What Is a Church Member’s Responsibility to the Pastor?



What is a church member’s responsibility toward his or her pastor(s)? This is a question that does not come up as often as perhaps it should. Our spiritual ancestors thought, spoke, and wrote a lot about these things. One such pastor was Samuel Jones, pastor of Lower Dublin Baptist Church (PA), from 1763-1814. In part of his treatise on the church he provides 15 responsibilities of a member to the pastor. For those attempting to carefully think through congregational life, this list provides a helpful framework for further study and consideration.

I especially appreciated the sense of fellowship and bearing of burdens together within the congregation. There is a solidarity in support among the church that is expressed in terms of prayer, suffering, honor, love, and finances.

  1. The members of churches owe all their duties in a way of obedience to the will of God revealed in his word.
  2. These are to be performed in love to our Lord Jesus Christ, John xiv. 15. who is the great prophet, priest, and king of his church, unto whom all power in heaven and earth is given, Matt. xxviii. 18. our law-giver, Is. xxxiii. 22. the head of his church, Eph. i. 22. and who is to be honoured, John v. 23. and obeyed in all things as God, over all, blessed for ever, Rom. ix. 5.
  3. All church members, therefore, are under the strictest obligations to do and observe whatsoever Christ has enjoined on them, in particular the duties they owe to their ministers.
  4. They ought to pray for them, that God would assist them in and bless their labours, Eph. vi. 19. Col. iv. 3. I Thes. v. 25. 2 Thes. iii. 1. Heb. xiii. 18. and that he would support them under all their trials and afflictions, 2 Thes. iii. 2.
  5. They ought to obey them in the exercise of every part of their official authority, according to the word, Heb. xiii. 17.
  6. They ought to treat them with respect and esteem, I Tim. v. 17. I Thes. v. 12, 13. Phil. ii. 29. Gal. iv. 15. 3 John 9, 10.
  7. They ought to stand by them in their trials, afflictions, and sufferings, 2 Tim. i. 15. iv. 16. I Cor. xvi. 10. I Tim. v. 19.
  8. They ought to contribute towards their maintenance, that they may apply themselves to the extensive duties of their office, Acts vi. 2, 4. See Confession of Faith, chap. xvii. ?10.
  9. Pastors of churches have a divine right to their support, if the church is able to give it without being oppressed, or so far as they are able, than which nothing is more manifest in the New Testament. “For the workman is worthy of his meat,” Matt. x. 10. Luke x. 7. “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” I Cor. ix. 11. “Do ye not know, that they who minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they who wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so has the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” I Cor. ix. 13, 14. “Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things,” Gal. vi. 6. See I Tim. v. 17, 18.
  10. These passages of holy writ are so unequivocal and express, that no one can evade their force.
  11. Mr. Hooker well observes, that “they, who will not pay their ministers, would not pay any one his due, could they refuse with the same temporal impunity.” Every one knows, that those, who will not do justice, farther than the law compels them, are destitute of an honest principle.
  12. Nothing but ignorance of his duty, or covetousness and want of principle, or both, can induce to neglect or refuse paying; and a covetous brother should be expelled from the church, and kept no company with, I Cor. v. 11.
  13. When a people neglect their duty in regard to the support of their minister, they are not only wilful neglecters of the divine law, but must otherwise be great losers, both as they forfeit a right to the divine blessing, as also because their minister will be less capable of, and prevented from, serving them to the same advantage, Gal. vi. 6, 7. 2 Cor. ix. 6-8.
  14. This support of the minister should not be done in the way of charity, or alms, but as a matter of right; and, if the people are able, it ought to exceed his bare necessity, that he may be able to be exemplary in acts of hospitality, I Tim. iii. 2.
  15. If any church and congregation are not able to give their minister a comfortable support, but are willing to do what they can towards it, it will perhaps be duty, at least very commendable, in the minister, to forego a part of his right, rather than leave them, and apply himself to some business to make up their deficiency, I Cor. ix.12.

Note: this is found in Polity, pp. 148-149