Getting Paid for Ministry has Whiskers

Getting paid to do ministry has whiskers on it. Recently the church I worked for sacked the pastor responsible for mission, outreach and influence. I hired him a couple of years ago and he is an absolutely gem. In fact, if I couldn’t afford to pay him, I’d cut my own hours before cutting his. This guy is connected to business leaders, the local council, is the former local pastor’s fraternal president, knows every school principle in our area, runs the chaplaincy organisation, ran a statewide television campaign involving over 200 churches and has fingers in that many pies, that he represented influence – something I believe every church should have.

This guy’s secret was that he tapped regular believers dreams to make a difference and cultivated them. For example, a guy called Peter is a chef and works at the bakery in a local supermarket. Peter’s dream was that he could cook for families who weren’t able to feed themselves or their children properly. This pastor helped Peter realised his dreams and now Heaven’s Kitchen feeds around 40 people at a time with waiters and a three course meal. Families are even given fresh food to take home with them. That’s the kind of thing this Pastor could pull off.

His secret was, that it wasn’t a top-down program. He raised up the grassroots. He realised that if it was top-down, it would always rely on staff to make it happen. If he tapped the passion and talents of the grassroots, it would perpetuate, with very little input once it was happening except a little encouragement and prayer.

The reason he was sacked (at least the reason he was given) was that he hadn’t pulled in enough government grant money. I sat down with him to talk him through it, and tried to communicate that I wouldn’t work in a paid staff position for a church ever again, because getting paid for ministry has whiskers on it. Something that apostle Paul seemed to know. I’ll give my reasons in a following post.

What I needed from my wife

Got a call from a teary partner of a friend of mine on the weekend. Apparently he’d spat the dummy and she’d taken off with the two kids. He is being treated for Attention Deficit Disorder and has made loads of progress over the years but it got me thinking about what I needed from my wife when I was at my worst, and I thought I’d write about it, in case partners of pastors are trawling about and stumble across The Scrapheap Pastors blog.

I needed a wife who was secure. Unfortunately my wife was not emotionally independent enough from me to not take my behavior personally. Maybe no spouse could be, but she wasn’t able to impartial enough to see my behavior independent from her sense of self. What I’m trying to say is that she took my outbursts, impatience, intolerance and irritability to mean that I no longer loved, cared for or respected her. She then reacted to me out of a sense of being rejected. She interpreted my emotional state through her lenses of insecurity and came up with the wrong conclusions.

I needed a wife who was healthy. Two weak and unhealthy individuals makes for a recipe for disaster. One healthy individual and one sick one can stand a chance. I needed a healthy wife who was able to own her own emotional state and look to others to meet her needs where I couldn’t. My wife didn’t see me as being unwell. She saw me as being a bad husband, so the tack she took was to try and point out how I was failing as a husband at meeting her needs which of course compounded my problems. She has since learned that if her emotional needs aren’t being met by me, she’s responsible to get them met. That takes a whole lot of pressure off, and makes it more likely that I will actually recover and meet her needs.

I needed a wife who could spot the signs. I remember the moment some two years after experiencing depression and receiving treatment, when a little book fell into my wife’s hands about spouses of partners with depression. She read the book and identified with all the stories of spouses and how they felt and what they experienced. We sat in a little cafe and she told me she finally accepted that I had depression. I nearly fell off my chair. I actually couldn’t believe that she’d managed to maintain a steadfast denial for so long despite the bleeding obvious. To have a spouse who can recognise the signs as early as possible would have been invaluable.

I needed a wife who could intervene. Obviously being a man, we never listen to our spouses when they point out our weaknesses of flaws (it’s a man thing). So having a wife suggesting that I have anxiety or depression would have gone down like a lead balloon. But I do listen to a close circle of friends that I have around me that I’m very transparent with. If my wife had gone to them and told them exactly what was happening at home and how she felt about it, intervention would have been swift. Sadly, she didn’t talk to anyone about what was happening, not even her close friends. She only spoke to my interstate sister and a couple of cousins of mine overseas. I think she’s a private person and she felt ashamed at the way she was being treated and didn’t want anyone to know.

If you’re a spouse of a partner with depression, hopefully these ideas can give you some way forward. You’re not responsible for your spouse, but you have a responsibility to your spouse and you definitely are responsible for your own emotional health and need to take positive steps to trying to stay as healthy as possible yourself, for the sake of your marriage and family.

Pagan Christianity II

Following on from the shocking stats on the pastorate that Barna and Viola give in their “Pagan Christianity” they follow up with these insightful words about pastors:

“The demands of the pastorate are crushing; they will drain any mortal dry. Imagine for a moment that you were working for a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your behavior was?

Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role – all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security?

The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very artificial lives. Congregants expect their pastor to always be cheerful, completely spiritual, and available at a moment’s call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family. Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter. Many pastors take to this role like actors in a Greek Drama.”

I’d have to say they’re right. And it’s not that we want to act or be artificial, it’s just that the church can’t handle us being real. By and large our motives are good. We wish to set a good example and demonstrate our faith rather than being all talk and no action. While this has good motives, it has a huge, cancerous downside.

In the Q&A at the end of the chapter, Barna addresses this.

“Some (pastors late in their careers) have personally confessed to us ‘it didn’t affect me for a number of years, but after a while, it began to change me without my realizing it.’ They explained how they became people-pleasers, trying to play to their ‘audience’ and maintain a particular image. This observation has nothing to do with a pastor’s motives. It has to do with the powerful influence of an unbiblical system.”