24 March 2008

What I Really Think: #6 - Paid Ministry

I think this one will be the briefest one yet. This is mostly cross-posted from Anglimergent.

IMHO, there's absolutely nothing wrong with getting paid for church work. Let me get that out of the way up front. Some of my best friends either are currently, or have been in the past, paid for their roles within the Church. I wouldn't rule out taking money for "ministry" work. But speaking for myself, I would never, ever bank my family's home, food budget, education, future, etc. solely on a church paycheck. I would/will always have "secular" sources of income, between my wife and myself, that can get us by. This is for one simple reason.

What happens when God is calling me to do or say something that could get me fired?

I have many friends and acquaintances in the "emergent" conversation to whom this has happened. There's even a semi-official Emergent Village euphemism for it: "I got resigned." I met a lot of folks at last year's Emergent Village Gathering who "got resigned", and many of them had been working for "liberal" mainline churches - not just fundamentalist/evangelical ones.

I'm completely certain that this moment comes for a great many professional clergy, and that most of them decide that the better part of valor is to keep their big mouth shut (or continue acting only in the conventional/acceptable manor). And I'm not for a moment judging them for that - they have families that depend on them! But personally, I will never, ever put myself or my family in that position - I'll always be a tentmaker.

Next on the docket: Church Community Size.


BB said...

I wholeheartedly agree that this falls into a "personal discernment" category. I believe that no one should go into paid ministry unless that can't shake the persistant calling of God.

That being said, in my opinion, it is at least as likely for a person to get fired from a secular job for following what God is calling him or her to do. (If that doesn't seem plausible, then go to the ABC website and watch some reruns of Eli Stone for some fictional scenarios.)

Looking at the Bible, when Jesus called the disciples, some of them walked off the job mid-day without finishing their current task, without finishing out the day, and without a mention of them asking for a leave of absence. I'm pretty sure most jobs would give employees the boot for that kind of stunt.

If I am to be honestly open to following God's call, I think I have to admit that I might find myself doing some things I find to be financially unsound, downright foolish, and/or potentially fatal. I struggle with this, and end up walking some kind of compromise. Sometimes when reading my Bible, I'm confronted with the realization that Jesus never seems leaves much room for compromise here -- he says Ieither follow or I don't.

I guess I'm just wondering how the secular job helps if I suddenly can't shake God calling me to move to Siberia until further notice. (I sincerely hope that doesn't happen -- it certainly isn't in MY plans!)

Mike Croghan said...

Dear Mr. RevoLutheran Sir, ;-)

While I agree with much of what you say, I very much disagree that it's a wash whether you're in a secular or a religious job in regard to the danger of God calling you to something that could get you fired. You're absolutely right that if I'm open to and obedient to God's call, it could fuck up absolutely anything I might have thought I had established in my life - job, housing, location, even relationships. In this regard, it doesn't matter what job I have - that job - like all other aspects of my life - is vulnerable to God's call.

However, I do strongly believe that it makes a big difference that in a religious job you're in the *business* of responding to God's call. It's the meat and substance of your job. And therefore, if your discernment of that call differs substantially from that of those who sign your paycheck, it's a serious issue with the main substance of your job, and is extra likely to result in your losing it (or choosing to ignore God's voice).

My day job, by contrast, is relatively neutral. I'm in the business of making sure there are no technical barriers between USA TODAY's online advertisements and their intended eyeballs. That's certainly not without Kingdom implications, and issues of God's call vis a vis the business do come up all the time - but those issues are not my business, and not the primary thing I get paid for.

By analogy - it's certainly possible that any of us, at any time, could become grievously injured by fire or smoke inhalation - on the job or off the job. Fires happen. However, it's a heck of a lot more likely that that could happen to me on the job if I happen to be a professional firefighter.

Finally, I quibble with this statement: "I believe that no one should go into paid ministry unless that can't shake the persistant calling of God." OK, I have no doubt that God calls people to spend the vast bulk of their time doing God's work. But does God really call people and say, "You, my son, must collect a paycheck for following me!"? There are always options, and just because someone is called to devote huge chunks of time to ministry, doesn't mean that that means it has to be their day job.