“That little church in the town over needs a worship leader! You should apply,” she said. “They’ve had you fill in several times when their regular leader was gone so I bet you are a shoe-in!”
After having served for most of my life in one ministry capacity or another, I am quite familiar with the job requirements and personal sacrifice of those who serve in our churches. However, despite all that I may have in experience and ability,what I lack is measured in blank walls and an absence of 8 ½ x 11 framed paper. I knew I couldn’t submit my resume, even if I’d wanted to do so.
In today’s corporate churches we hire administrators, assistants, and human resource personnel. Those we look to as shepherds must have, not only a desire to lead in the Body, but degrees in divinity, theology, psychology, business, or counseling. They are required be insured and bonded as counselors and aware of libel and slander while being sure legal counsel is retained.
In fact, the bigger the church, the greater the culpability in the event one of your flock goes astray. Even our worship leaders have administrative assistants, degrees in music, and a choir loft full of prima donas waiting their turn on the big stage. The endless pull of the next American Idol waiting in the wings. Do they write their own music? Have the “right look”? The possibilities are endless. So is the pressure.
Those who fill the pews and folding chairs, or those padded multipurpose chairs linked together with unmanageable metal hooks and loops pay with their time, abilities, financial resources and sign up for ministry opportunities like “Sound Booth Ministry” and “Coffee Ministry” as though having a cool name badge and title makes you equal in importance to the ministries that really matter.
We all know what those are.
While we look at each other and compare our value based on our checking accounts, cars, homes, children’s success, marital status, and the network of friends within our fellowship, pastors look around at their peers and struggle with inadequacy if they don’t have a Masters in Divinity, a degree in Psychology, a book in print, and a beautiful wife. With eyes squeezed tightly shut and sweaty hands clenched on steering wheels they pray their children and marriages will somehow survive the 80+ hour weeks and their own exhaustion.
Our communities are groaning under the current economic stress and these men and women fear the distinct possibility of “failure”. What if they strive, stretch, and strain only to find Sunday numbers dwindle and a once adequate income shrivels down from weeks full of counseling appointments to a second job managing Walgreens or driving a school bus in order to keep the dream afloat.
Ministry isn’t about the number of degrees. It isn’t about who has the widest sphere of influence. It most certainly is not about who looks best on stage or sells the most books.
Ministry is both more complex and far simpler than that.
Serving the Body of Christ is about the people in front of you streaked with tears, doubled over in laughter, withdrawn in depression, aggressive with pain and fear. I can find no reflection of Jesus in the bullet point test you took to determine which compartment you fit into when you attended the New Member class.
The checklist is people management and best serves it purpose as an acceptable evaluation and application of assets.
In a nutshell, it’s good business. It’s well-planned, rehearsed, compartmentalized, management.
We are continuously tempted to give in to the utilitarian vision of our age that wants to make us simply a cog in the wheel and not uniquely designed for Divine purpose. We exist in a world where only the ones who keep the machine running, those whose form follows their function, those who prove themselves faithful to the corporate vision are successful. If you serve well, you get more… Everything.
Join me for some thoughts in this series, “The Business of Ministry” about how we can be aware of our temptation, in our Western Church Culture, to follow the status quo and miss the people in God has put in our path.