Monday, in my letter to the North American church, I ever so briefly mentioned a big part of my life.
I’m a bi-vocational pastor. I pastor a small church, and I’m a teacher.
Most guys don’t feel “called” to having two jobs. In fact, most of us aspire to “graduate” to full time ministry. That’s how people know you’re a real man of God. Move out of Mom’s basement, graduate from Bible college, grow a sweet beard, and spend all your free time in church. It wasn’t until seminary when a professor told us how being bi-vocational had blessed him that my eyes were opened: I wanted to be a teacher as well as a pastor.
I have to admit, being paid to show up to church is pretty sweet. But in tough economic times when the future of the church is uncertain, churches want to try every radical option…except something really radical, like give up some cash. A few weeks ago, I read that all the members of the Schuller family are taking a 50% pay cut from the the Crystal Cathedral. Woah, look out!..until you realize how many Schullers don’t work at the Crystal Cathedral, or even live in California.
Today, I’m calling on pastors and church leaders to do something really radical, like put your money where your mouths are.
Four Reasons Your Church Leadership Should be Bi-Vocational
You Want to Be Relevant, Right?
That’s the word, isn’t it? Relevant? You want to relate to the common peasants out there who are having hard times? Well, most people don’t spend every waking moment in the safe confines of a church building. Most people are working stiffs with callouses on their hands, or butts, if they work in an office. Ever since Old Testament days, pastors and priests have been paid something. And as a pastor, I’ve said before that we should be compensated fairly. But there is something to be said for having calloused hands and butts, and contributing to your community more than words on Sundays that make you a bit more relevant. Do you think pastors in Africa or China get to quit working in the salt mines just because they’ve been ordained?
Right about now, a bunch of pastors are about to angrily comment that they have too much work to within the church already, and to that I say this…
Half of What You Do Probably Isn’t Ministry
Ask pastors what they hate about the ministry. Very little of it has to do with actual ministry. Pastors don’t say they hate visiting people, or praying with people in the hospital. They hate the other garbage that wastes time and drains them mentally and emotionally. I suspect they spend way more time than they’d like in meetings, for one thing.
The pastor’s job has changed dramatically as it has become more and more of a “profession.” Much of what a pastor is expected to do reads more like a job description for soulless corporate boss, meant to just keep the company perpetuated. Meanwhile, people increasingly don’t want the pastor to do what he would’ve done a few decades ago, like show up at your house unannounced for a piece of pie, which you would’ve definately made, just in case you had company.
Carlos Whittaker pointed out yesterday that churches are continually building offices for their staff inside the church, while hundreds of offices out in the real world do not have contact with your church. He made the awesome suggestion of moving 15 hours of a church staff’s work week outside the church.
I think that’s a great, and I’m going to up the ante. A lot of pastors shouldn’t even be spending 40 hours in the church in the first place. A pastor who spends that much time in church is probably not giving enough responsibility to others, is afraid of giving up a little control, or has not taught his people to make good decisions in his absence.
Pastors, you’re already doing a lot of jobs you don’t like, which you aren’t called to do. So stop doing them. Give those jobs to someone else who should do it for free. Pastors who are truly gifted at everything today’s church wants from them are very rare, and in the meantime, we have pastors trying to be half-baked businessmen, or businessmen trying to be half-baked pastors.
We’re in a Recession, if You Haven’t Noticed
While the pastor tries to do all the jobs he wasn’t meant to do, the church happily pays 80% of what they take in to pay the pastor to be a corporate boss, and give him a nice office to do it all in (plus, send some cash to denominational HQ to keep those guys no one knows in their offices.) If the church were meant to, I don’t know, help people, then the church is one of the least financially efficient ways to do that ever concieved.
When a church spends that much cash on itself, it’s because the people don’t give enough. But you already know that. The average American gives something like 3% of their income to the church. And what is the church’s response? To give the pastor a raise, and continue to build bigger buildings. Makes sense.
Where Are the Men?
It’s no secret that the church has struggled with attracting and keeping men in the seats. That’s funny, since most churches are run by men. Maybe it’s something about men not wanting to be told what to do. Maybe it’s the kind of men that they percieve pastors to be.
While the church is continually destroyed by money-grabbing charlatans, some real pastors are going to find they have to make radical sacrifices in order to prove they’re legit, to undo the damage that is done every day by pastors who promise a blessing in return for a love offering. They might have to give up their jobs.
To some guys, all pastors look the same. They look like phoneys in suits, asking old ladies for money in exchange for salvation, living off of the charity of others. And a man who doesn’t know Jesus probably can’t respect that kind of man.
Don’t believe for a minute that just because Peter and the others became disciples that they suddenly were independently wealthy from all those tithes and could quit their jobs. Why were Peter and the others fishing all night right after Jesus was crucified? Because they were still broke-off-their-butts fishermen. When they “left everything and followed,” it doesn’t mean they turned in their letters of resignation to the boss.
I’m not saying every pastor should be bi-vocational. But it’s a path that many more should be willing to take. Are you or your pastor bi-vocational? Do you think this is the future of the church, or do pastors belong in the church all week? What percent of its income should a church be spending to keep itself afloat?