I’m late in starting this series perhaps because it is so close to home, but here we go anyway. . . The question that spurs me on to this discussion is simple: Have Christians become too mercenary?

 

I grew up in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher. I know no other life than that of the parsonage and the pulpit. One of my favorite quips is that I started going to church nine months before I was born. Truth is, I loved it. I could not imagine life without church. I could not really imagine life without church as I know it. I’ve experienced a variety of church traditions—both old and new—and have found places of comfort in all of them, as long as they are Spirit-driven, Christ-centered, God-glorifying in nature. I will admit that this kind of background may lead to a sort of sheltered view of the church and her expressions throughout the world.

 

However, because of this background I’ve been able to witness the ins, outs, ups, and downs of pastoral life and ministerial struggle. I remember the joyful feeling when my father was called from a small-town, rural church setting, to a suburban setting that promised growth and what the world would classify as advancement. I can still feel the anguish when leaders of this very same church chopped my father off at the knees because he wasn’t “bringing in the numbers.” Certainly the lack of commitment on the part of the church had nothing to do with the lack of desire to serve on the part of the church leadership.

 

Amidst all this goodness, badness, ugliness, and indifference I began my walk with the Lord. It started with the decision of a six-year-old boy to turn his life over to Jesus. From that moment in east Texas, God began to move in my life and at the ripe old age of twelve, I realized that there was a call placed on my life to a life of ministry. The decision was not an easy one for me to make because, though I loved the church, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to make the church my life’s work. As ought to be, the Lord’s will won out, and by the time I was thirteen I said yes once again to Christ’s call on my life.

 

Over the course of the years, I’ve realized this calling in the form of youth ministry, music ministry, education ministry, pastoral ministry, and even service on the international mission field. I have served in both what is called bi-vocational ministry (formerly known as part-time)—in which a minister relies on occupational work outside the church for the main income for his sustenance—and in full-time ministry. I will readily admit that my experience of my calling leads me to the conclusion that full-time ministry is the direction I should go. My dilemma—am I less than committed to Christ and His cause in light of the fact that I do my ministry for pay? Would I actually be more spiritual, walk more closely with the Master, if I were to move back into a classroom and volunteer all the time I spend doing ministry-related work?

 

The conclusion goes back to that word “call”. If indeed I am called to full-time ministry, then I ought to be comfortable in receiving the support I do from the church. Not only that, I ought to expect the church to provide for me support sufficient for the needs of my family. This does not excuse me from being a good steward of what the Lord provides through the church any more than I would be less of a good steward were I teaching English in a high school somewhere in Texas and serving as a layman teaching Sunday school or in some other capacity at my local church. I shouldn’t expect to be lavished with luxury because I am the pastor of a local church, but because of my calling to full-time church ministry, I do expect my support to be fully provided through my place of service. If on the other hand, I were called to bi-vocational ministry, then I should expect the Lord to meet my needs through some means other than the funds I receive from the church (and I think that each local church should provide meaningful support for the man who leads them—more on “meaningful support” later) while allowing me to find employment in such a manner as to be free to minister to the spiritual lives of that local church.

 

What are your views?

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