Broke Pastors, Broken Ministry Model

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Jim's picture

Freakonomics .. a very good read

Asks the question why low level drug dealers would be willing to risk their lives making less than minimum wage. Why? Because of the hope they will make it big - even though statistically so few do! 

[please: I know what some are about to think / say ... Jim is comparing preachers to drug dealers!]

From there the authors discuss realtors and lawyers. So few realtors make a livable wage. It's a steep ride up the earning curve to really make it. Same with lawyers. and Journalists. 

[A pastor should be paid adequately!!!]

But few are. 

For the lawyers ... there is a huge oversupply  / Same with seminary grads to open positions

Bert Perry's picture

You'll see this all over for liberal arts and other non-STEM degrees in colleges.  Engineering and the sciences have "gut check" classes that are essential to success down the line--try passing junior level engineering courses without a firm knowledge of calculus, for example.  In the liberal arts and too many seminaries, on the other hand, there is no clear "gut check" to separate, as it were, the men from the boys, the lawyers from the clerks, and the preachers from the Bible study leaders.   It's the economic principle of the barrier to entry.

Without that barrier to entry, you end up with a lot of people who really don't have what it takes to do the job of a pastor/lawyer/etc., but they're submitting resumes anyways.  Hence the guys who really do belong, as well as the churches they should be pastoring, suffer for it.

I won't hold my breath waiting for it to happen, but it strikes me that if Latin were commonly used in upper division liberal arts classes, and upper division seminary classes were more often done in Greek or Hebrew, we'd do a much better job sorting out who really ought to be in those positions.

Might help as well if churches weren't splitting so often over minor issues, and if we didn't have so much respect for celebrity pastors.  But that's another thought.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

I am in my first of four Greek classes at the undergrad level. Feels pretty gut check to me!

Dave Doran's picture

1) Perhaps the problem with lack of employment in the article is rooted in the death of the mainline churches about whom they were writing

2) I hope biblically driven churches never accept an academic barrier to entry that has nothing to do with knowledge of the Bible and theology! 

3) This is, I think, a proper place for a balanced view of ministerial call to be brought into the discussion, i.e., one that properly factors in divine and human aspects of it. Views which treat the call as some form of divine revelation or reduce it to merely a career choice run into a wall when a pastoral position doesn't open up. Someone who recognizes that part of the call comes through a local assembly extending it is prepared to wait for that confirmation by actively serving within his own assembly in the meantime. The true barrier to entry is congregational affirmation of gifts and qualifications. If the whole process of ministerial preparation was properly tied to the local assembly it would greatly reduce the amount of men who work their way through the academic system apart from congregational confirmation.

DMD

T Howard's picture

Dave Doran wrote:
The true barrier to entry is congregational affirmation of gifts and qualifications. If the whole process of ministerial preparation was properly tied to the local assembly it would greatly reduce the amount of men who work their way through the academic system apart from congregational confirmation.

BINGO. Unfortunately, in past IFB churches I've been a part of, if teenager Johnny walks the aisle and tells the pastor that God has called him to ministry that is all the affirmation and confirmation that is needed. After all, if God told Johnny he should go into ministry, who can question God?!?!  The pastor presents Johnny to the congregation and tells them that Johnny has been called to ministry, and off to Bible College he goes.

 

Bert Perry's picture

First, Josh, as someone who has studied languages--my first graduate level class was in Old High German and I'm pretty good but not fluent in modern German--agreed that learning languages is tough.  I'm also studying a bit of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as part of my family's home school, and have learned enough to figure out that the KJV and Geneva Bibles are somewhat more literal than the modern update of Luther's translation.  Luther, or at least the revisers, tends to do certain things more idiomatically.

The trick with the "gut check", however, is what you'll find in a year or so; will you be "lost" in your upper division theology classes without that knowledge of Greek and, I presume, Hebrew?  That's the position of calculus in an engineering program; if you don't get at least Bs, you really ought to change your major to something less math-intensive.  So if a lack of knowledge of Greek will make it impossible to pass your upper division classes, then it qualifies as the gut check in the way I mean.  I'm guessing it does at some seminaries, and does not at others.

(I personally know a number of pastors whose knowledge of Greek is limited to "gyros" and "baklava", so suffice it to say I think you're in the "upper division" already by simply taking Greek)

Agreed as well that congregational affirmation ought to play a big role--elders ought to be tested first, after all.  However, that does not remove the need for an academic barrier to the pastorate.  Paul does, after all, tell us that the pastor/elder ought to be "able to teach", and would not that imply that one ought to be able to handle some of the subtleties of the original languages?  I'd suggest that logic, as well as at least one of the original languages, ought to serve that purpose.  All too often, I see pastors who really don't have a good handle on the Word, but they're there because they've got the gift of gab or have won a popularity contest.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.