Clergy & Laity: If he’d ever had a real job, he’d know how unrealistic his preaching is!

https://i1.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_bLBPZAiyuwA/SQkMldOkY5I/AAAAAAAAAJY/FlxoD65cNcE/s400/clerical_collar_9.jpgThis is a tough one. One great advantage of having a fulltime preacher is that they are fulltime. Of course. But this is also a disadvantage because it gives the members the opportunity to rationalize away the preacher’s demands. After all, the member’s lives are often radically different from the life led by the preacher.

How many members can spend the first two hours of their work day in prayer? Not any. Not all preachers have this privilege, but many do.

If the preacher asks the members to show up for Tuesday night visitation or to volunteer for any number of good works, many members will complain that the preacher doesn’t appreciate the demands on their time — because he doesn’t have the same structured job where you have to punch a clock every day.

In fact, most church members work a 40+ hour job, spend time with spouse and children, and still volunteer for church work on top of all that. A lawyer who teaches Bible class has to do his Bible study and lesson preparation after his 50 or 60 hour job is done, after he’s invested in his family, and after he’s done his client relationship building.

Some ministers work just as hard or even harder. I think most do. But many work far less and yet demand more from the members than they are willing to give themselves. It’s a problem.

Even when the minister is very hard working and disciplined, the members rarely know it. And their lack of appreciation for the minister’s work ethic often allows them to rationalize ignoring his teachings. He doesn’t have the credibility needed to call them to Tuesday night visitation unless they think he’s just as committed to work and church as they are.

When I began my law firm many long years ago, a much older, very wise client came to me and said, “I’ll tell you who is successful in this life: the person who works harder than the next person.” And he’s right. The old Protestant work ethic remains a key to success, whether it’s financial, professional, or ministerial success. The churches with the hardest-working ministers are the churches that thrive the most …

* … if the ministers aren’t coddling the members. The ministers should be working hard, but working at things the members can’t do.

* … if the ministers don’t burn out. We’ll consider burning out in some detail later. For now, suffice to say: it happens, but the cases of burn out usually have causes beyond hard work. Hard work is a virtue and should be treated as such. Hard work should be honored and encouraged — within sensible limits.

So how does the wise minister gain enough credibility within the church to be able to call the members to volunteer, contribute, and serve? What gives him the credibility necessary for the job? How do the members know that he’s a hard worker?

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16 Responses

  1. As one who has believed for many years that a lack of respect for the preacher is a problem within the Church of Christ, mainly because in teaching that the preacher is not a reverend the members have become convinced that he is a nobody, many preachers, themselves,have caused a lack of respect by demanding more from members than they can give.
    Preachers forget that not all have the same talent, the same opportunites, the same gumption. With a noticeable amount of “church mania” they rush into getting everyone to work right now; getting every man on the Lord’s Table list, the opening and closing prayer list, the announcement list, every family on the usher list.
    But I am a believer that a preacher’s respect for whatever an individual can offer, within his or her own time, his or her own pace, creates trust that will eventually allow the member the confidence and comfort to say, “I would like to do something”.

  2. When I first left college, I worked at a 40-hour per week job and preached for a small rural church where I preached 2 sermons and taught 2 classes weekly. During a good part of that time, I was also taking a class that would further my day-job.

    When I preached “full-time,” I made it a point to “work” Monday to Friday. I took Saturdays off (unless there was something the members of the church were urged to do on that day). Then, I still preached, etc. on Sunday. I did take needed time during the day, Monday to Friday – but I was also “out” many evenings.

    I am appalled at preachers who have to have Monday’s off – plus Saturdays – because they consider Sunday a “work day” and they only “work” five days a week.

    When I was chaplain at the CoC Care Center, part of my job was to schedule area churches to come to the nursing home to conduct a Sunday afternoon worship service. I quickly learned which churches I could call on Monday morning and expect to talk with a preacher and which preachers were there. Few were in on Monday morning.

    While I have great respect for (most) preachers and I believe most of them believe they work hard, those who came into the pulpit direct from college seldom have the work ethic of the best preachers. I have known some preachers who have a very strong work ethic. I have also worked with some who leave much to be desired.

    Some of these that are not “in the office” are busy in the Lord’s work. Some are… who knows?

    When I was asked to provide the elders with a list of persons visited, I resented it as a sign of lack of trust. In my visits, I knew when they were visiting, for I crossed their tracks. I thought that if they were being true pastors of the flock, they would be crossing my tracks as well. I gave them a list, and they were impressed – and immediately showed it to the deacons. I also thought that was inappropriate. I did not want every deacon poring over that list and asking why I visited this one but not that one during this week or month.

    Accountability is ultimately to God. In a paid position, we must also be accountable to those who write the checks. I struggled with this as a preacher; now that I’m on the “other side of the table,” I still struggle with it. This series is helping me to think through questions I have had for a long time!

