Clergy & Laity: Further Thoughts on: And he wants Mondays off?! (Part 2)

https://i1.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_bLBPZAiyuwA/SQkMldOkY5I/AAAAAAAAAJY/FlxoD65cNcE/s400/clerical_collar_9.jpg[This is a bit rambling, but I’m fighting a virus and that’s how the thoughts flow, you know.]

I’d add a fourth incontrovertible principle —

4. We ask the wrong things from our members, and so we ask the wrong things from our ministers.

We live in an age when most husbands and wives both work, and both may well have a long commute. We then ask them to attend 3 or 4 hours of church on Sundays, another hour on Wednesday nights, and volunteer in church activities, lock ins, trips to Six Flags, etc.

We have a congregation of over 700. Our children’s ministry alone requires 350 volunteers per year. We ask a lot of our members. And I’m good with asking a lot. I just think we need to be careful to ask for what’s important and to avoid those things that don’t truly serve God’s mission through the kingdom.

This is an important one. I don’t see the point of, for example, Sunday night church. Why do the same thing twice in one day? And so, why ask the preacher to preach twice in one day?

But what will the members do with their time? Well, maybe if we move our calendars away from a building-centered Christianity toward a missional Christianity, our members will shift their theology away from “how to act in the building” to “how to participate in God’s mission.” And if we do that, what happens to the time the minister had been spending in preparing a second sermon? Well, hopefully he’s working on God’s mission by bringing others along with him as he does missional work.

If 55 hours is too much to ask from the ministers, who are paid, then it’s too much to ask of our members, who are not paid. It’s unquestionably too much to ask if the time is being used unproductively — such as in hearing lessons we’ve all heard before. If we want our members to be more active in evangelism and Christian service, we have to free them from traditional, time-consuming, ineffective practices and take them with us as we do missional things.

You see, I don’t think the minister’s job description should be about preaching so many sermons and teaching so many classes. I think he should be evaluated in terms of the mission of God through his kingdom on earth — but only if we’re evaluate ourselves and our members the same way.

Obviously, the preacher’s role in God’s mission is not the same as the everyone else’s, but his effectiveness should be measured by Kingdom standards. You see, the biggest problem we have in how we do church and how we treat our ministers is in how we envision the purpose of church. We have to get away from church-as-institution-business so we can be effective in kingdom-business. We need a massive shift in church culture and habits.

It’ll involve a lot of hard work for us all. But hard work is good for us — when we’re doing something we enjoy and that is worthwhile. And nothing is more worthwhile than helping bring the fullness of God’s Kingdom. And if we’ll teach our people the right God, they’ll soon be a lot more enjoyable to be with. Our people, our leaders, and our ministers will be more gracious, loving, gentle, and forgiving when they learn a more gracious, loving, gentle, and forgiving God.

Thus, the ministers should be accountable to the elders for their time, not to decide whether they keep their jobs, but so they can be coached on how to effectively use their time in Kingdom business and to balance church work with family time and personal care. The elders can’t keep a minister from wasting his time on low-priority activities, which could be delegated or even avoided altogether, if they don’t know how he spends his time. The elders aren’t likely to agree to share the visitation load if they don’t know how heavy the load is.

And, quite frankly, much of what we have our preachers do does not further kingdom business. They have but so much time.

Now, there are near-infinite ways a preacher can spend his days. But the decision of how he spends his time is about much, much more than whether the elders trust him. You see, as the preacher goes, so goes the church. His work just has to reflect the direction and goals of the congregation.

If the leadership wants to lead the church toward greater community involvement and the preacher spends all his time ministering to the church, it’s not going to happen. If the leadership wants greater cooperation among congregations in town, and the preacher spends all his time on lesson preparation and visitation, it’s not going to happen. The preacher’s work day and the vision of the church have to line up.

