Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why I wont get a job in "ministry"

The only time I was a "full time minister" was when we went to Australia.  It was basically a requirement of our visa, and we raised our salary by begging.  For the rest of our life we have either lived off of our own part time employment or received a small stipend to assist us. 

When we returned from Australia I was offered a full time job as a youth pastor at a suburban church which I turned down.  I am also very aware of how to build a "normal" church capable of supporting a full time pastor.  I would have no trouble finding a church to hire me as a full time pastor either.  And to be honest... sometimes these options seem like something worth pursuing. 

But there is a number of reasons why I will not do this:

First, I believe that it is the most incontrovertible separation between the clergy and the laity.  It makes two classes, the pros and the amateurs.  And I think that hinders the concept of true discipleship for all believers.

Second, I believe the paid full time pastor is taken out of the "real world" and placed in a pseudo religious world, where they spend their time doing religious things, and do not deal with real everyday problems first hand, but second or third hand

Thirdly, I believe that full time ministry creates two problems in regards to power and economics.  It is much harder to say hard things to someone when they can effect your ability to feed your family.  And once you are relying on this economic reality of a pay check it also makes it easy to play the game, in order to continue in your role.

Fourthly, I believe that the money spent on salaries, as well as buildings, are better spent on caring for people, especially the poor and marginalized in our communities and around the world

Fifthly I believe that planting churches is the way forward, and in order to do that they need to be easy to plant.  Taking away the burden of a salary makes things much easier to do.

And lastly, I believe that the role of the professional minister has become so maligned, or glorified, that it must be abandoned in its modern context in order to have integrity in our world.

I know others disagree with me, especially those that are getting paid.  I also know that with incredible integrity, these issues can on some level be dealt with.  But I believe the best and most perfect way forward is with bi-vocational ministry, even if you feel over burdened at times.

That said some of the best, and most amazing people I have ever met, are full time ministers.



Conrad said...

What a refreshing look!

A lot of people i know pray to God for full time ministry. What i think they are really praying for is full time salary.

I see that a lot of church decisions are made on the basis of money. I see pastors being pulled around by the nose by thier 'tithers' only for the 'tithers' to lead them into a mess. The sermons get watered down too.

Good post my man!

Jacquelyn F said...

You always give me food for thought John... thank you.

Jeff Straka said...

I love it,John. I think you are dead-on. I really don't think the current building-based, institutional "church" is at ALL what Jesus had in mind. The only thing I would push back on is around the language of "church plants". That word has always chafed me a bit. The implication that one needs to "bring" the church into the midst of a place just doesn't seem right. I see in more in terms of a "church cultivator". Where ever we go - let's say into a bar - God is already present in all who are there, though the awareness may not be. What may need to happen is to stir around the "ingredients" to help people awaken to that Presence. It's kind of like an artist who creates sculptures out of junk. All the right pieces are already there - it just takes someone with a key eye to rearrange them into something meaningful and beautiful.

john jensen said...

that is just semantics in my opinion. That is what I consider church planting to be. I love the organic nature of the word plant, it grows naturally in the soil it is found in, God causes the growth, and no piece of it is more important to its life.


simoncross said...

hi, yeah I agree with you on this. I would add another thing in too, for a paid full time minister, there is very little incentive to look for someone to take on your role - you'd be doing yourself out of a job! This impedes the progression of training and enabling young leaders to take on positions of responsibility and leadership, even when they are vocationally well suited to it. I would go so far as to say that it may even have contributed to people abandoning the church, they see it as a 'career' structured organisation which they cant get a foot hold in. I might be too extreme on that last bit.

FrSean said...

You name all of the traps! And that's good. Can you see any up sides?

Simon Moyle said...

I've done both, and am currently bivocationally supported. I agree with you about the 'clergy' problem (what I call "professional Christians") BUT - I wonder if by taking money out of the equation you are ignoring or underplaying the particular role you can and perhaps should play within a community? In my community I wasn't in a 'paid' role for the first couple of years. But my community recognised the injustice of my doing at least 2 or 3 days of work for them a week and struggling to make ends meet, while they did paid work and had plenty.

To me there are particular ministry roles within ANY church which require more time and effort, and aren't naturally money makers (not when I use the term ministry, I'm including everyone - the nurse or engineer are ministers too in their work, but they ARE paid by the way society works). I would include artists, for example, as one of many 'ministry' roles which are not (always) remunerated. In order for those people to use their gifts in service of the community, it is only just for economic sharing to happen - those with much share what they have with those who don't. That's how the church is supposed to work.

Yes, freeing up money to share with others who need it is essential, but it doesn't need to be either/or. If someone needs your coat, you give it to them. Sharing can still happen. It's just that work gets done that would otherwise not get done because the pastor (or artist, or whoever) had to go do other work to pay the bills.

So I make a distinction here between a model of economic sharing that frees a person up to play a role that doesn't naturally make money, and the paid/professional clergy, where money is paid in exchange for religious goods or services. The problem starts when those with whom money is shared take over the running of things which should be shared, or become separated from the "rest". So I've made it abundantly clear that I will not be their professional Christian, that we are in this together, and that we are all equally responsible. To this end, I think it's important that we 'ordain' everyone to the work they're doing, and the role they play in the community - whether they are a nurse, builder, whatever.

I wonder if that distinction helps? More than happy for pushback. :)

simon said...

This is one of the chief reasons that I respect you and label you genuine which I dont hand out often. This was kind of the point of my guest blog. I'm a sarcastic SOB but I felt I had to point this stuff out. I really dont have a problem with certain situations having a full time pastor, especially if its a huge congregation but again as you pointed out, it becomes an impersonal thing that seperates people from eachother. It makes you wonder what is the right size of a church?

On the flip side what can you expect from a pastor who has to work two jobs to make ends meet then rag him for not 'being there'.

My chief problem right now is with church planters. Yes, church planters of suburbia. I'm not referring to you, I'm referring to the incessant splinter groups or new churches that plop right down in the middle of nice neighborhoods or towns and the drive of the minister is 'to go full time'. Its empire creating. I can't come up with an example in my area where the pastor went full time and the dynamics changed and what you said happens. Focus becomes internal rather than external. If I get a chance to blog for you, hopefully I can add something more positive to the conversation. This whole subject is a sore spot for me. Big time.

john jensen said...

No worries Simon the zealott

Simon Moyle, sorry I responded without understanding your post. Yes, I agree with sharing. The truth is that we, by having a sharing community, can all be freed up to work in the community more. For those of us that have gifts of leadership and teaching, this would mean doing those things. Again, there is a huge difference between living a communal economy rather than a hired minister to do the ministry.


Lex said...

Didn't the apostles have ministry "jobs," though? In Acts, there were issues in the food pantry and they told the Church that it wasn't good for them to, "leave the Word of God to serve tables."

That created a separation, focused their time on doing "religious" things, etc.

And in 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul writes to Timothy that the people who work in preaching and teaching are worthy of more honor, and that they're worthy of their wages. I always thought that was supportive of a "professional" ministry position in a local church.

john jensen said...

I believe that those that are planting churches, acting as missionaries and traveling or overseeing large networks of churches need to get paid. I believe that is what the scripture is saying.


David said...

I have to say, John, these are also many of the reason why I won't get a job in "ministry" either.