An inconvenient payoff...

I finally got around to watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. I won't spend a lot of time saying how much I enjoyed it or how provocative I found its content (yes to both, despite my conservative, naysaying friends and colleagues who still believe anything spouted by Bill O'Reilly and the Bush administration).

There was one fairly brief mention by Gore of several scientists who changed their Global Warming research conclusions based on political pressure. He paralleled this with researchers years ago who altered their conclusions about the harmful effects of tobacco due to big money pressures. The lesson? It's hard to be objective when your wallet depends on a special interest group of any kind.

Immediately, it got me thinking about paid ministry - an issue I've obsessed over for several years now. Paid ministry (of some kind, whether church or parachurch) is generally the end-goal for a Masters of Divinity. But how in the world can I be expected to speak truth - or at least speak my God-given gut - when I have to worry about feeding my family?

This is why (I believe) so many churches remain stagnant, unchanging and impotent - financial dependence literally castrates prophetic teaching.

Several weeks ago in school a fellow student (in his late 50s) approached me after class. He said, "I've got a question for you: if we, the church, were doing what we're supposed to be doing - taking care of the poor, the widows, the wounded, the hurting, the outcasts... the church structure as we know it wouldn't survive. Isn't that right?"

I nodded my agreement.

"And that would be ok!" He exclaimed, but also seemed to be seeking my affirmation.

"Yes it would," I answered.

"See," he said to another classmate who had crept up to listen, "I'm a heretic. I agree with this 20-something!"

But I think it's true on a number of levels. If the church was as dirty, missional and honest (transparent) as it truly needs to be, it couldn't sustain that dirty, missional transparency if it decided to HIRE a paid pastor. Money, by its nature, immediately changes the game - immediately corrupts any semblance of objectivity or detachment from personal interest.

Still chewing on this, but finding it harder and harder to swallow the notion of becoming a paid pastor. Except when I get really pissed off at my job and want to step out of the business world... then I create an idyllic garden of vocational eden in my head...

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youthminister66 said...

Very interesting thoughts. While in seminary, I too wondered how I'd ever be able to be true to my calling, and to the radical things I was learning, once I got into a church and had to tow the party line in order to keep my job. But, I have found that once you develop trust with a congregation -- once they know you care about them and will care for their best interests-- they will give you great latitude, especially in the pulpit, to proclaim the gospel message you feel compelled to share. They may not always agree with what you say, but they honor your right to say it and trust your motivations.

2Pete said...

Thanks for the comment YM66! Your experience is encouraging to hear.

Nate Watson said...

Well put...on the paid ministry thing. I have had the same trepidations over compensation for ministry. Having been on staff for parachurch, I have to bend all over the place, since the organization accommodates all varieties of Christian doctrine. Who got paid in the NT?
BUT...even those "volunteers" (Apostles) who were not paid were expected to repect the Jerusalem council...even the brilliantly open minded/mouthed Paul held his tongue/opinion at times out of respect for that authority which existed BEFORE his encounter with Christ--that authority which "credentialed" him, so to speak, even if he was at odds with the Peter/James leadership.

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