Tag Archives: #pastor

Pastoring is a gift, not a job

shepherd

“He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” -Ephesians 4:11-13 (The Message)

This is a topic I know a little bit about.  I have 3 professional pastoral degrees . . . 3.  Undergrad in Student Ministry, Masters of Divinity and a Doctorate in Ministry; all from accredited Universities and Seminaries.  However, about 16-17 years ago, I fired myself from pastoring being my ‘paid’ vocation and I became bi-vocational.  I really dislike the term ‘bi-vocational’, it supposes some nice and clean sectioned identities where your pastoral open sign is on or off.  The apostle Paul talked about a trade he had in tent-making to support himself financially so that he would not be a burden to the people he was called to serve with his pastoral gifts.  Over the past 16-17 years, I have been a: manager, educator,  administrator, advisor, consultant, estimator, writer, speaker, coach and customer service rep.  All of those things have paid me $ to support my habit of using my gifts to lead, serve and teach the Church.

Why?  For me it has been both strategic and personal.  The majority of the context of people I serve have been hurt by the church, are skeptical of the church, have lost trust in the church or believe the connection of church and money is a conflict of interest.  If I cared about my neighbors, I needed to remove the barrier of $ and my care for them.  I didn’t want my message of care to be tied to anything else other than I genuinely care because the goodness of God flows through me.  No unnecessary barriers, just opportunity and conversation about what is real and true in life, trust could be earned again.  Secondly, I had a dream of doing church without $.  What could it look like to not have any bills or overhead so that 100% of our collected giving could go towards missional needs in the community?  In the 15 years of Ordinary Community Church, even as a small community, we have given away over $100k towards needs because we have no bills.  A church without walls, without borders and without overhead.

This is not the ideal model, it is just one of many forms the church can take in the early 21st century.  Nothing wrong with paid pastors or church overhead, just know that every choice and decision we make around $ makes an immediate statement to our ministry context and cultural identity.  Pastoring has become big business in many ways, particularly in the US.  It is not uncommon for large churches to pay tens of thousands of dollars in search consulting fees to help find the next talent to feed the sheep.  There is a church corporate ladder to climb just like in any other industry and I’m not even judging that, it’s probably a natural flow of the right people getting to the right fits.  I just get really uncomfortable when I hear pastoring being equated with a job.  A pastoral salary is not an entitlement.  Would you do it if you never got paid?

Why be a tent-maker?:

  • Longevity and sustainability, finances of church do not depend on support
  • Leaders invested in tangible community, builds trusts and adds credibility
  • Be missional – ‘Pay the price  to understand a people until they know that you understand them’
  • Pastor not seen as a CEO leader, not a consumer relationship of an exchange of goods and services
  • Eliminates divide between sacred and secular
  • Will Gen X and Millenials financially support large church structures and organizations in the future given their skepticism towards institutions and consumption patterns?  (Will the $ even be there in the future when Baby Boomers and Builders pass on?)

Pastoring is not a job, it’s a gifting to act on everywhere and with everyone.  It’s a life of service to give away, there is not entitlement in it.  Our job is to deny ourselves, serve an unseen God by loving a seen people right in front of us.

Count Leo Tolstoy said it well: “All men are to be loved equally. But since you can not do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into close connection with you.”  You don’t have a job, you have a gift, go use it.

Why I fired myself as a Pastor

The vocation of pastor(s) has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir

youre-fired

About 15 years ago I made a conscious decision that if I wanted to be taken seriously by a skeptical and cynical culture for the faith that I feel so strongly about, I couldn’t do it from a vocational role that was a stumbling block to that conversation.  When I was in graduate school (aka Seminary), I took a course in Anthropology where we got back to the basics of human communication and how culture messages work.  For anyone to be heard, they must have an ‘acceptable role’ within that culture so that people understood their place first, then their message.  If missionaries were going to go to a foreign land, they couldn’t come with their western labels such as ‘pastor’, they needed to take on a role that culture would accept like doctor, teacher or engineer.

I applied this same teaching and understanding to the cynical postmodern world. If people’s biggest barrier to understanding the true Christ was the hypocrisy of church leadership and/or the mismanagement of money and spiritual power, then why not do what I could to remove it.  If I was who I claimed to be, I would be able to do it without an office, position or budget.  So 15 years ago I fired myself as a pastor and have sought vocational roles within my culture that make sense to anyone (i.e. teacher, administrator, manager).  To say that this journey has been a painful and confusing one would be an understatement.  I have had very few if any models to learn from, I’ve largely tried to figure it out on my own and have found solace in many friends/sojourners along the way trying to figure out the same path.

To go along with the anthropological reasoning, the more I read and was taught about the successful tactics of pastoring or growing churches in the American landscape, the more I felt less comfortable in my own skin.  It is difficult for me to marry the core teachings of Jesus with the tenets of the American consumer and corporate culture.  In fact, at their core, I find them at complete odds with one another.  I could not and still cannot figure a way to allow them to sit in the same room or barter at the same table.  They both want to be king and there is only one King.  One or the other will reckon your allegiance, I want to tread very carefully in that arena.  You can only serve one master.

Christian community is not about money, power, position or titles.  It’s not about a particular place or a particular time or event in the week.  Christian community is most basically about a life that is organized around the teachings of a Jesus who said to love God and love neighbor (it’s not more complicated than that).  It is possible that this can be done without a budget, campaign, crusade, conference, seminar, workshop or infomercial Jesus.  But it’s not possible without a complete abandoning to your own selfish ambitions and having them replaced with the King’s orders.  This is the truth whether you pastor vocationally or not.  I believe God has called me to this sometimes painful and confusing journey, but it’s not really for me to figure out.  My job is to follow.

I have a bachelors, masters and doctorate degree in a vocational field I don’t work in.  On the surface, that is pure foolishness.  And it would be with the exception that I sucked the marrow out of each of those learning experiences to help mold and shape me into the person and leader I am today.  Spirituality is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.  When spirituality is no longer your job, you are free to love and serve and live as you truly believe.  It is that freedom over the past 15 years that I would not exchange for anything, they are my King’s orders to follow.