if we’ll get a new preacher out of this group, but it gives me an opportunity to hear where some of the people in the pew are at regarding the topic and texts I’ll be preaching on. That is a valuable experience.

I don’t think I’ll want to do this every time, and don’t think I’d want the group any bigger, but it’s been a neat experience to have a few others involved in the development of a new sermon series.

It may be something you would like to try. After all, those of us in small places could usually use another preacher in the church who can preach when we can’t or when we have had a busy week with other duties. Try it!

My Sermon Prep Takes Months

One pastor said it took him about 30 hours each week to prepare a sermon. Another pastor thought he could do it in about 6-8 hours. For me, it takes months. Let me explain.

Like any pastor in a small church, I wear many hats. And I don’t have a full time secretary to “protect” my study time. That means I can’t guarantee that every week will allow me large periods of uninterrupted study time. I also like to take time to think on a text before I preach it. So here is how I handle this.

I usually take a day or two in the summer to plan the preaching schedule for the year. I prefer preaching through a book of the Bible, though I usually do plan in a topical series or two. I try to get the general theme and purpose of the book I’ll be preaching out of. I take time to figure out how the book breaks down to preaching sections and even try to get the main theme or point of each preaching text. Then I slot these into my calendar. When I preach topical, I still want each sermon to be based on one key text, so I try to get those figured out and slotted on the calendar. I might work through the fall sermons even a bit more than the ones from January and on as I will try to take another day later on to flesh those out.

When I come to the beginning of the series, I again take some extended time to work on the whole book. I want to be clear on the main theme and how that fits each of the preaching sections. At this point I may even adjust some of the passages depending on how things fit with the theme and the calendar. I like to give people a good introduction so they know where we are going as we journey through the next sermon series.

I take Mondays off, so Tuesday is the start of my weekly sermon planning.

-Tuesday: research the text, check out commentaries, even begin thinking of possible illustrations, keep eyes open for illustrations that come up in the news or in my reading, etc.

-Wednesday: work through the material again in order to come up with the main “big idea”, develop a preaching outline

-Thursday: begin developing the sermon, I generally write out the whole sermon.

-Friday: finish up the sermon, build my power point presentation as I generally like to use it because I know how much of a visual person I am.

-Saturday: all through the process, including Saturday, the sermon is “percolating” in my mind.

-Sunday: I’m up and at the church early so I can preach the sermon out loud, it’s interesting how different things sounds sometimes when I preach it out loud compared to reading it on paper. This is when I make any final adjustments and pray over the sermon and the service.

And then, because it’s been on my mind all week, I’m able to leave my notes from time to time and not just read them. I know my content very well. In this way I work on the sermon a little at a time and can generally fit it around all the other meetings and interruptions that come up.

And so, my sermon planning actually occurs over months, not just the week before that Sunday.

Hope your sermon planning goes well!