I used to be paid as a pastor, but I'm not so convinced anymore that I should be...
but who knows, maybe I'll recant and receive a gracious compensation package in return for my 'sacrifice' - hopefully involving budgets for books, coffees, conferences and massages
running the risk of alienating myself from every paid pastor in the western world, I'd like to address the logistical problems that arise through the demands of paid clergy
when we cease to function as a living body with Christ being the head and instead turn to business-like endeavours with Christ being our tour-guide, our trajectory changes dramatically
I may be speaking out of turn, but when we become more interested in keeping the bottom line 'healthy' than where the Holy Spirit is leading...we have gone off-course
you can tell a lot about a person/ organization/ church/ family by how they spend their money - this is a particularly sensitive area to most everyone in north america (myself included)
I can claim to care about the poor, disenfranchised and the like - but I would submit that in an affluent culture in which I find myself, if there is little indication through my spending...then I probably don't care overly much - though I may be over-emphasizing the point
a church-body can state how much they care about (blank) - but I would likewise submit that if there is little indication through their spending, then they probably don't care overly much
as a litmus test of priorities, peruse the spending/ budgetary habits of your typical church-body and I would guesstimate that the overwhelming majority of bottom-lines go to staffing and building costs with a sprinkling of conscience-cleansing 'giving' to others
is it possible that we (and I am firmly planting myself in that category) have placed an undue amount of importance on paying for staff and buildings?
what seems to happen is this - when a church-body decides to hire a professional pastoral(s) and buy a building(s) there is a gravitational pull created, pulling everything around back into itself
*disclaimer: pastors and buildings are not inherently bad - the idolization of them are
the body begins to make decisions accordingly, asking questions like: how are we going to pay pastors? and how are we going to maintain buildings?
unfortunately, these questions become louder and louder, drowning out other questions like: what is the Holy Spirit doing? and how can we be a part of it?
the body continues to program and utilize the facilities and staff that it now 'owns' - less and less likely to actually 'go and make disciples,' the focus turns to 'come to our building and listen to our dynamic pastoral staff'
the body begins to grow frustrated and disenfranchised with the trajectory they are now firmly on - but they have invested literally millions of dollars (if they've been around awhile) building a machine that only wants more and is never satiated, and the idea of turning off the machine is too risky
as mentioned in the first post: "I believe there are many, many pastors who sense God leading them in directions that may not align or lend themselves nicely to 'working' for an established church...yet, given the options - they choose to remain"
I know of many people who feel a clear sense to plant and nurture new church communities, but are hampered greatly by the felt need to raise enough money to pay staff and possibly buy a building
sometimes there are agreements made between specific church bodies and the denominations that they align themselves with where the fledgeling church starts Day 1 in financial debt, knowing in 3-5 years they need to raise enough support (read: money) to be self-sufficient
though I appreciate the working-togetherness of this approach, all too many times this puts undue pressure on an otherwise beautiful movement
rhetorical thought: think of all the new plants and communities and expressions of church that would/could spring up when freed from the demands of paid staff and building
Jesus told a lot of stories - parables if you will
I do not pretend to understand the deepest implications of them
he told one about servants who were given money by their boss...and the boss evaluated how each used the money they were given - I find this parable particularly sobering
churches like to talk about wise stewardship - this idea of 'how' we use what God has given us
with that 'how' in mind, do we think that, as relatively wealthy churches who have been given so much, that Jesus looks at our accumulation of buildings and multiple staff and says: "well done, good and faithful servants."?
immediately following this parable in Matthew 25, it is recorded that Jesus goes on to talk about the distinction between sheep and goats with compassionate care being firmly placed as paramount in the telling: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned.
if the pseudo-importance of staff and buildings supplant our utter dependence on God and the obedient following of Jesus' commands they have indeed become idols
it's funny, because one fellow pastor/twitterer, was able to communicate very succinctly what is taking me many words to say: "churches may be healthier without paid staff"
maybe I should've just tweeted that...