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

Friday, November 7, 2014

No Mercenaries in the Church.


Money does not attract quality leadership;
it attracts leaders who are attracted by money.

            Here is another godless and stupid thing that bleeds over into the church from a greed-based economy.  The standard view is that to get the best talent you have to pay the most money.  There exists some equation in which quality and money are correlated: when one goes up or down so dies the other.  Therefore, the feeling is that if you want to attract the most effective pastor or presbytery executive you have to offer the most money.  This leads to the reverse inference that the highest paid must by definition be the best. 
            While this market-based approach may work in the secular economy where the idol or ultimate concern is money (but I seriously doubt it), the idea that it should be extended into the church of Jesus Christ is pernicious and wrong.  It is a view based not on the Scriptures but on a particular economic ideology based on a particular, faulty understanding of human nature.
            Jesus himself was famously poor, owning practically nothing, and surviving, as far as we can tell, on donations from a few well-off supporters, mainly women.  We are supposed to be his followers, and if that means anything it means living after his example.  This is the guy who says we cannot serve both God and money, that they are mutually exclusive.  This is the guy who had no place to lay his head.  This is the One we are following.  Hello?    
            Everyone knows very high quality ecclesiastical leaders who are not compensated very well at all.  Some of the most faithful and effective pastors are called to small churches that can’t pay much if anything over a presbytery’s minimum salary.  Some part-time pastors are astonishingly good at what they do.  And everyone also has stories about very highly paid pastors and executives, who performed miserably as leaders, leaving a trail of dismembered and dismantled churches and presbyteries.
            The fact is that paying more does not guarantee or even make more likely a high quality ministry.  What it does usually guarantee is a “professional” with a mercenary mentality.  We do get what we pay for in this sense.  Not that money attracts quality, but that money attracts people attracted by money.  Offering a large salary will not necessarily attract those whom God is calling to particular work.  But it is guaranteed to attract people motivated by greed, ambition, and narcissism.  
            The great ballplayer, Joe Jackson, once said “I would have played for food money; I would have played for free!”  In this he epitomizes what it means to have a calling.  It is the way many pastors feel.  It is because so many pastors act this way that the church had to institute protections to ensure that pastors were paid a living wage.  Too many congregations were content to pay the pastor as little as possible, which, when the pastor has Joe Jackson’s attitude, is quite a little indeed.
            My point is that the most effective and faithful pastor or ecclesiastical leader is going to be in it for the love of serving Jesus Christ and his people.  That has been the case with all good leaders in the church since the beginning.  Not one single saint of the church gave a rat’s ass for how much money they were making.  Such a consideration would have disqualified them from discipleship, let alone leadership. 
            Leaders should be compensated fairly for the work they do.  But the idea that a good leader in the gathering of Jesus followers is attracted by money is, well, impossible.
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