Church Goes To Court to Stop Installation of New “Over Paid” Pastor

Orginally published on Monday, April 27, 2009 at 7:07 AM
by Todd Rhoades

OK... so your church hires a new pastor and decides to pay him $600k a year. Granted, your a huge, historical church in a metro area. Your new pastor will receive an annual salary base of $250k per year, plus a housing allowance of $11,500 per month; pension and life insurance benefits; entertainment, travel and “professional development” expenses; an equity allowance for the future purchase of a home; money for a full-time maid; and private school tuition for his 3-year-old daughter. What in the world do you do? People in this large NYC church decided they had only one alternative: court.

More from the New York Times article:

Rick Stone, a longtime parishioner who served as pro bono lawyer for the petitioners, said Dr. Braxton’s package was roughly twice what his predecessor received.

“This is a huge amount of money to be paying at a time of such economic crisis,” said Diana Solomon-Glover, a 30-year parishioner, a member of the choir, and one of the plaintiffs. “But equally of concern is Dr. Braxton’s style of governance, which is highly secretive, and the direction he has been taking the church, toward a more fundamentalist brand of religion.”

Through a spokesman, Dr. Braxton declined to be interviewed.

Dr. Billy E. Jones, chairman of the Riverside Church Council, the executive board of congregants, said in a statement that the new pastor’s compensation was “in line with other religious leaders in Manhattan who minister to congregations of a similar size and scope.” Dr. Jones said the board had disclosed details of the pay package to the full congregation, but the dissidents dispute that.

Dr. Jones also said that Dr. Braxton was not given money for a full-time maid, and that the “private school tuition” amounted to the pastor’s daughter attending the church’s day school tuition free.

Experts on American churches said in interviews that Dr. Braxton’s compensation was well above average among pastors nationwide, but was within the range of packages for senior pastors of megachurches and what are known as mainline “tall steeple” churches in major cities.

Here’s the whole article...

QUESTION:  What’s the solution here… or rather… IS there a solution here?


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  There are 21 Comments:

  • Posted by

    Very sad....I’m trying to understand the expense for entertainment.  I think the solution is for Dr. Braxton to take his salary, pension, benefits and housing and leave it at that.  I realize the larger the congregation, the larger the responsibility, but it almost sounds like he’s bleeding the congregation dry.  In this economic climate, who would have thought pastors would be some of those whose salary would have to come into question just like corporate CEOs?

  • Posted by Ed Snyder

    I argue that a larger congregation does not equal larger responsibilities… but different responsibilities. The larger the congregation the more staff you are able to hire and delegate to. Personally, I think the Mormons have it right where local leader serve out of love and passion. How many pastors would drop out of ministry if they didn’t get their “comp package.” Maybe we should look at the Pauline model… bivocational ministry.

  • Posted by Don Johnson

    Sadly, Ed, while a bi-vocational preacher might be an option today, a bi-vo pastor may not. Far too many churches today place 24-hour expectations on their pastors. Even if there are enough staff or laity to do things like home and hospital visitations, in some cultures, it has to be the pastor or its no good. To expect a pastor to support his family on a “normal” full-time income, then expect him to participate and officiate in so many other areas at the expense of his health and his family’s well-being just can’t happen in our complex culture. I really wish it were different, as I am seeking to minister myself, but I just don’t see how to make that work with the incredible expectations of so many today.

  • Posted by

    Aren’t we missing something?  The salary is exorbitant and probably out of line in some areas.  However, the bigger problem is a church in court.  Paul specifically told Christians not to take another Christian to court.  God wants Christians to work those things out among the saints rather than let the ungodly decide. 

    The pay package is definitely an issue here..but the bigger issue is Christians working things out the way God told us in scripture.