But sometimes the minister is too willing, too sympathetic, and just can’t say no to requests, with the result that he has no time left to lead the church where it needs to go. He may well need for the elders to tell him to re-arrange his time commitments, help him delegate, and take some of the load off.

And the elders may have to be the fall guys — they very likely need to be the ones who visit Miss Smith in the nursing home and tell her that she’s still going to be visited, and visited well, but it’ll be by a deacon, not the preacher, because the elders have re-assigned the preacher’s time. And Miss Smith may well be unhappy with her perceived loss of prestige. Or she may tell you that it’s high time you put the preacher to more productive work!

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13 Responses

  1. In far too many congregations the preacher in his speaking role is there to reinforce what the members were comfortable with before he got there. They want a man who is “sound”, a fellow who graduated from a brotherhood school, etc. Then when in his lessons he scalds the denominations, praises the church of Christ, and highlights the coc distinctives they consider him to be a good preacher. Is that what God wants a preacher to do?

    If a preacher is doing his job he will always have someone angry at him. The truth of God is always offensive to those who are hypocrites, those leading double lives, and those who are make believers.

    I agree with this post completely. If the preacher is not concerned about the lost more than just saying it (there is a big difference) neither will the church be. People tend to follow the one who preachers to them. He is the defacto leader, not the elders. I know this is not true in all congregations but I think the larger the church the more this is true.

    I agree about Sunday nights. You see, for many of us, all of those church meetings is Christianity. Thus, Sunday night is sacred and not to be messed with. The reality is that the other six days is Christianity too and that is where all of us need to improve. Kingdom business is not accomplished at church but in the workplace, at the ball park, in a bass boat, and maybe in a bar. Church is where we get equipped to love the unlovely and declare the good news to the lost. That, is a preacher’s job.

    Royce

  2. Is the “Minister” an evangelist, a preacher or a pastor?
    Could it be that if perhaps we saw their roles as people “to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Eph 4:12) rather than expecting them to be the ones doing the works of service, the congregations would be more missional and spiritually healthy?

  3. i’m with you on most of what you’ve said here, jay. i wholeheartedly support an incarnational approach to mission, ministry, and “being church.”

    but here are my two biggest questions arising from what you’ve suggested:

    – what will the preacher do for his 55 hours in the community? most of us have jobs in which we can live Christ into those contexts. this guy doesn’t.

    – because the one way i think i could really get behind paying a “preacher” is if he’s so good at discipling and mentoring others to be Christ in the community, that we’d pay him to quit his “secular” job and mentor / disciple others full-time on how to mentor / disciple others.

    – this is the route i’d go with paid ministry staff if it were up to me: everyone works secular jobs. if God has gifted an individual, and he is already using these gifts in such a way that the church — and even more the community in which it exists — would benefit from him going to half-time or even less in that job, then we pay him to do so. that way we’re recognizing what God is doing, acknowledging giftings the Spirit has placed, and not just hiring some guy because he went to college.

  4. The risen Lord revealed through apostolic teaching that we certainly have some latitude in how we spread the Word. In the balance let’s also remember “the ministry of the Word” together with benevolence. The Spirit was guiding toward those kinds of distinctions in the first century (Acts 6:1ff.). I continue to see the worthwhile work of the two supported ministers of the Katy congregation and rejoice in their faith and their efforts to share the Word.

    Let me also suggest that part of the current trend to beat on “institution” and “church-building time” can also represent the wrong focus too. All groups have boundaries — making them “institutions”. The people of God are no different. And all groups need time together and time to worship the Lord together.

