Friday, February 9, 2007

Between the Word and Finanaces

The idea of ministry as a vocation has started to become a bit of a strange idea to me lately. The idea that a pastor is supposed to be following God's leadership and preaching the Word of God to people on a weekly basis regardless of how much that Word could offend people, while at the same time being paid by the money that those same people bring as a offering seems to put a pastor in a very difficult place. If it is the pastor's role to be a truth teller and to give people a Word from God on a weekly basis then chances are that those words are not always going to tickle the ear of the listener. And let's be quite frank, people don't always like to hear things that challenge their lives of comfort. I'm not saying that pastors should always be beating up their congregations with their sermons but there are going to be times when the church needs to be given a little push to get back on the right track. We all need that push from time to time. But how easy is it to be the giver of that push when the people you are pushing are making decisions about the paycheck that supports your family?

Maybe the pastor isn't supposed to be the only truth teller and that is the job for the church as a whole to be doing for each other. That takes some pressure off the pastor but it still raises the question for me as to what the role of the pastor then becomes. Is is caretaker? Vision giver or leader? CEO? Administrator? All of these roles seem to me to be things that the Body we call the church should be doing collectively as a community. If the role of the pastor is spiritual director then why do we employ them full-time? Why don't we work the church in a more community fashion and pay some people part-time here and there for administrative duties?

I'm just wondering if the idea of "full-time pastor" is going to become a thing of the past. Why not organize a church as a body of believers challenging each other and caring for each other in a spirit of unity and love? Is this idea a pie-in-the-sky dream that can't happen? Does a group of people always need someone "in charge?" This is something I want to look into Biblically and practically in the next while and see where it takes me. It may not be too appealing to those of us who "work" for the church currently but it has been on my mind and I need to get at least a little resolution. Just thinking here. Anyone have any answers for me?


chad said...

Eric...nice to see you blogging. These are some really good questions that you are asking that I have been thinking about myself over the last year or so.

In the book "The Emerging Church", Gibbs and Bolger (I think thats it) really tumble this question around alot. Most of the book is focused on worshiping bodies outside of the US, and paying a pastor is something alot of them don't do. It is described as very uncomfortable thing for some of these groups. It makes me think about bi-vocational ministry alot.

But I think the things that have brought them to this point in the U.K. are not present in America at this time. You refered to the pastor as the "truth teller". I want to maybe reword that into "truth shower". When I was praying through the idea of going into pastoral ministry I really went over 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ".

When I first started thinking of this statement I was really showed that Paul had a pair. I couldn't imagine this at first. But then I realized that the role of a pastor/spiritual director required a certain amount of bravery. I thought about the pastors I had had in the past, and if they could make this statement. I think that Paul said it because he was doing 2 things

1. He was truly following Christ with everything thing he had.
2. He had a great open,intentional, and vulnerable relationship with the people he was ministering too.

They knew EVERYTHING about him

The people he was speaking to knew him very well, probably alot better than most congregants know their pastor. They knew his life, and his passion for Christ. So he could make this bold of a statement, because they knew him that well, and knew that he was following Christ. That allowed him to have a gentle, compassionate hand and a hard, but still caring hand.

Thanks Eric, sorry for the long response

Tom 1st said...

What alternative would you suggest the church adopt to the current model? Is there anything you can think of that might free the pastor up to speak the truth, while not having to worry about his family being hurt?

Maybe the problem is, as you suggest, an inherent part of the pastorate as vocation system. Should pastors, then, be bi-vocational? Problems arise in that model as well - they often lack adequate time to spend with their families and their church duties - everyone suffers.

Eric said...

I'm not sure if the current model of church can answer the questions I am raising. We have come to a place in many congregations where a small number of people do the vast majority of "church work." We have become so dependant on the pastor or pastoral staff to take care of every need in the church community that most people come to be served rather than serve and I'm not sure that we as pastors haven't set it up to be that way.

I guess I'm thinking of more of a "church body" type model that works with all followers of Christ ministering with the gifts God has given them. Maybe I have a negative view, but I don't think this is what happens in most churches today. Someone is sick, the pastor goes to visit. I have a friend that is interested in knowing more about Christ, I call the pastor to go and talk to him. There is a meeting about a ministry, the pastor has to be there. Everything that happens in the church has to have the pastor or pastoral staff involved.

I am more interested in the spiritual leader of the church spending time getting ready to challenge the congregation through preparation and thought about the sermons they are going to preach. I also want the spiritual leader of the church interacting with their community in order to show Christ to those people that they have built relationships around town. (maybe even at the job they work during the week)

Someone else is going to be gifted at budgeting. Someone else might be better at organizing the next church dinner and making sure the tables get set up. (if that dinner is serving a purpose) People who are challenged to fill the ministry God has called them to will have great ideas and should be allowed to run with those ideas with their energy and gifting.

I guess I might be living in an ideal world where there is "Body" leadership rather than CEO leadership in the church. It might mean the "pastor" is part-time or bi-vocational but if everyone in the body is following their calling to minister, wouldn't that free up the lead follower of the church? I'm thinking out loud here so your thoughts are appreciated.

chad said...

I guess another question to be raised is when did pastor become a synonym for administrator. I guess growing up I knew a difference between a pastor and a seems that there is a split in these ideas.

eric these are great thoughts

Tom 1st said...

I think you onto something with your 'body' idea. I wonder how someone in our current pastor as CEO situation could go about implementing your ideas? Like you said, its been this way for so long, how do we begin to change it?

Especially, how do we begin to change it in a church where neither you or I are in leadership?

Eric said...

I think whether you are the pastor, in leadership, or are just a lay member of a church the key to beginning this type of change is going to be building strong relationships across the church. Not "how are you doing" on Sunday morning kinds of relationships that so many of us have in the church right now. I'm talking about really knowing the people you are worshipping with and understanding who they are and where they come from. Being open and real with each other sharing in the life of a Christ follower. (this is fodder for a future post because I am incredibly weak in this area) These relationships build trust within a community and can lead to shared leadership becoming much easier.

If you are the current pastor of a church and relationships are being built, one of the biggest steps in the process is going to be letting go of some of the responsibility you have and handing over true power to others. For them to make decisions and lead areas, the pastor will not be able to look over shoulders and second guess everything that is being done. (the role of a board, deacons, elders or other governing bodies in church leadership also play into this part of the equation) Without this willingness to give up some of the power, all aspects of the church will continue to revolve around the CEO. There has to be a definite mindset shift of what the pastor is about and how church is going to operate. What are we going to be about.

As far as lay people go...relationships, availabilty and knowing what your calling is within the body. If we first build relationships like I am talking about above, we can then become available with the trust of those around us. We then seek out what calling we have on our lives (I believe more than just vocational ministers have a calling) and pursue that as a part of the church's function. This requires risk and inovational thinking on the part of me and the church. Trial and error will be a big part of what goes on and we can't be afraid of that.

There's my two cents. What are other thoughts? What am I missing? How can this work?