Monday, May 12, 2008

But Should They Get Stock Options?

Things have slowed down on the ol' Java Jesus blog, which could be attributed to three things:

1) spring weather;
2) busy jobs, busy families, and busy life;
3) complete and utter burnout on church-talk.

From the weary looks on your faces, I'm thinking #3 is probably the correct answer.

Too bad. The Internet masses are clamoring for a new topic.

Something that's been discussed briefly in these circles before is the notion of paid ministry staff. One could find Biblical backing for either argument -- to pay or not to pay. Old Testament Levitical priests were provided for. The New Testament apostles were, I assume, housed and fed as they went from city to city. Yet many of the people that were "teaching" still had a job (tentmaker, fisherman, that sort of thing) as a source of income.

The answer that I'm looking for here isn't so much "what's the Bible say to do?" I'm looking at this on a different level. I realize that in this day and age, it makes perfect sense to have full-time salaried "employees" who run the church, coordinate and administer the stuff, and teach or preach to the members. Yet at the same time, I wonder if all of that feeds our current "Sunday-morning-centric," top-down church ideology.

If the church was truly run by people that held day-to-day jobs, just like everyone else, would the average churchgoer feel like he or she had more of a vested interest in the happenings of the church? Would we feel more like part of the leadership? Would it help to dissolve that chasm between "minister" and "laymen"?

Or does appropriate 21st-century-pastoring truly require a 50-60 hour workweek?


Joe B said...

This is such a hypothetical question it is almost like asking "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

Modern churchianity is so steeped in the practice of professional clergy that I cannot imagine it being done any other way.

Many years back I decided that I was not called to cash church-checks, but to follow Jesus. I learned that I already had a full-time secular a minister in the church. That job kept me from serving God just as much as any other job I've had.

Does holding a "money job" make you less of a minister? I believe not. But will it keep you from being a big-shot in the church? You bet it will. If you want to be big, you'd best suit up in your clergy clothes and climb the ladder.

Bethany said...

I think it does feed the "top-down church ideology." Though it is hard to imagine it any other way, I do think more of a communal responsibility would develop if there weren't people whose job was to be a leader.

Kierkegaard said something about this, that when your job relies on the success of your message, the message is bound to be altered. The truth is hindered when you have something at stake in the telling. I know personally, I'd be more tempted to pacify my congregation than say what I really think should be said.

Joe B said...

Good words Bethie and Soren. And that decision between what needs to be said and what's convenient to say is not always very clear.

The institutional chruch is wretchedly "top-down" in its conception and practice, because it is convenient. When we try to envision a church in which every member is connected to, in sync with, and directed by the head, it seems that we picture almost anything BUT Christ being in charge.

It is that fear of anarchy that keeps Jesus in the place of Mascot intead of his rightful place as King.

Laura said...

There ARE still churches, operating in the USA, who have unpaid clergy. Clergy who hold down full-time jobs. And who still find time to visit the fatherless and widows, and to preach a decent sermon on Sunday morning. Yes, they sacrifice. But their church community is MUCH more involved in the everydayness of church life than are your average, everyday church members.

Joe B said...

Thanks, laura. That WAS the original question, wasn't it?

It is hard for one person to get a pulse on this from personal observation, bt I wonder...are these churches less strife torn than others? Are they more devout?

I would suppose that for every 20 churches with unpaid ministers, 19 of them dream of having paid ones. I would guess that indicate the presence of the same attitudes that infect churches with paid staff...the institutional church mentality in a smaller package.

What do you know, Laura?

Anonymous said...

hmmmm...Kierkegaard had had it with the Danish church - he was just so critical with his culture and church - c'mon lets forget all of this idealistic crankiness - Soren was a grumpy old man - let's get back to real life - we need PAID preachers - by the way - I need a raise. Stock options would be good too.

Big Doofus said...

So, if you're not looking at what the bible says about this, from what level are you looking at it?

I think it's pretty clear that Paul DID accept money from the church. He also had a job. Does that mean that a paid church staff member must also have a job? I don't think so.

My mother-in-law grew up in a church that didn't believe in paid staff members. I've been there a few times. I know this doesn't speak for ALL of these churches, but this guy could have benefited from more time to read and study the bible when it came to teaching. It was more like he simply opened the bible and started spouting off about things. Again, I'm not saying this represents every church in this situation.

If you are going to have paid staff, I think it's important to note that the elders of the NT church were all equal and that this should be the same in your church--paid staff or not. Paid staff leaders have no more "say" than unpaid staff. I've been in both positions, by the way.