This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Money and Talent.

                  There is a prevalent lie at work in our culture that has also managed to weasel its way into the church.  This is the assumption that money attracts talent.  In other words, the higher package and salary and benefits an employer offers, the higher the quality of candidates will apply and eventually be chosen for the position.  More money = higher quality.
                  We see all over the place that this doesn’t work.  Yet we still proclaim the truth of this proposition with religious zeal.  It is even in direct contradiction with our theology and our understanding of vocation.  Yet even in the church I have to listen to this nonsense.
                  And it has burrowed its way into our consciousness so profoundly that many members of large, rich churches appear naturally to assume that since they have the highest paid ministers they must therefore also have the highest quality ministers.  According to this reasoning, lower paid ministers whom God has called to smaller, poorer churches are obviously inferior.  This is sometimes stated explicitly as if it were some universally accepted fact.  We use the same rationale when hiring presbytery executives, by whatever title they seem to be going these days.    
                  But anyone looking at the situation without these ideological blinders, using metrics having more to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the actual mission of the church, will clearly see that some of our most effective and faithful pastors serve small, poor churches.  And it is certainly no secret that there is a remarkable level of breathtaking incompetence – not to mention misconduct – on the part of highly paid ministers serving large, rich churches.
                  Furthermore, it is apparent and logical that offering more money will attract candidates motivated by – not the gospel, the needs of the ministry, or the gifts of the minister, but – … well, money.  Duh.  So what you are really guaranteeing is that the person hired because a higher salary and benefits package is offered will not necessarily be a high quality pastor, but almost certainly will be an ego-centric mercenary.  I believe the Lord refers to some folks like this as “hired hands”  (John 10:12-13).
                  I wonder if the people really making a difference in the church are not the pastors serving small, poor, even marginal churches where they are forced by nearly catastrophic economic circumstances to be creative, innovative, and imaginative.  This is where we see actual pastoral leadership.  And while small churches are not necessarily growing, many large rich churches are positively hemorrhaging members and money… but it goes unnoticed because they have so much left over, replenished by the Stock Market.
                  What if we looked for people who would come to a position because of their ministry gifts and their call from God, regardless of the money?  What if we called people to different ministry positions because they were excited about the actual work?  How many competent pastors is God calling to serve in important positions, but who can’t afford it because the pay is so low?     
                   In reality maybe salaries have nothing to do with it.  Maybe it’s really about what kind of exciting ministries can attract the best – as in most committed, called, gifted, faithful, and non-mercenary – talent.  We have seen the consequences of assuming that God calls the better pastors to the higher-paid positions.  Maybe someday we will see a fairer, more equitable call system.  In the meantime it is hard to see the upside of a system that wildly overpays mediocrity and critically underfunds the pastors and situations that may show the most promise.   

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