    Jerry, CommittedToTruth.WordPress.Com

  3. First,

    I know there are some lazy ministers just as there are lazy people in all vocations. But one thing I have noticed is that many people in the church do not have any clue as to how much a minister (whose passion is the mission of God) will sacrifice.

    Any ways, I believe the key to getting member involvement is to equip them to employ the spiritual ministry gifts God has given them. That requires two things in the realm of prayerful listening to God. 1) It requires the minister to listen to God and be attentive to the ways that God is wanting to use a certain member. 2) It requires getting that member to listen to God and be attentive to the ways God is wanting to use them. Thus, a big task of ministry seems to be getting the church to listen for God, to hear what God is doing around them and how they can participate in that God-activity.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

    P.S., When I use the word “listening” I am not implying that God will literally speak if we listen (though God can do that if he choose to) but becoming so attentive to the heartbeat of God and his mission that we begin to start discerning the world through the eyes of God. When that happens God will begin to speak through something that seems otherwise mundane such as a co-worker who has been struggling with an unfaithful spouse or a neighborhood filled with recent Asian immigrants, etc….where we hear God speaking about his mission in those people and begin to sense how God can use us in that mission.

  4. So how does the wise minister gain enough credibility within the church to be able to call the members to volunteer, contribute, and serve? What gives him the credibility necessary for the job? How do the members know that he’s a hard worker?

    Actually, that’s very simple. No one is being born as a preacher, and no one is being appointed as a preacher right after baptism. Preachers, similar to elders, should be mature Christians who already showed the teachings they are goint to present “full time” in their lives they have lived so far.

    There is one problem however, that I see: When we start hiring preachers fresh from the seminary, we hire persons with a lot of knowledge that might be intimidating for the ordinary lay-persons. What happens is that we confuse knowledge with experience. Sometimes I am very surprized about how young the preachers in the churches are.

    But the problem of credibility is gone, if preachers are just matured brothers whose lives had been observed by the church for a number if years, who gradually grew into this task over the years (leading Bible classes, giving a sermon once in a while, being seen as a trustworthy person for “inofficial counselling, …). And it is necessary that there is more than one preacher in a church, and that the one’s serving fulltime are not being put on a pedestal compared to the others who are working fulltime. Whether we are working fulltime or serving fulltime, our full time belongs to the Lord anyway.

    In Christ
    Alexander

  5. Even when the minister is very hard working and disciplined, the members rarely know it.

    That’s a big part of the problem. Somehow, there needs to be visibility into the life of the minister.

    I once told a minister we were in the process of hiring that I merely expected him to invest at least 40 more hours a week than I do serving the church (which probably amounts to an additional15-20 hours a week.) There are plenty of folks in an active church who do that much or more on a volunteer basis.

    Ministry should not be primarily about preparing sermons and lessons. It should be about spiritual leadership, walking with the members on a daily basis, training new leaders, inspiring with vision and leading toward that vision, and doing personal evangelism. Yes, evangelism! That’s something even a young minister can do, and do excellently. OTOH some kinds of counseling and pastoral care require the experience and wisdom of an older, more mature spiritual leader.

    I’ve seen ministers who tied heavy burdens upon people and didn’t lift a finger to help them with it. And I’ve seen ministers who served with every breath they took every day. The difference is a matter of the heart.

  6. Jay, you say:

    “He doesn’t have the credibility needed to call them to Tuesday night visitation unless they think he’s just as committed to work and church as they are.”

    I would argue that, primarily, it isn’t the preacher’s work ethic or number of hours he puts in that gives him the credibility to call others to “good works.” It is an open, vulnerable, humble, inviting heart actively walking “in the path of the good” that becomes the compelling argument for those to whom he preaches.

  7. Abasnar said, “There is one problem however, that I see: When we start hiring preachers fresh from the seminary, we hire persons with a lot of knowledge that might be intimidating for the ordinary lay-persons. What happens is that we confuse knowledge with experience. Sometimes I am very surprized about how young the preachers in the churches are.”

    1 Timothy 4.12???

    While knowledge and experience are both helpful (wisdom), what does age have to do with who is asked to serve as a minister? What about calling?

    I been through the “minister search” to know that many congregational searches for a minister has simply become an exercise in human inginuity in order to decides who serves as minister rather than prayerfully seeking out the minister that God has called to that congregation regardless of age.

    Jesus never said “Ye of little inginuity.”

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  8. There is a word that seems to be missing from this discussion. It is the difference between holding one another accountable and hiding ulterior motives. It is the foundational principle Jesus employed when the first disciples expressed an interest in his life. It is the refuge of the battered, the inner sanctum of the mission-minded, the super-charger for trust and concern and it is the key to learning to really hear one another when we speak to one another.

    The word? Transparency.

    Oh, and one more thing – transparency is never a one-way street. For transparency to be truly transparent, ALL of those involved must seek to model that which they also seek to observe. I cannot ask you to share your schedule if I am unwilling to do the same with mine. Jesus did this with His disciples, His leadership team. So should we.

