So I’ve been having a discussion with my younger half-brother who is in a decision making place of whether to seek ordination in his denomination for his future vocation at the end of his bachelors degree or to try and figure a way to do the ministry that is on his heart differently. In any system, there are pros and cons and in something as deeply personal as our spirituality, its hard to apply the same business principles to that we would in franchising a business. This has me reflecting on these issues again. There is a long history of questions and issues with professional ministry vs. a self-supporting model. In the New Testament you have the apostle Paul both tent-making and seeking financial support from believers. With this, I don’t think its a moral or theological issue (many would argue me on that point). The reason I fired myself from professional ministry was a cultural issue and a sense of self-awareness. Although I was professionaly prepared for ministry in the American church (undergrad. and graduate degree) and had all the experience needed, it was a matter of calling and the time I live in. 1) a problem of trust – the American church has lost major trust with the people, both in and outside its walls. Stories of scandals and impropriety is the word on the street and the people I want to be in conversation with have a major issue with money and the church. So if I’m not taking a paycheck, then at least that communication barrier is out of the way. 2) exchange of goods and services – spiritual accountability is an intimate and at times rough ground to cover. How honest can I be with people I’m caring for if I rely upon their giving to feed my children? Let’s not spiritualize this, its a human response. 3) the drive to be productive – American ministry, as I was trained in, is deeply intertwined with the American corporate business model where productivity and busyness is king. You focus on the things that bring a return to the organization. This is incredibly confusing when the Kingdom of God as expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is a “bottom-up” model and our church is designed as a “top-down” hierarchy model. One of those has to give. What’s my point in all this? I grieve for a church that has forgotten who we are. We are not rooted in our ancient stories (the Scriptures) handed down to us from those who have gone before us. Instead we’ve exchanged it for a model to be exciting, enticing, obsessively productive and relevant to the world around us. Are we selling people a “feel good” pill or are we offering the kind of water that doesn’t make you thirsty anymore? I believe, our hope is in living in our story, one rooted in the truth of the mind of our Creator. If the recession doesn’t go away, if the american economy struggles for a decade, what will the questions of the church be? Will will be grieving our senses of entitlement to buildings and vocations or will we be ready to care for people and show them a simpler and more wholistic way to live? Will our message be hope and life? That’s what I wonder about.
I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life. – Henri Nouwen In the Name of Jesus peace, Chris