Paid Pastor Problems

If you’ve been around enough churches you know that the perennial problem is getting everyone involved. Pastors look for strategies to get people involved, but sometimes it feels like pretty much nothing you can do, outside of becoming a cult, will get more than 20% of people doing anything. The team and I have been reflecting on this lately, and I’m starting to have some thoughts about what needs to happen. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to hit some sacred cows. The firs thing is that I think the “full time pastor” model promotes several things which really stunt involvement. Now before I go any farther, let’s be clear that I’m not against full time pastors. I just want to point out a few issues with what happens in this model by default. Secondly the vast majority of pastors are great people working as hard as they can to serve the people of God, so what I’m talking about is structural, not personal.

First, most we don’t recognize the conflicting messages we are sending. We say “this is your church” but at the same time we are setting all of the vision, and making all of the decisions. The reason we end up having to say “this is your church” is because everything we do is communicating the opposite. Also we might say or think “I want people to get more involved” while at the same time we’re being paid to minister. To a lot of people in the pew we just asked them to do for free what they are paying us money to do. The motivated Christian doesn’t see it this way though, because what they really want is the chance to minister.

Ironically, that is the second problem — the minister is doing all of the really cool stuff that the motivated guys want a chance to do. He’s making the major leadership decisions. He is doing almost all of the preaching. He prays and prophesies whenever he wants to. I’d say at least 90% of the hard core Christians I’ve ever known wanted to be full time. Because, basically it’s a pretty cool job. If you’re sold out to God and properly gifted, even with it’s difficulties, it’s a dream job. We’re sending our motivated guys the message that the end all be all of the Christian life is being a paid pastor. Now we don’t actually think this, and in fact most pastors will say “your ministry is more important than mine because you touch more unbelievers.” But the reality again is that for the motivated guys, they would love to be us if they could. Lines like “that’s not your calling” will not make them feel any better. What will happen if we don’t make room is that guys will grow to a point and then leave to start their own ministry because there isn’t room for them in our house.

This leads to the third issue. Because the pastor does all of the cool stuff, is able to spend a lot of his time focused on God oriented stuff, and has the support of everyone else, he becomes very strong in the Spirit while the rest of the congregation, especially the men do not develop to nearly their full potential. So you can end up with one spiritual giant ministering to a lot of people that don’t seem to grow beyond a certain point.

The fourth issue is the consumption of resources. Salaries are a huge portion of any church budget. When our default model is to pay people to do the ministry, that means that most of our resources will go paying pastoral salaries. That is until we get so big that we need a building, then it is a split between the building and the pastoral salaries. We should remember that the greatest apostle of all time actually worked making tents for part of his ministry. This should be a message to the modern day “apostles” who would find such a thing far beneath them.

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