    The greater challenge is not associated with the word “institution,” but with the very real spiritual war that rages around us — and which a growing number of Americans dismiss as mere myth and “religion talk.” Congregations worshiping together continue to represent one powerful means to help people better see the spiritual reality that surrounds them.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas
    MortonBLSL7@earthlink.net

  5. bruce, i cannot speak for jay, but i myself am not suggesting in any way that we shouldn’t have a time in which we build one another up. i’m certain this is necessary. i just don’t understand why some brothers who are gifted in teaching couldn’t take care of the bible study portions of those meetings.

    my biggest beef with our sunday assemblies is that they’re often not being used for the purposes you suggest — and very rarely (in my opinion) being used well for these purposes. rather, we’re seeking to use them for evangelism and outreach. that’s where many of my frustrations lie. we’re in many cases paying preachers to do evangelism (what i would suggest they shouldn’t be doing) DURING the time we’ve arranged to build up the body of Christ.

  6. James:
    I appreciate your post. I’ll suggest that our assemblies carry both purposes — teaching/building and teaching unbelievers. I do not see apostolic teaching guiding us to the exclusion of one or the other.

    I believe unbelievers benefit from seeing Christians encouraging one another, singing to one another, etc.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  7. James,

    You say “what will the preacher do for his 55 hours in the community? most of us have jobs in which we can live Christ into those contexts. this guy doesn’t.”

    You don’t know my ministry because I prefer to spend my time out in the community rather than behind a desk in an office….whether that is down in the town commons, on the playground with some youth who otherwise would have no one around them with any positive and Christian influence, up on campus eating lunch or playing vollyball with some university students, sitting in a coffee shop engaged in conversations that I am trying to steer towards a gospel direction with people (some of whom share views very far from the truth of Jesus, etc…. That is the type of ministry as a “church minister” I have tried to live while also taking sometime to be in prayerful study of God’s word so that I might have something to preach that would equip the congregation to live out the story of God with greater effectiveness.

    I know some of that may sound like fun and liesure but its not. There are times when I have engaged in these activities against the desires to do something else…and none of that I would have been able to do, if I was doing some other full-time work that consumed 40+ hours of my week.

    As I look to move into a new ministry, I don’t know what sort of activities I will find myself in. I do know I will be asked to preach about 40-45 Sunday morning sermon and that will require some prayerful wrestling with scripture so that I can be faithful to that task. I also know that a couple times a week I will be volunteering to serve meals on wheels. I hope and pray for many other ways to be out “in” the community. I am fully aware of the limitations a “full-time preacher” has by not having a secular job where I can consistently be among the same group of co-workers to have a Christian influence upon them and for that, I am thankful for those Christians who work a secular job and do so while striving to be a gospel influence in the placy of employment. But please don’t act as if the preacher does nothing in the community because I do and I know I am not the only preacher do such.

    I don’t know your missionary situation. If you labor as a bi-vocational missionary, I trust that God is using your work for his glory. But how many missionaries would take their families to some strange land without any type of financial support from some other church? I have nothing to be apologetic for in regards to my mission as a uni-vocational preacher/minister serving within an existing church (and might I add, smaller churches outside of the “Bible belt” with many challenges not faced by the larger CoC congregations). I am thankful that these churches have been able to provide enough financial support for me to live without seeking other employment, otherwise some of what I do as a minister would remain left unfinished.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  8. rex, i didn’t mean to imply with my question that it was impossible for a preacher to use that 55 hours in the community. i was just wanting to know what it was he’d be doing — what it might look like. and you’ve provided some insight. thank you.

    i am in a very similar situation here in tanzania. i’m fully funded from the states — half from churches and half from individuals. i am bi-vocational in a way, though. i’m doing sustainable development (primarily in agriculture), and my question stems from this. agriculture gives me a “reason” for being in the community and living Christ among the local people. it provides me with a context in which to meet and serve others. so that’s kind of what i was getting at — is there a parallel option for ministers and preachers?

    my other point was that i believe our system of sending kids to school to become preachers and ministers — and then hiring them based on grades or preaching ability — is broken. if we intend for our ministers to equip the saints for good works, then they need to have records of doing good works themselves. it seems the closest we get to this is letting a guy prove he can consistently preach decent sermons for a time, and then hiring him away from that smaller church.

    we ought to be recognizing those in our congregations whom God has gifted — and maybe then we send them to school to add knowledge to their already thriving relationship with God? but we’ve got it backwards; we believe knowledge is the foundation. people go to school to get it, and then try to sort out the relationship with God, good works, and obedience. we recognize diplomas and degrees over the ability to live Christ into a community, teaching others to do the same — making disciples, that is.

