Church leaders need to be adjusting the thinking of their leaders back to a biblical and historical way of supporting "full time" ministers. I put "full time" in quotations because every Christian is full time in the Ephesians 4:1 sense, which is the sense in the Bible. We've been called, that is, saved unto a new vocation. Every Christian in that sense, the sense, is bi-vocational. You have the office of the pastor, but that doesn't mean he isn't employed elsewhere, to earn a living.
I've told our people that our church is probably not reproducible for the age in which we live. We have a "self-supporting" church in an urban area with an incredible overhead. Everything is expensive. Land is expensive. There is a wide range within a few miles. In Lamorinda, where we are evangelizing now, the property values average over a million dollars.
Since the above is true, we can't be thinking about pastors in the same way many, if not most, have for the last century or two. We've got to go back to the old paradigm, where men of God are tent makers, like the Apostle Paul, and then in early American history, the doctor/pastor or farmer/pastor.
What I'm writing about here will require a change even in parenting philosophy for many. The old paradigm here was you trained your children in character, to obtain a godly spouse, and to fulfill his role, which for the boy was earning a living. A boy learned a trade and he had to take care of a family as a first responsibility.
The financial pressures for pastors to keep a full time pastorate often result in the compromises to doctrine and practice that I confront here. To stay self-supporting, to keep a full time salary, pastors need a certain number of giving members and to sustain those in this country, in this cultural milieu, seems to call for easing up on doctrinal and practical precision. Rather than getting a job, a pastor will attempt to find the sweet spot, the balance, whatever one wants to call what it takes to keep the membership intact to the degree that it can pay him.
When the young people would go off to Bible college and graduated, everyone who graduated needed to be paid either on pastoral staff, school staff, or with missionary support. All of that money did not exist, so in a sense, it was all a house of cards, ready to fall. Really, it was a lie. It was never real. The money divided very thinly. Not everyone could get paid. Ultimately through sheer attrition, many of these had to get jobs anyway, but now they didn't have any marketable skills, no trade, no way of earning. In this sense, the churches put the cart before the horse.
In the past, men started with having a means of earning. That was part of being a Christian. You took care of a family first. The cultural mandate, subdue and have dominion, says that Christians should contribute. Christians aren't to borrow from everyone else, sponge off the efforts that everyone else put in. They should be the biggest contributors and in the best way. They should show the world how life is to be lived.
I understand some of the thinking against what I'm writing about. Your potential full time servants will start making the big money and then won't want to walk away from it. When they are training for a job, surrounded by all those unbelievers, they could falter and go off the right path. This reverts back to the doctrine of salvation. If these people are really converted and grounded in scripture, they won't be stopped from accomplishing what the Bible says Christians should.
In many cases, Christian kids can't do anything in the world. They are afraid to do anything. The churches have made them that way. The boys might even lack ambition, because they've never been pushed to have it. They don't know what to do, because they don't have a skill to do it. They've not been given any direction to be that way. A kind of welfare mentality can even exist, where there is the assumption that someone should be able to write them a paycheck.
A man with the desire for the office of the bishop, the pastor, gets a good job and then does the work of the evangelist, trains others, and continues to evangelize an area, and maybe it never becomes self-supporting. He can stay because he wasn't totally dependent on the church for support. The church should support him. Scripture teaches that, but getting fully supported is not a scriptural goal. The goal is rightly to lead a right church. He preaches right, practices right, and takes everyone else with him. He and the other disciples keep preaching and working. Maybe the church will allow for him to stop his job, but this does not become the end, because that is not his paradigm.
These life skills are not the enemy of being a proper or good pastor. Somebody who can succeed in the world, like a Daniel or Joseph or Moses, is well on his way with the abilities someone needs to lead a church. When you read the Bible, you're not thinking that there is some type of spiritual cadre, set aside by some kind of genetic predisposition. The Bible has the same standard for everyone. Everyone lives it. Certain ones, because of response to preaching and teaching, will have the internal drive to become the expert on the Bible and show that he can lead. He becomes the pastor, but he's already also a good worker with abilities to earn a living too.
Churches will need to establish men in a greater way to rightly divide the truth and to teach it. Both prongs will need attention. They will need to learn that trade or that skill for earning a living, while at the same time giving close heed to the doctrine. The churches will have to get started earlier to get their men further along than what they are right now, to where they're still playing around by the time they get to college age. They might be ready later. They have that job, earning a living, raising a family, but continuing to train in the church until they get there by the time they're thirty, and not when they are twenty-two or twenty-five. Thirty ought to sound familiar, but it could be thirty-five.
If we're going to do what I'm describing, we've got to get our minds right. We've got to build the infrastructure within the church for this to work. We'll have to start early. We can't afford not to start. There is no guarantee that the money will be there. That shouldn't stop the work. The work that Jesus wants us to do can be done no matter what the socio-economic situation. It isn't designed only to work where there is enough of a cash flow. People need to be hearing that this is how it is going to function now. Really, it's how it should have been and continued to be. The break we took from the old paradigm, the original paradigm was a kind of apostasy of the right one, which should be the new one.
Now talk amongst yourselves.