  • Posted by Jesse

    I fail to see how he needs to make that much, I think Jesus’ words to the Pharisee’s, though in a different context, can still apply to the issue of overpaid pastors.  “You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry,” “You love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplace” (in other words, preferred treatment and exaltation).  I am on staff as minister of worship at a small church and am thankful for what I make, especially given the financial climate.  I teach music lessons to supplement income, and my wife still has to work (and gets paid quite a bit more than me too).  But this is where God has called us, and if the church can help to make it so one day my wife does not have to work full-time, great, but otherwise God provides in other ways, not to mention we have the option of decreasing our standard of living.
    On the flip side I agree that bi-vocational ministry is not usually healthy for a pastor’s family or a pastor, it can be too much.  Pastor’s ought to be paid enough to live in their area of ministry and support their needs and their families.
    However, this congregation is neglecting Paul’s clear teaching about not bringing unbelieving courts into church disputes.  Plus, if money is the church’s and pastor’s biggest concern right now, I think the question of who is master in this situation? ought to be asked.

  • Posted by

    All valid points…

    Court besmirches the church’s reputation in a larger context than their local issues. We don’t have all the facts, but prayer does not appear to be an avenue selected prior to legal action.

    As a bi-vocational pastor and church planter, I can tell you from experience it is not preferred. Those who recommend this life have never lived it. Naturally grace has much to do with any ministry, but working full time AND pastoring is not an effective long term strategy to grow any church.

    The problem with compensation is that people make judgments based on their own circumstances. Where I live it is difficult to make ends meet on less than 100K. This sounds absurd even to write, but when you add up the mortgage, taxes, food costs, more taxes, water, sewer, insurance, utilities in this region...etc., you cannot even start your car in the morning until you are committed to 60K in fixed expenses. To folks in S.C., this might sound ridiculous, because they do not have the same dynamics.

    In my view, compensation needs to be “fair and balanced.” A pastor should submit his/her budget with supporting documentation to some governing body or advisory board. Salary and benefits should be awarded according to this budget with 15% added to allow for unforeseen expenses. Then a small group in leadership should sign off on it all. In this way, the issue is settled and the church can be about reaching lost people.

  • Posted by

    Forget this specific case for a moment, is it really true that $600k is the average salary for the Pastor of a megachurch? 

    I’m all for financially honoring and taking care of the Lord’s servant as a general principle, but is this really necessary?  Even if affordable for those churches, is this the best, most God-glorifying investment of His resources? 

    Consider, through Gospel for Asia, $3,500 a year will fully finance an indigent missionary.  For the same money, these churches could instead significantly honor their pastors with a significant compensation of, say, $100-150K AND about 140 missionaries to the billions of lost in Asia.

  • Posted by Brian L.

    Re the bi-vo thing:

    Paul was not a pastor - he was a church-planter/missionary, and he was not always bi-vo.  There were times when he was able to focus completely on the ministry at hand because other churches were supporting his ministry.  And he also mentioned that it was best if ministers be paid enough to concentrate on their ministry rather than have to rely on an outside income.

    I’ve been a bi-vo pastor for 10 years, and would jump at the chance to be able to focus like this!

  • Posted by

    I think everyone is missing something: never heard of this before but this church is “Christian/Muslim” congregation. Read the bulletin:


  • Posted by

    Having been at several “mega” type churches (not in number but structured to that end) I had strong reservations in regards to multi-million budgets and the mindset that Sunday morning was the best way to evangelize and week nights over Velvet Elvis (and such) is the best way to grow young Christians.

    The Christian/ Muslim thing doesn’t surprise me. Many suburban churches are Christian/Hindu !!! They do “Christian” Yoga which is non-sense. Yoga postiions are meant to be prayers to Hindu gods. Even many Hindu’s are offended by this.

  • Posted by

    Hey guys...I was wondering how is it any of our buisness what that church wants to do in paying that pastor...it seems like those upset are just jealous...not sure but that is how it sounds!  I think if most pastors were offered this and felt called to the church...they would be excited!  I could see the uproar if this is the sallary he gave himself but that is what they offered and after what has happened...court...newspaper...embarassment...he has already earned that money!  Furthermore...it sounds as though the people are much more upset that this pastor wants to evangelize the area rather than just preach about injustice!

