The Price of Professionalism
Kent R. Sterner of the churchdoctor.org fame wrote in his ebook “The Future Is Now: How God Is Moving In the 21st Century Church” in Chapter 15: Church Staff A Dysfunctional Business Plan: “Staffing the church in the 21st century is going to change dramatically. The new economy is changing the way the world works….. At the risk of sounding non- academic, the traditional approach for training church workers has outlived its sensibility. It is no longer possible for many to leave seminary with an $80,000 debt, take on a $40,000 annual salary, provide for a family of four, pay off bills, live near the poverty level, and function with a clear mind to accomplish adequate ministry….. It is no longer economically feasible for the system to survive.”
Jesus never founded a Christian University, a Bible College, or even a Rabbinical School of Theology, or a Seminary; he just established a “relationship” with 12 unlikely “pastor/clergy” candidates with no academically religious background, and invested in their daily lives. Most of his candidates would rather go “fishing”, collect taxes for revenue, etc. than study! Sounds like many people I know today! Through Jesus’ relationship with these 12 common men, the foundations of the Church was laid, not through an educational system establishing a hierarchy causing a clergy-laity division. Jesus just prepared 12 men relationally for a ministry that would defy the Sanhedrim of his day, the established pyramidal religious structure of his day, who would marvel at these “untrained men” who spoke and ministered with “authority” while relationally changing the world.
The Church has followed the secular thinking that “education” is what is needed to change social conditions. In a public school setting, I have seen course after course, seminar after seminar, lesson after lesson educating students about bullying as if that would change their conduct and behavior. It hasn’t. It could change the way you think about bullying, but it can’t change a bully’s heart nor his need for power and domination or attention. Church, you know that only Jesus can change a person’s heart! With a “change of heart” and building of a “relationship” with the bully personally on equal terms takes away his power. Problem solved. The Church has the answer to social ills, but does not exercise its power or influence spiritually or relationally. That mindset is changing with the “twenty-teeners,” those in their twenties and thirties during 20013-2019 years, who look for relational, horizontal answers instead of hierarchal dictatorial solutions that have failed in the past.
The “Log College” in Carlisle, PA was founded in a log cabin during the 1700’s to train “itinerate” preachers to become circuit riders who would ride their horses anywhere anytime to present the gospel to the frontier in direct opposition to the “established” colleges and seminaries of Princeton and Yale who majored in the academics rather than practical everyday relational experience. These “lowly” trained men with little academia would usher in the great “American Reformation”, the last “great” movement of God in America. according to Kent R. Sterner, to the awe of the established Sanhedrin of their day, the established American church.
Instead of “equipping the ‘saints for the work of service” as commissioned in Ephesians 4, the church has historically opted to “equip” the ‘called’ “saints for the ‘professional’ work of ‘staff development’” in a clergy laden hierarchy church structure. Jesus never advocated a pyramidal structure of church leadership, rebuking his disciples for fighting over who would sit on his right or his left in the kingdom of god. “Service”, a theme of Ephesians 4, is the key for kingdom of god development. Jesus showed this when washing his disciples feet, for while on earth he came “to serve, not to be served,” he told them. He never “lorded” over the 12 in his relationship with them on earth, but served them, thus the difference between secular thinking of leadership and the kingdom of god experience of leadership.
Instead of building a huge seminary, university, and college campus, in an effort to build a pyramidal, hierarchical church structure, the Church needs to rethink, restructure, and develop a relational horizontal structure of how to train, nurture, develop, care for, equip, release, and send out its believers, its priesthood of believers, to effectively propagate the gospel to all the diversity of cultures throughout this globe.
As “professional” Christians become unemployed Christians, being forced to going back to tent making like Paul in the 1st century, they will become more in touch with those in the world around them. The distinctive divide between “the saints” and “the world” will become grayer as the Church becomes more influential in the world. More non-churched people will be relationally socializing with church people instead of church people creating their own protective social bubble that is immune from the “world” as now exists. My heart goes out for those who have followed today hierarchal church dream of entering the “professional” ministry while incurring tremendous debt while being “trained”. Something is wrong with that picture. The Church will have to revamp how it trains its believers (old church calls it discipleship) that will not have huge price tags and debt placed upon it. Discipleship will be done “relationally”, not academically in the future Church.
Will we see the day when a church building closes because the congregation could not "fill the pulpit" because they could no longer "afford" their pastor or his staff?