Sunday, September 9, 2012

The "Curse" of the American Church - Hiring

I love a thinking man's faith. My mentor when I was a young, new believer, Carl introduced me to the world of knowledge, biblical knowledge. I suppose it is true to say he empowered me to doubt - believing nothing till it was worth believing.

There is therefore a legitimate role that seminaries have in the evolution of leaders. Of course it is not biblically obligatory to study in this capacity, but to have sometime in an environment of learning does have value. Too many planters and pastors are preaching very lightweight theology, often really only devotional talks that really don't cut it in a world that demands a more profound response to life's questions.

The limp that these schools and the culture surrounding them produces, is that the graduates leave their studies for  a world of church hiring - get your resume out there, apply for jobs, get into the ministering marketplace. Oh dear - how culture has dominated the church landscape!

Why is this problematic? Simply put - "Hiring produces hirelings!".Jesus warned against hirelings - those who are committed to their careers more than the church, they love their promotion more than they love the sheep. Changing churches to "greater" ministry opportunities is a curse to the church. We preach the church as a family - that means dads and moms who have kids. These kids are loved and raised up to become adults themselves. But the practice of hiring undermines the very fiber of this family message. The church is a family not a business.

In the same way, the approach the text seems to take us into, is the journey of salvation, discipleship, through faithfulness, to leadership. Families who raise up their own leaders - those who love Jesus, love this bride, love this story and lay down their lives to that end.

Hiring bows at the altar of selfish individualism - I want the best job, at the best church  for the best salary, to give me the best stepping stone for the best future. This dear reader is a tragedy. It is one of the main reasons why the church in this great country is stumbling.

Can we pause and be honest? This system has not worked. The turn around of staff has not produced family of community. The local church cannot be called to live 'family' if they are not truly led 'family'. This disastrous way has to change. From hirelings, we need to go back to raising up "sons who become fathers", from hirelings to shepherds who know the sheep, call them by name, lead them with love, laying down their lives for them. Can we be courageous and bold and revisit the bible best? I hope so.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Chris for writing this post! It resonates with me but I was left with a few questions. I was wondering:

    - How does a ministry model like this keep from developing significant theological or faith practice blind spots when all its leadership voices are raised up from one person's or tradition's perspective?

    - It feels like this model necessitates the need for leaders to have more than one occupation options. Either the occupation they have before being raised up into ministry leadership, or the occupation the must transition into after their season of leadership has ended. Yes, No, or something I'm missing?

    Again, thanks for writing this post and for your grace with my questions. I'm just having a bit of a hard time reconciling this with the dominate ministry culture that I've only ever known and been apart of.

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  2. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your post, your arguments are sound and thought provoking, and if I may, I would add the dilemma of: those called to ministry not knowing how to start, where to go and what to do. People argue that "one must hear God on these things" but mentorship is displayed by Jesus for His followers who heard His call. In my experience, there are very few churches that assist with releasing those called into a life of ministry, whether it be full time or part time, hence the perceived "need" to study at seminary in order to enter the "workplace". Firstly, surely the church needs to remind it's people that it is not a workplace? Secondly, Seminaries could assist by advising students in the proper model of the gospel, after studies? Being a Seminary student myself, and being in the workplace for the last 13 years, there are very few options available to expand in ministry, traditionally that is, unless of course... one uses connections?? ;-)

    Many will respond to such statements by drawing on the "If God wants it, it will happen" phrase, but this is not an entirely mature phrase in itself in each context. Yes, God will bring it about if it's His will, but surely in a priesthood of all believers, where people are told that they too can hear God for themselves, there ought to be a common purpose in establishing what God has told the individual and then channeling this person into a path that would mold, shape and align the "call-ee" into the Holy Spirit's path?

    So why study at a seminary at all? Well I believe it dispels a lot of false doctrine that is doing the rounds, usually by those that pick up the end of a conversation only. Also, having an open mind about church does not mean allowing "New Age" ideas into our midst. An open mind to the Holy Spirit is life changing alone, and not traditional structures on their own... We as people are very easily boxed into our own ways of thinking and doing!

    Thanks again for your writings, I am often encouraged by your thoughts!

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  3. I enjoyed reading your post. I have been in seminary off and on since 1991. I am amazed how people lack any sympathy with someone who is preparing for ministry as if it merely a career. I told someone at work this week that I two more classes after this one which is I hope 14 months from now to finish. He could not believe I would make that sort of investment. I should finish seminary with absolutely no education related debt. I have a mortgage on my home, but a lot of seminary graduates looking to reap the rewards of their efforts and pay off education debt. The system is a bit too much like getting a degree from any other institution. The path looks a lot like any other career. I've wanted to follow a church trained and church supported transition to ministry but churches I am associated with merely see it as just a career move like switching from being a truck driver to computer programmer. The change is seen as a career move, not a calling. The thing is I must not follow their lead, but rather see how I can take a shepherd/family leader model of ministry. While innovation sounds enticing, the ministry described in the Scripture is one that means close personal care for those under one's care, not vision statements, mission statements, goals, etc... Thanks for your post.

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