Is Professional Ministry A Help Or A Hindrance To The Church?


There’s a good post and discussion going on over at Baptimergent  regarding professional ministry.  You can find the post here.  Here’s my response: 

I’ll start out with a couple of disclaimers – I am not and have never been in full time paid ministry and I do not believe that it is “wrong” for pastors to be paid a salary.

Even though I do not think it is wrong for pastors to be paid a salary I do not think that it is the best way for the church to operate. I think that it causes the church to have to be managed like a business, the congregation to have an unhealthy dependence on the paid staff of a church and tends to silent prophetic proclamation. I know many wonderful people who earn their living by being on staff at churches but I think the system needs to be dismantled.

Many of the comments I hear  talk about “all the things” that a pastor has to do. IMO all of those things should be shared by those who are members of the community. The problem is that the present system causes the members of the community to believe that the pastor should be doing those things because he is paid and the pastor to believe that he should be doing all those things because he is being compensated. Perhaps one reason most Christian’s are unaware of what spiritual gifts are bestowed upon them is because the system we have created implies that “the working body” of the church is made up of a few people who are on staff.

I know they are far and few between, but, there are groups of Christians meeting in the world without a paid staff and where the work of ministry is done by everyone in the group. So …  it is possible to do it differently.

In addition, it appears to me that a lot of “the things that have to be done” in churches today are things that have to be done to keep “the system” running and “the system” seems to resemble a country club a lot of times with all of it’s internal programs and activities.

I am always hearing that there is a problem these days getting college aged and young adults to attend/get involved in a local church but they aren’t the only ones. Many middle aged and older adults, like myself, who have devoted most of their lives to “the church” are leaving the church (if not physically, then emotionally) because it has become more of a hindrance than a help in our spiritual journey.

10 thoughts on “Is Professional Ministry A Help Or A Hindrance To The Church?

  1. Steve

    Another thought — I’m not opposed to having “paid” ministry in principle. But I believe it needs more thought than people usually give to it. We need to ask: What are we paying the person to do, and why?

    The answers will be different for each Christian community, in each place. All too often someone is paid to do ministry that should be done by other people. We pay so-and-so to do it so that I can opt out of active ministry and become a passive spectator and critic from the sidelines.

    I would say that the main thing a paid minister is there for is equipping others for the work of ministry. And it is those “others” who will be the priests, deacons, pastors, evangelists, healers, preachers and even teachers.

    And then it comes back to training for ministry — how do we equip the equippers? And the answer is usually that we don’t. We train them to be a one-man-band, and then complain when they behave like one.

    1. gracerules Post author

      Steve – Those are good thoughts and they have me thinking that I may only be opposed to the present structure that is typical for the church and not necessarily paid ministers in general. However, I think I would like to see “most” local church communities operating without paid staff and observe if that may lead to more transformation in the lives of those who attend. I tend to think that the “crowds” would be a lot smaller but that the percentage of members who participate would be a lot higher and I think that participation is a needed element in order for much transformation to take place – ofcourse that leads to another line of thought…what types of stuff/events/ministries the members participate in is important.

    2. Jarred

      It seems to me that part of the problem is that church leadership by and large doesn’t seem to be very good at getting other people involved. They don’t seem to know how to figure out what individuals of their church are good at and encouraging them to put their talents to good use. (Heck, sometimes encouraging them requires showing them how.) They just seem to expect everyone to figure it out for themselves and volunteer.

      That approach just doesn’t work. People don’t always recognize their own talents. And even if they did, they’re not necessarily sure how they can use those talents to help out in the church or serve the Lord.

      I’m reminded of my experience with Angie, a young teen in my Sunday school class and youth group shortly before I left my old church. It was the Christmas season, and as the recently appointed superintendent of the children’s Sunday school program, I was in charge of planning the Sunday school’s Christmas program. Another teen and I had worked on writing the script (no literary masterpiece, but we both liked it well enough) and the entire children’s Sunday school rehearsed and prepared.

      A couple weeks before the program, I realized that I needed to put together a bulletin to hand out for the program, including artwork for the front page. I had heard previously that Angie liked to draw and was a pretty good artist, so I approached her and asked her if she’d be willing to do something for me, since it meant we could tailor the bulletin’s artwork to fit with the program itself. I gave Angie a few brief guidelines regarding what I was looking for and asked her to come back to me with an idea the following Sunday.

      On the appointed day, Angie came back to me with three “sketches” of different ideas she came up with. I looked them over for a few minutes and indicated which design I thought would be best for our purposes. The next week, she handed me one of the most beautiful drawings I have ever seen, complete with shading and everything. (I sought out advice on how to best copy the bulletins to make sure that as much of Angie’s carefully detailed work was preserved.)

      To my knowledge, no one in the church ever asked Angie to do any sort of art project again. And in many ways, I think that’s a tragedy.

  2. Steve

    One of the best books to read on the topic is Roland Allen’s Missionary methods: St Paul’s or ours.

    The problem is not so much the “paid” ministry as such, but rather the “one-man-band” model of ministry, where one person is expected to do just about everything, and as a result it becomes a full-time job.

    Nearly 50 years ago I was at the founding meeting of the Anglican Students Federation – a national body, with branches on various university campuses. They had an annual conference, and are still going. From time to time they had talked of having a full-time travelling secretary, but have never actually done it.

    Some years later an interdenominational student movement was formed, the University Christian Movement. They had an office and full-time staff, and collapsed a few years later — a paid ministry was definitely a hindrance!

    1. Andrew

      Glad to see the discussion going on here as well as at Baptimergent. I totally agree that the “one man band” model is a problem. An even greater problem, however, are the entrenched and very complex systems of “connectional ministry” (i.e. controlling hierarchy) that perpetuate the system of “one man band” clergy and passive laity.

      1. gracerules Post author

        Andrew – Thanks for stopping by – I checked out your blog and really enjoyed your recent posts on preaching. Your observations regarding preaching ring true to me and my experiences. I also think that “preaching” has been elevated to a status that is unhealthy and possibly idolatrous. Here’s the links to your two posts for anyone who stops by: Part 1: Part 2:

  3. Jules

    Good response and I have to say that you stated it very well. Your a lot more considerate than I am on this subject.

  4. Queerprayer

    Have you ever read ‘Pagan Christianity’ by Frank Viola? After reading it, I can’t support having paid clergy. It was a completely foreign concept to the early church and it creates distinction between clergy and laity when in reality we’re *all* supposed to be in ministry. Seriously, if you haven’t already, read that Frank Viola book, it turned my world upside down (in a good way)…

    That said, I love my (paid) pastor to bits!

    1. gracerules Post author

      I have not read the book but have read articles and heard people speak about the book and the ideas that it presents and from what I have heard I agree with him. It is on my long list of books to read and so I do plan on reading it.

      I know what you mean about loving your paid pastor – there are quite a few people who are full time paid ministers of churches that I love dearly!

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I follow you on twitter but I don’t remember checking out your blog – I will do that now.


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