Tuesday reflections for week eight

Professional Clergy

I don’t even like that name, but it works to identify what we’re talking about. Yes – all people are ministers, but the way things look right now, there are some who are called/driven to equip and serve the body of Christ as their paid jobs.

“But will there be professional clergy in the emerging church?”

When the question was asked in class, Bolger referenced a post on his blog that received heated feedback. The truth is, the practice of most emerging churches hiring from within is very similar to a lot of mega churches I know of as well. That’s a universal change.

He went on to point out that most communities still choose to eventually pay someone to support the community full time at some point. Others choose to pay various people as bi-vocational workers. Still others survive with all volunteers.

In those fluid, less structured contexts where everyone is ministering and serving God in their vocational and personal lives, many questions come up. Who gets paid? Why this guy but not other people working hard for the church?

This all really leads to a bigger question. Should people get paid for leading the church? If there is a reason, then there will be a way for it to work without misusing funds. If there is a reason for the post, then the funds will be available (I’ve seen that even in raising my salary for my last job.) There’s obviously a Biblical precedent for it in various ways, but what should it look like today? Wherever each community goes, whatever they decide, it must be decided based on a scriptural conviction and the needs of the community, not as a reactionary move against a whole model or because they’re afraid of scarce resources.

I believe money should first go to serving others. So should time. But I also know that there are advantages to having people who feel called to and can focus their time towards serving, equipping, and humbly leading the church. If that’s happening, it’s not an unwise use of money.

As you’ve probably guessed, I think paid ministers can still exist in this new context. But their jobs will look different. If I had to, I could be bi-vocational. I worked before coming to seminary in journalism and could move back to writing or design. But during that time, God clearly showed me I was called to the local church. I don’t know what that will look like. I don’t have to. But I know I’m called there. It probably won’t look like the guy who shows up, councils a few people and preaches a sermon, but it will focus on the church.

There are a lot of things I can’t do, but there are some things I can do well too. My professional call and passion is really to mobilize the body of Christ to see them live transformed lives that impact the world globally and locally. For me, I’m good at doing that through leadership, communication, teaching, vision-casting and empowering others. I’d love to serve/launch a group with more of a cell/celebration feel to it – and that type of church can look a lot more like a network and a lot less like a traditional church building.

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