It is my belief, that on the whole, Christian leaders should not be paid by the church but rather work a normal job alongside their leadership responsibilities.
Here are 6 thoughts for discussion…
1. Maintenance men/women
Lets be honest, some church leaders (Nicky Gumbel, Rob Bell, Tim Keller…) are doing a fine job, are beneficial to the wider church and should rightly be paid for what they do. However, most local church leaders are basically “sweating their balls off”, as a friend of mine might say, to keep Sundays running and seeing virtually no growth – they’re merely maintaining peoples faith. I don’t think a maintenance role should be on 20k a year (plus house!).
The New Testament paints a picture of far more participation by all. ‘The medium is the message’ said Marshall McLuhan in the 60′s – and he’s right! If you stick someone up the front every week on a platform, give them an authoritive voice, put them in charge of decisions and pay them, rightly or wrongly people will expect them to ‘do it’ – this is the message you are communicating despite all your preaching about ‘every member ministry’. You’ll also create a hierarchy – a triangle you might say – hierarchies aren’t necessarily bad, but if church was flatter like a circle it would be harder to see who was at the top – communicating the message of participation and servant leadership better.
3. Releasing finances
A churches biggest outgoings are rent and wages. Imagine having an extra £40k a year (based on 2 salaries of £20k) to spend on alleviating poverty. I’ll feel a lot more comfortable standing before God one day saying we built 10 wells each year in Africa (etc), than saying we spent the money on keeping 120 Christians amused in church. Shane Claiborne rightly asks the question: “What if the church in the West was known for building wells in Africa?” – What a difference that could make!
4. Its not Biblical
Now, you will contend this of course, and you’re right – some people in the Bible are paid for doing ministry, but some aren’t, and some deliberately work another job… They live in community and share… Jesus?… What we have today is not people who are genuinely being held back from preaching, serving, praying and ministering to the poor because they have to work a ‘proper’ job – today we have a Christian ministry industry! It may not feel that way, and people may feel ‘called’ into it, but i’m not sure that people are hearing God’s calling so much as God being merciful and being prepared to work with people who are only open to hearing him speak in a particular way.
5. Locked away
Why do we take our best people and stick them in a church away from those genuinely in need and lost? Most Christian leaders never have the time to hang out in a pub (evenings are full with church stuff), have deep friendships with people who don’t know Jesus, or engage with and experience the culture. And if they did, as soon as you say “i’m a vicar” the conversation changes! Some people open up, most unfortunately become suspicious and close up. Not great for being incarnational.
The 2 most common objections I hear are a. That’s fine in a small church (are you a big church? You should go to Africa!). Or b. There’s too much that needs doing! That is precisely the point. Share it out. Don’t stop doing things, realise if we are to keep doing certain things more people will need to get involved. Welcome to the church of participation rather than consumption! The church of participation is surely the church of discipleship.
I’m sure there is lots more to say (please feel free to leave a comment), but on a very serious note, a friend of mine pointed out that if the church continues to decline – and I pray that it doesn’t – we probably won’t have the finances we have today to keep employing the vast numbers we do. Working another job while leading a church may be forced upon us…