Yes, but.

There is certainly precedent in Scripture for paid gospel workers, and in some cases, monetary remuneration is prescribed. The ‘but’ of my original answer comes from the fact that at least a portion of many church’s personnel costs are not Scripturally commanded.

What does the Bible teach?

Let me tip my hand. Unless you’re a local church elder who is tasked with the responsibility to lead and/or labor in preaching and teaching in the church, your paycheck isn’t a Scriptural mandate. This doesn’t mean that a church staff is an unbiblical thing.

The original standard for paid gospel workers in the New Testament can be traced to Luke 10:1-12 or Matthew 10:5-15. As Jesus sent the disciples to minister, he told them not to bring money, but to freely receive resource (to meet their physical needs) from those to whom they minister, for “the laborer deserves his wages.” This is certainly a precedent for paid gospel workers. Paul even refers to this instance in 1 Corinthians 9:14, calling it a “command.” He says, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”

Who are those who “proclaim the gospel?” Very simply, all Christians are called to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel. But there is obviously a specific context in 1 Corinthians 9. In that direct context, Paul is talking about how he and Barnabas have the right (commanded by the Lord) to receive financial remuneration, but how they have not made use of that right. Similarly, Paul says in Galatians 6:6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” The verb translated “share good things,” which is a command in Galatians 6, means to “give a share or contribute.”[1] It’s the same word he uses in Philippians 4:15 to describe the financial provision given to him by the Philippian church. Finally, in 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul uses another financial term when he says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” The term for “honor” cannot be translated “smiles” or “hearty handshakes.” It means “honorarium, compensation, payment received for service.”[2]

My goal here is not to attempt a comprehensive NT study on paying gospel workers. However, outside of what I’ve just listed, there aren’t too many more texts that speak directly to paying a church staff. What do we notice about those texts that mention compensation for gospel workers? They have to do with primary leadership and gospel proclamation. A couple texts refer directly to Paul’s ministry, certainly the ministry of a primary leader who is planting churches, building elders, preaching, and evangelizing. The only straightforward prescriptive text is 1 Timothy 5:17, where Paul says that those who “rule” (lead) well, and especially those who labor in preaching and teaching, should be compensated.

I also want to recognize that when the last sentence was dotted in the NT, the Church was still much more movement than institution, though it certainly was both.[3] As Jesus continues to keep his promise to build his Church through each generation and cultural context, how the why is accomplished has adapted. But not every adaptation has been biblical or helpful. I come back to my original contention—outside of the eldership role of overseeing a church through leading the primary shepherding and management of the body, I don’t think there is a clear prescription for paid gospel workers.

It is biblical to pay a church staff. But those paid workers must be employed in the service of gospel proclamation. This doesn’t mean that every paid gospel worker will be a 1 Timothy 5:17 elder, leading and laboring in preaching and teaching. But the other paid gospel workers in a given context must be equipped and empowered to either help carry that burden (of primary leadership and ministry of the word) or to lighten the load for those carrying that burden.

Is it biblical to pay a church staff? Yes, but…every paid church staff member must be employed in a biblically valid role. Click To Tweet Is it biblical to pay a church staff? Yes, but…every paid church staff member must be employed in a biblically valid role. All biblical valid roles have a single purpose in the local church. That is the subject of part 2.

[1] BDAG, Κοινωνείτω

[2] Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon, τιμῆς

[3] Tim Keller does a great ‘movement/institution’ examination in chapter 27 of Center Church.