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Introducing the Committee on Ministerial Care of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Matthew R. Miner

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Tim. 5:17–18)

Ministers (even missionaries!), are men “of like nature” to all the rest of us (Acts 14:15). I have experienced this truth through hundreds of hours spent with ministers in two decades of ordained service as an elder and a deacon. Ministers need the gospel applied in their lives. Ministers need prayer for their ministries. Ministers need friendship and fellowship in the local church. Ministers need money to buy groceries and housing, and beyond that, to prepare for a future when they no longer serve actively in the ministry. Ministers need encouragement and help on an ongoing basis and at specific times in their ministries.

There are two kinds of ministers as it relates to retirement-readiness: ministers in retirement and those who, in the ordinary course of life, will retire in the future (Num. 8:24–26). There is one kind of minister as it relates to “care” broadly construed: ministers who need care for their bodies, minds, and souls (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1). The Committee on Ministerial Care (“CMC”) exists to care for the ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as these men face unique challenges because of their calling. That care comes to ministers through means—primarily through the work of congregations, sessions, presbyteries, and the general assembly.

In Matthew 6:25–26 our Lord says,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

The Lord gives this command and in his glorious wisdom supplies the means of obeying his Word. Ministers are freed from anxiety when they cast their cares on the Lord in prayer and when their congregations and sessions pray that their minister may rest in Christ. The Lord answers these prayers and ministers receive food, drink, and clothing when the terms of their calls unstintingly provide these necessities throughout their ministries with enough income left over (ideally at least ten percent plus of the total call amount) to be invested wisely for the future. In some cases—ministers who opted out of Social Security, began investing after age forty, live in a manse or rent a home, are burdened with high student debt, or have children with special needs—even more is needed.

Calvin, after affirming the distinct work given to ruling elders and ministers of the gospel, comments on 1 Timothy 5:17–18:

Paul … enjoins that support shall be provided chiefly for ministers, who are employed in teaching. Such is the ingratitude of the world, that very little care is taken about supporting the ministers of the word; and Satan, by this trick, endeavors to deprive the Church of instruction, by terrifying many, through the dread of poverty and hunger, from bearing that burden.

“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox” This is a political precept which recommends to us equity and humanity … for, if he forbids us to be unkind to brute animals, how much greater humanity does he demand towards men!

… “The laborer is worthy of his hire” [Paul] does not quote this as a passage of Scripture, but as a proverbial saying, which common sense teaches to all. In like manner, when Christ said the same thing to the Apostles, (Matt. 10:10,) he brought forward nothing else than a statement approved by universal consent. It follows that they are cruel, and have forgotten the claims of equity, who permit cattle to suffer hunger; and incomparably worse are they that act the same part towards men, whose sweat they suck out for their own accommodation. And how intolerable is the ingratitude of those who refuse support to their pastors, to whom they cannot pay an adequate salary! (emphasis mine).[1]

Calvin believed inadequate care and compensation for pastors was a trick of Satan to deprive the church of teaching! In striving to care for ministers in the OPC, the CMC’s mandate addresses physical needs and spiritual needs of our pastors as Satan preys upon an entirely understandable “dread of poverty” in the ministry.

The CMC’s History and Mandate[2]

The CMC’s mandate is to care for ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The CMC got its start in 2014 as The Temporary Committee to Study the Care for the Ministers of the Church. This group was asked to “investigate needs of OPC ministers and suggest ways [to provide or enhance care for these men and their widows] during all phases of ministry.”

The study committee worked throughout 2015 and 2016 considering two main approaches for the future. First, they considered expanding the roles of several existing standing committees whose work touches on aspects of ministerial care: The Committee on Diaconal Ministries, The Committee on Pensions, The Committee on Christian Education, and the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. However, after wrestling with how this could work out to serve OP ministers, the study committee determined that the wide range of work would be hard to fit into an existing committee structure and would be difficult to coordinate across so many committees.

The second idea was a single, new committee, with a mandate to handle all areas of ministerial care. The study committee concluded that this would be the best way forward, and so in 2016 the committee asked the eighty-third General Assembly to approve the establishment of a Committee on Ministerial Care and to propose to the eighty-fourth General Assembly a change in its standing rules that the Committee on Ministerial Care would replace the Committee on Pensions. The CMC would consist of nine church officers: ordained ministers and ruling elders (or deacons), with “the purpose … to provide financial direction and ministries of encouragement and support to ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” The eighty-fourth General Assembly ratified this plan, and the Committee on Ministerial Care was born; its inaugural meeting was held July 5th, 2017. The assembly determined that:

“The mandate of the CMC shall include:

