Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calling or Career?

The Religion News Service recently reported an over abundance of Protestant clergy in America. This takes me back to my own seminary days when nearly two decades ago guest lecturer, Ray Bakke, unveiled two alarming facts.

First, the number of churches in America was not keeping up with population growth. We were, instead, losing ground.

Second, there is not enough money available to pay for all the new seminary graduates to have jobs.

The result, he reported, would be that 50% of my graduating class would no longer be in ministry five years into the future. Bakke told us that if we want to impact America and the world for Christ, many of us would have to become bivocational.

I don’t believe that many people go to seminary in order to become bivocational ministers. For some ministry is a career choice. You go to dental school to be a dentist and seminary to be a pastor. They don’t envision bivocational work in a struggling rural or inner-city church. They say no to bivocational church planting.

The career minded who do get hired will probably be marked by their upward mobility and keen sense of entitlement. They will plan their ministry around their time off and vacations and rarely will they schedule meetings in the evening.

True calling involves sacrifice. There are many bivocational pastors out there who don’t get days off. Their vacation time is used for VBS or mission trips. They pastor churches or serve on staff with little recognition except from God and the ones they serve. Other pastors who receive full-time support serve long hours ministering to people in need. They serve alongside lay members who have already put in a full day’s work and now are volunteering a couple of hours to Kingdom work.

I have been told that a minister can work hard or hardly work and the church would not be able to tell the difference. I’m not sure how true that statement is but I know you can tell by the results. Even if the results of neglect or diligence are delayed (they often are) the truth will come out in the end. Even if it doesn’t, God is watching.

A minister need not be unemployed while looking for a paid staff position. There is plenty of ministry to do; if one is called.

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