Getting Paid for Ministry has Whiskers II

So, I explained to my former staffer that he was better off not being on staff at the Church and that being paid for ministry has whiskers on it. Being on salaried staff definitely has whiskers. I figured he needed to be liberated just as I had. Not liberated from ministry, or calling, or serving God, but just liberated from what goes with being paid to do it.

Being paid to serve God and minister to others is somewhat of an anathema. The motive is good, in that it seeks to support those who feel called to full-time work in the church, but the whole construct is askew. Firstly we’re all called to serve God with our whole lives anyway, whether we work for a church or not. We’ve all said from the pulpit that all of us are called to be ministers of the gospel haven’t we?

But that’s not really the issue. The issue is what being paid to do ministry does to us.

For those of us who are in debt and being paid to do ministry, it can really compromise us. As much as we’d like to say we’re totally objective (spiritual) and trusting God for our finances, if you have a $250k mortgage on your house and a $1m loan on your church and one of your highest tithing church members is demanding this or that, or worse, is causing problems in the church and is influential, it’s hard to be impartial. I’ve know one pastor who had problems with multilevel marketers in his church who were extremely influential and when he addressed the issues that they were causing, he lost one-third of his congregation. If you’re in significant debt, that could be enough to shut the doors and you’re out of a job.

Another difficulty is the expectation that the church has of you. We spend almost all of our time trying to get more people involved to build our “vision” but the people expect us to do it because they’re paying us to do it! Whether we acknowledge it or not, we have a contract. They come and tithe, so we can be paid to do the ministry. Yes, we know it’s not biblical, but it’s just where we’ve arrived and we have to deal with it. When we’re urging people to give up their time and volunteer freely, we haven’t really a leg to stand on because we’re not….

Being paid, also means being accountable for the money you recieve. This is obviously toward some sort of oversight body and ultimately to the incorporation that employ’s you. This means satisfying their idea of what it means to be doing the right things given the remuneration you receive. Whether their ideas of what the right things to do are the best ideas is subjective, but that doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, you need to be doing enough to satisfy them. Again you end up compromised. Not that accountability is a bad thing, but the best for of accountability is to be accountable for your character and who you are becoming, not necessarily what you are doing.

Here’s another thought to finish up on. We all agree that the best pastors are one’s who are obedient to God, and lead by virtue of who they are and what God is doing in their life, than by leadership maxims, strategies, or worse karaoke church (pretending to be a leader or church you admire and doing what they do). But lets say hypothetically, that God wasn’t leading you to do anything at all. Sounds odd at first, but when you look at Jesus’ life, God lead him to do nothing for 33 years. Imagine how hard that would have been for Jesus. But he did it. But when you’re paid to do something, you’ll do something, even if God isn’t leading you to do anything.

I’m not sure what Paul was doing for the first three years after his conversion. The bible and historical writings are totally silent. He was probably doing not much at all, certainly not much that you would want to pay him for, except for following Christ. Productivity was not high on the agenda, until he was lead to visit Jerusalem and then kicked off the most powerful ministry the world has ever seen.

Being on the payroll means you’re in a bad position and you’re no longer free to do what God wants you to do, when He wants you to do it and where.