I was quite disturbed recently to learn that the youth pastor of a certain high profile megachurch regularly charges a fee of $4500/day for speaking engagements. That includes travel days as well. So, for a single speaking engagement this unnamed youth pastor would charge $4500/day for three days (one day of travel each way plus the day of the engagement), as well as first-class airfare and two nights in a five-star hotel for him and his assistant. To say that I find this outrageous is a bit of an understatement. I didn't realize that things like this went on in the Christian world. But apparently this is the going rate for second-tier Christian celebrities like youth pastors. Some top-tier Christian speakers will charge $10,000/day.
I'm not saying that all big-name Christian ministers are like this, so I don't want to be the one to start any rumors about anybody in particular. There may well still be some big-name Christian speakers who still serve the Lord for a heavenly reward rather than an earthly one. I know there are a great many non-celebrity status pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and professors who simply want to serve the Lord often for very little in return.
What a contrast there is between our contemporary celebrity culture and the attitude of the apostle Paul. When Paul preached to the Corinthians he took pains to do it free of charge (1 Cor. 9:18). In his second letter to the Corinthians, he indicates that he received support from other churches so as not to be a burden to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:8). He also worked at his trade making tents during some of his time in Corinth (Acts 18:3). This is where the term “tentmaker”, referring to a bi-vocational Christian worker, comes from. To be sure, Paul said he had a right to receive financial compensation for his ministry, but that he deliberately gave up that right among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:14 and following). But seriously. Is any Christian minister worth $10,000/day or even $4500? There just seems to be something profoundly wrong with an arrangement like this. What would Paul say to today’s celebrity pastors?
It’s encouraging in some ways that the Lord is raising up Christian workers from the two-thirds world in our day and age. We need it. American values are badly out of alignment. Gospel preachers from poverty-stricken areas of the world could do us a lot of good and teach us again about storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.