  • Maintaining, managing, and providing oversight of the OPC Pension Fund.
  • Providing and recommending counsel and assistance in risk management (health, life, disability, counseling, and such other types of insurance as may be advisable).
  • Providing or recommending counsel and assistance in financial planning.
  • Including retirement planning and investment portfolio management.
  • Maintaining, managing, and providing oversight of the OPC Obadiah Fund; and providing for the diaconal needs of all OPC ministers.
  • Informing presbyteries and local sessions of tools available for the care of their ministers.
  • Consulting with North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches regarding their experience and best practices in the care of their ministers.
  • Assisting presbyteries with resources to improve the terms of calls.
  • Maintaining denominational salary scale guidelines.
  • Maintaining a comprehensive and confidential database of OPC ministerial compensation.
  • Providing direction to the general assembly regarding our Book of Church Order and retirement related matters.
  • Providing financial instruction and counsel in educational venues, e.g., the Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC.
  • Considering other means of strengthening the care of ministers, e.g., ministerial mentoring, counseling, retreats, and sabbaticals.”

The committee began work to fulfill its GA mandate. The initial membership included Rev. Lendall Smith, Elder Bruce Stahl, Rev. Darren Thole, Elder David Nakhla, Elder David Vander Ploeg, Rev. Clark Brooking, Rev. Douglas L. Watson, and Elder Greg DeJong. It also included Elder David Haney who became the CMC’s director.

On August 11, 2019 the committee received an email from Vice President Greg DeJong titled “Urgent Prayer Request & Meeting Postponement.” We learned that David Haney had collapsed in the exercise room of his hotel in Milwaukee. Five days later, on August 16 at the age of fifty-six, David finished his earthly race and was welcomed into glory by our Lord Jesus. He is deeply missed by his wife Becky and his children and grandchildren. His death is mourned by the OPC at large, including the CMC. David’s death created new challenges for the young committee.

Describing the start of the CMC in a eulogy to David Haney, David Nakhla, administrator of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries writes,

The newest denominational committee, the Committee on Ministerial Care, which was inaugurated in 2017, was David’s brain-child. The CMC became the successor to the work of the previous Committee on Pensions, and it also absorbed some of the work of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries, specifically the care of ministers and their widows through the administration of the Obadiah Fund. David was serving as the Inaugural Director of the CMC at his passing.

Throughout the fall of 2019 and early winter of 2020, the CMC labored without a director. At the committee’s January 2020 meeting, the work of our search committee bore fruit in the unanimous decision to call Rev. John Fikkert as the Committee on Ministerial Care’s new Director. John began his work April 1, 2020.

Tasks of the CMC

The CMC strives, by God’s grace, to fulfill its mandate by providing tools and resources that are specifically useful to ministers and their wives and that equip sessions and presbyteries to care for ministers.

Members of the CMC have addressed most of the presbyteries of the OPC, and John Fikkert will continue this work in coming years. John Fikkert and Greg DeJong presented a well-received session at the ReChex conference in Orlando, Florida in November 2019. The CMC conducted focus groups with ministers’ wives at the Church Planter’s conference in January and at a Chicago-area ministers’ wives’ brunch in March 2020. Matt Miner is scheduled to present to the OPC interns on the topic of financial planning for pastors in the summer of 2020.

Much of the committee’s work resides on our website, opccmc.org. This includes previously recorded video content on investing for retirement, avoiding burnout in ministry, and structuring financial terms of pastoral calls to take full advantage of the Minister’s Housing Allowance in the Internal Revenue Code.

The website includes resources on Salary Scale Guidelines, the recently re-released Pastoral Compensation Tool, and Sabbatical Guidelines (new in 2020).

Future of the CMC

Per our general assembly mandate, the CMC exists to provide “encouragement and support” to care for ministers. That care comes to OP ministers through congregations, sessions, presbyteries, and the general assembly. Further, ministers have a responsibility for godly self-care, getting adequate rest and exercise, stewarding the gifts they have received, and praying that God would provide and bless in every way.

The Lord gives unique callings to each of his servants, but we do not fulfill those callings alone. The minister is upheld in his preaching by the prayers of the elders. Elders are freed to lead in prayer, to teach, and to discipline by the loving work of the deacons. Deacons are supported in their ministry to the emotional and physical needs of the congregation by church members who lay down their lives for the cause of Christ. All believers are blessed as we care for one another by lifting up our prayers, sharing our time, and by giving out of the abundance which we have received. The church is blessed as each member works and prays that the gospel may advance all around the world and in the hearts of believers everywhere. The prayer of each member of the CMC is that the Lord himself would care for the ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—God’s gifts to his church!—and that all God’s people would be richly blessed through the work of these beloved men.

Endnotes

[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 139–140.

[2] Portions excerpted from Matthew Miner, “Caring for Ministers in the OPC,” New Horizons (Dec. 2018): 9, 16.

Matthew R. Miner serves as a ruling elder at Pilgrim Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is a member of the OPC's Committee on Ministerial Care. Ordained Servant Online, June 2020.