  9. I agree with Jamesbrett completely. (I appreciate your work too James) We are working backwards and upside down when it comes to preachers…

    If a preacher works as some people desire what about his family? When will he nurture his relationship with his wife and children? When will he spend quality, relaxed time with them? His FIRST duty is to them in my view.

    Then, if the preacher works 7 days as some churches seem to demand, aren’t they also demanding that he violate the Sabbath principal? Every person should rest one day each week to stay in tune with God’s design. I have never read anything that would lead me to believe preachers are excluded from God’s best for them.

    Anyone who thinks Sunday isn’t work for a preacher has never been a preacher. It is becoming more rare in our busy society for people to honor Sabbath rest but following God’s design for humans is always best. Lets not impose rules on God’s servants that make them less than what they can be because they are to tired.

    Royce

  10. royce, we agree on something? glad to hear it, brother.

  11. James,

    I agree that we need a different way of recognizing those God is calling to ministry/missions and equipping them for that task. I am actually a second vocational minister. I was a machinest for several years before becoming a Christian in my young twenties when I was encouraged to pursue this calling.

    When I was a non-traditional student at Harding, I was also involved in ministry and evangelism at the same time. There were other “Bible/Ministry” students who also were getting involved in ministry and evangelism and I thought that provided some great training for us all to further discover how God was calling us into ministry. My wife and I actually were preparing for foreign mission work (Brazil or Australia) until the death of our child (it was then suggested by several experienced missionaries that we not try to go into a foreign context with such a fresh burden of grief). I was leary about some Bible/Ministry students that did not want to be involved in any ministry or evangelism capacity and I wish the Universities had some way of rooting those students away from actually persuing such a goal when they display no such”faithfulness” to that calling (and I do know that this question is receiving much more discussion at the seminary level).

    Last year I ran across a better model for discerning who God is calling into missions/ministry. I met a young man who worked part-time at a local coffee house. He had recently graduated with a dual bachelors in theology and speech communications. Now, in addition to working at the coffee house, he also served as a volunteer apprentice with a local Bible Church in which he served under the guidance of the Lead Pastor. This apprenticeship was a two-year deal. After those two years, if he still felt God was calling him into ministry and this decision was shared by the Lead Pastor and church elders then the church would begin providing him with a part-time salary and also send him to seminary with a promise to pay for some of his tuition.

    I believe that is a model of discerning someones calling into ministry that has some potential. Well, take care and have a great day.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  12. I like that model too Rex. Others should recognize the giftedness and calling of one who is gifted and called! Makes sense to me.

    Don’t know if you guys know Matt Chandler. He is pastor of a large church in Highland Village, Texas. A few months ago I listened to a message he preached to seminary students at the Southern Baptist Seminary in New Orleans. He preached from Hebrews 11. Near the end of the sermon he said to them “Most of you should not be here, you should go find a job, go to work, and forget full time ministry.” I think that is likely true of most seminaries and preaching schools.

    It is great to stop the mouths of lions, survive a fiery furnace, and be mentioned as doing something great. It is quite another to be food for a lion, be beheaded, or sawed into. Those in the last section of Hebrews 11 were faithful people too. I it wise to count the cost before becoming a minister of the gospel. Everything Jesus had to say about those who would tell the good tidings was not very pretty. He promised they would be despised and hated and would suffer for the gospel”s sake.

    Royce

  13. For what it’s worth I ran across this article, which seemed pertinent.
    http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100601/straight-talk-to-church-members-about-their-pastors/index.html

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