  • Posted by Carol

    Great observations so far; however, am I missing something here?? Why did they bring him in as a candidate with those kinds of compensation requirements?

  • Posted by

    By the way...if I had to wear that get up that he has on every week and I my picture taken in it...they would have to pay me good too!

  • Posted by

    When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers!
    (1 Corinthians 6:1-8 ESV)

  • Posted by

    I am curious about how the compensation package was developed and approved.  If there was a committee that developed it and presented it in a business meeting and approved there, then that should be the end of the discussion.  If it was left to a board which was given that authority by church business meeting action, then the dissidents could have appealed it per their by-law, drop it, or leave.  I am othered by the “secretive” nature.  Church business should be done with transparency to prevent these items erupting into a fight.  Before any pastor is considered, the package should be finalized.  It is not the amount that bothers me...it is how this whole process was carried out.  I have served on two pastor search committees.  We developed a job description and a compensation package that was approved long before we interviewed our first candidate.

  • Posted by

    From the Daily News (NY Local):

    “In a sermon titled ‘Fear Not,’ Braxton vowed his priority would be ‘the sacred business of moving mountains.’

    “Braxton, the married father of a young daughter, launched into his list of lofty goals, including promoting condoms to curb AIDS in Africa, immigration reform and gay marriage.”

    You’ll notice how the preaching of the Gospel, the saving of souls, and the glorifying of God is not on the list of his goals.  Sorry, but this just doesn’t sound right, even excluding the massive salary.


  • Posted by

    Yet another story that makes Christians look like the anithesis of common sense.  If you don’t like how your church is spending your money then stop giving them your money.  How much more simple can it get?

  • Posted by


    Be careful in your criticism because you may offend someone in here by using the Scriptures to discern error and false teaching.  Heaven forbid we ever scrutinize anything that calls itself “Christian” by using the Scriptures.

  • Posted by

    Dan hit the nail on the head.  Another thing is I have my doubts as to whether this man disagrees with such materialism.  And I just read the post by CS--not that I know completely what this pastor stands for, but it’s the very same things as this that adds to the apostacy of the church. And people wonder why most churches have rendered themselves ineffective and why God isn’t moving in their midst.  It’s because He’s already moved out.  You cut off the Head and there is no life.

  • Posted by Mark e

    I think his salary is the least of the churches problems…

    “On Sunday, April 19th, Ann Holmes Redding will be our guest preacher in morning worship. Dr. Redding, an Episcopal priest from Seattle, was recently defrocked by the Episcopal Church after announcing in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim.”

  • Posted by

    I agree whole-heartedly with what CS said. This “social gospel” crap is NOT the Gospel at all. Yes, Jesus did a lot of “social” things but His purpose was to seek and to save that which was lost. This “feel good” social gospel isn’t about the truth. It’s no different than wordly altruism by many who aren’t even believers. Yes, help the poor, feed the hungry, pray for the sick, but don’t push aside the REAL truth of the Gospel in the process. We should be doing the social things BECAUSE OF the Gospel; not in place of it.

    Surely, will Jesus find faith on the earth or will He find a church lobotomized and out of touch with the real truth and purpose of the Gospel? Will He find people doing the work of the Father or the work of man?

    I think that this pastor’s salary is way over the top personally. I echo what PT said as to the cost of a missionary in some other part of the world. They operate successfully on so much less and if this “poor” pastor could just “survive” on $300K, they could divert the other $300K into supporting people who are reaching the lost and dying of the world rather than handing out condoms, worrying about gay marriage, and doing things that have no bearing whatsoever on a person’s eternal destiny. The church needs to stop dealing with the effects of sin and start dealing with the root.....the HEART. A pig doesn’t stop being a pig just because you wash him with a hose and slap some Oil of Olay on it.

    God bless you all!

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