    Blessings, and may we each take the time to live as we call others to live and to hear as we desire to be heard.

  9. Of course, for transparency to grow, one will need to place trust with those one wishes to hold accountable and with whom one desires to be held accountable.

  10. 1 Timothy 4.12??? (Let no man despise thy youth;)

    Paul hired Timothy on the beginning of this second mission-journey as an already approved young man, around the year 48 AD. 1st Tim was written aroud the year 62 AD. Let’s suggest that Timothy was in his early 20ies in 48; then he was almost 40 when Paul wrote these words.

    Compared to Elders who are to have believing children (and are most likely rathr 50 and older), Timothy of course seemed younger.

    While knowledge and experience are both helpful (wisdom), what does age have to do with who is asked to serve as a minister? What about calling?

    What does seminary training have to do with being a minister? I know this sounds a lot like the non-institutional wing, but I am serious. I look at a Timothy, 40 years old with 14 years of experience on the field after (!) being approved by the church where he grew up. He was not on any seminary.

    And I see churches who seek “professionals” with a degree from this or that Christian University, who hire young men, with a whole lot of theories, who will minister a church they don’t know and to whom he is unknown. Timothy, as a companion of Paul, was well known in Ephesos, before Paul entrusted the work into his hands in 62 AD.

    Of course there are many good ministers, but I think the whole approach needs some rethinking.

    Alexander

  11. Abasnar,

    You missed my point. Although I went to seminary and see much value in it, I am not defending some notion of hiring only ministers with “professional” credentials. Likewise, though knowledge and experience are helpful, I am suggesting that even those two criterions should not be the primary basis for who a congregation invites to come and serve in ministry with them. I am instead suggesting that *calling* ought to be the primary catagory and if that minister happens to be lacking in a certain skill set(s) then let the church support him/her in abtaining the necessary training whether that is through formal seminary education or some other means.

    However, I will say that the Apostle Paul was a pretty educated Christian thinker and leader. Though the means of educating and equipping Christian leaders has changed since Paul’s day (we can argue all day long about the merits of this), some form of education is indispensible to being an effective Christian leader whether serving in a new mission field or in an existing congregation. No one reads scripture in a vacume, we all come to it with biases. Further, very few people have either the language knowledge and historical knowledge to understand how Christian thought has emerged (for good and bad) and how to interpret scripture both in a faithful manner to scripture and in a way that bears upon the dominant worldview of our time…and yet this is one of the primary tasks of a Christian leader if that leader is going to euip others for living out the gospel of Jesus Christ which is still a radical offensive claim againt the times of our day.

    I know there are some well-trained ministers who have made some huge mistakes and for that we must lament and hope not to repeat. But I have seen far more abusive damage done in the name of Jesus Christ by those who think they have been called to lead God’s people and think they can do that by picking up the Bible as though they have a blank slate…and some of them have had plenty of secular experience in other fields. So we may not have the best system for training and calling those to serve in ministry but I still believe seminary training is better than no training at all. Further, for every so-called disaster created by someone with a lot of “theories” from seminary, we could find many more who have used their seminary training for great service in the Kingdom of God.

    Two years ago in Minnesota I saw a great approach to calling ministers. There was a young kid who worked part-time in a coffee shop. He also served as a volunteer “evangelist apprentice” under the pastor of his Bible Church. This apprenticeship was a two-year deal. He already had an undergraduate education in both Biblical language and speech communication. After his two-year apprentice, assuming he still feel called into ministry and assuming his Pastor and the other church elders still see God calling him into ministry, the church would then begin supporting him with a part-time salary and they would also begin to pay his tuition for seminary studies at one of the seminaries in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I think that is a model worth exploring in the CoC but that is just me.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  12. Rex,

    I think you nail it. I entered full-time ministry because I was mentored by someone who knew how to walk with God and who taught me. That is the one thing a Bible College/Seminary cannot provide and probably should find a way to do – long term apprenticeships where ministers are discipled into effective Christ-Centered, Spirit-Driven ministry.

  13. Alan,

    Amen.

  14. Adam,

    I would argue that it’s both. A preacher with a poor work ethic or foolish enough to let people think he has a poor work ethic will have trouble getting people to follow him, no matter his heart — as they’ll judge his heart based on the entirety of their knowledge of him. If that includes a perceived poor work ethic, his credibility is severely damaged.

    Of course, preachers, like all of us, sometimes go through exigent times when they can’t work as much as they’d like due to health or family problems, for example.

  15. Grizz,

    I agree on all accounts. Trust and transparency are essential.

  16. Rex and Alexander and all,

    John York at Lipscomb is in the process of creating an internship program for new pulpit ministers. Those interested in supporting such an effort — by having a young pulpiteer train at your congregation — should contact John. I’m sure he’d appreciate it greatly. And you’d do a lot of good for the Kingdom. There’s a shortage of good pulpit men.

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