Monday, December 20, 2010
A note to my brother’s seeking vocational ministry. Part 2
Dear brothers, I have learned very little in my walk but this much I know: success in ministry can come and go. If I place my joy in my “ministry” I will waiver from one Sunday to the next. Also, if my financial security is placed in my “career” I will live in fear of losing my standard of living .
3) Never forget that your security is in Christ.
My position is in Christ- not in ministry. My security is in Christ not in my career.My joy is in Christ and nothing else.
What about bi-vocational ministry? In a word: It isn’t good. A dear pastor friend of mine once said “I have a full time ministry but only part time pay.” The career of ministry is not stable. For each pastor that has been in the same church for the last twenty-years there are ten who have an average stay of only three years. I recommend that you learn to live below the standards of the culture. This is not done out of piety but necessity. As a ministry of God you cannot afford to be shackled to the things of this world. The pressure of debt will tempt you to shrink back and to compromise.
This is not easy for the one who is married. Paul knew of what he spoke when he wished that all were single like he was. He also knew that not all can receive that. If you are married, do not fear. God has the power to bring comfort to the heart of your wife. If you are expressing love to her, leading her and serving her as you should be the chances are good that she will come to understand the need for simplicity.
I heard the story once of a missionary who was losing his financial support. The supporting church had carried him for three years and his church had grown. When he expressed his continued need for the money they suggested he get a job. He replied “I know that God has called me into full-time ministry.” There is no doubt that ministry is full time but the pay may not be. Guard against the danger of growing lazy. Be diligent in your ministry, trust the Lord to provide and never consider yourself above having to work. This goes back to my previous point: live simply.
4) Forget the modern model.
A group of interns were reading the biography of Howell Harris. One of them asked the question regarding open air preaching: “Why don’t preachers preach like he did?” A man who was on staff at the church quickly replied “We live in a different culture.” I was shocked but not surprised. One faith…one God…one baptism…but a different culture? If we really believe that then we are relativists.
“The more profession we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.”- John Piper
We are no longer prophets and priests but we are professionals.
Several years ago while working as a painter, I was sitting in a restaurant with two carpenters. We were on lunch break from a job. A large group of men came in. They were talking and laughing loudly. We turn to see who it was. One of the carpenters said to me, “They are preachers. Do you know them?” Unfortunately, I did recognize them. They were local pastors and associational officials. I watched them as we ate and saw the most bizarre thing.
The high-ranking associational man got a phone call. He answered his phone and in a matter of seconds all the other men at their table took out their phones and began to talk and fiddle with them. I wondered if the men at the table were calling each other so that they could look as important and busy as the associational official. How grieve I am to recall the number of times I have sat in a restaurant with professional clergy. The conversation is loud and their behavior is coarse. How many times have I seen the professional minister raise his glass and shake the ice to indicate to the waiter his need for a re-fill. Four refills later, he needs coffee and a “to-go” cup.
We have lost our Biblical model of the prophet and exchanged it for the worldly model of the CEO. We judge the man on the basis of the clothes he wears, the car he drives and the size of his church. The success or failure in ministry is numeric. I can recall a time when I served as an intern and was working as a janitor in the church. I saw one of the church members at a fast-food restaurant. He turned and warmly greeted me and asked how the mission’s ministry was going. I said “I suppose it is going well…as far as I know.” He said that he saw me around the church and assumed I came there as part of the mission. I explained that I worked there as a janitor. He got a big laugh out of that…until the expression on my face revealed that it was not a joke. He quickly tried to recover. “Oh…oh...yeah, you work with them…right.” I said “Yes. You know the toilet that you use on Sunday morning? I cleaned that.” He quickly grabbed his phone and said “Excuse me.” When he thought I was part of the missions’ staff he was interested in me but when he found out I was part of the janitorial staff he could not be seen talking with a person of a lower caste.
We further see the professionalization of preaching in the education system. No longer are we students of Divinity but we are trained professionals. The man entering seminary today will not be taught to think grand thoughts of his God and to herald in such a way that the listener is brought into that Divine presence. Rather he will be given a “skill- set” (devoid of the unifying principle of the knowledge of God) in order to be an effective administrator of the organization that has become the church. David Wells (No Place for Truth) points out how seminaries now offer the Doctor of Ministry degree to give the pastor social legitimacy. Wells said of the D. Min. “...a degree that not too long ago was called a Bachelor of Divinity. It is a case of professional elevation not by accomplishment but by linguistic inflation.”
I am not opposed to education. A man of God will be educated either formally or informally. Some will learn in seminary. All who are effective will learn upon their knees. God has different paths for different men. That is not the point. The point is the danger of seeking a professional position in the name of being a minister of God. Brothers- flee professionalism. Your earthly pursuit of success will render eternal ruin.