Ensuring Only Pharisees Are Eligible to Run The Church, or More Bad News For the Not-Good-Enoughs

A little bit ago I wrote a post that was less of an authoritative “I know what I’m talking about – listen to me” and more of a “here’s a hypothesis I want to try out here;” not that I write very much in the authoritative tone.  Well today I’d like to continue in that same vein, and the short of it is I’m asking for you to correct me if you think I’ve diverged. Which means even I’m allowing there is a good possibility.

Mega-churches  are a pretty recent invention to Christianity, not just in size but in also how they are operated. Out of shear necessity many/most have adopted a model of managing staff, programs and resources that is mirror to the modern business world. From my vantage point I think this need to be organized and efficient led to churches instituting a sort of filtration system of requirements to be considered staff/leadership at the church, meaning suddenly to be a pastor you needed formal education, training, qualifications and a religious experience resume.

This means the majority of church leaders are trained – as in they received their Masters of Divinity or a comparable degree… Meaning they had money for seminary. Which also means they first had money for a bachelor’s degree. Which means they were somehow able to find a nice sum of money (at least $60,000 USD I’d venture to guess) to be used toward all this education.

It wouldn’t gain us much if I had researched all the statistics, but you can imagine such a price tag (not just money but in time as well) narrows just who is eligible to go, and therefore become a church leader. (This post is not lamenting the nearly uniform white middle class heading the church leadership, but it is worthy of considering.)

I’m sure a great debater could persuade me that it makes sense to only have people properly equipped and trained to be fronting the churches – and the seminary system attempts to ensure there is a level playing field, that everyone is on the same page. I can try to see it that way, but I still think that it sets up that only the righteous do something within the church, as if only people well schooled in religion can run things.

This is a line I will use often: To me, this is not good news – that only the ultra religious get all the power (not that power is all I’m after, but I think you can see what I mean).

Unfortunately that is what puts the Pharisees right back into the top of the game, giving only the super religious law keepers all the power (footnote: I’m not suggesting that everyone in leadership is a Pharisee.) Jesus tried so hard to get us to see that the last are first, and the first are last, and that the forgotten people, the left behind are in fact the ones who inherit the kingdom.

The disciples were a rag tag team, most of them ordinary people – not highly trained experts of religion. And I think that was apart of their power, what allowed them to have such raw devotion and impact. So when we submit to the idea that we must operate under a system where only the best religious people run the show we lose some of the raw power and essence of Christianity.

And finally, for anyone wondering what alternative I’d offer, I’m a big proponent of not searching all over the country for the next person to come to your church who has no connection or history with the people. I’m all for leadership naturally arising out of the church as people grow and mature.

Give it to me: am I off? Does the system of training and qualification make sense? Could there be another way?  Can ordinary non-seminary folk effectively lead in their community?

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9 Responses to Ensuring Only Pharisees Are Eligible to Run The Church, or More Bad News For the Not-Good-Enoughs

  1. David says:

    I think that you are asking many of the right questions. Here are some bullets on my thoughts.

    -1 Leaders were chosen by God, not man.
    -2 Some were educated like Paul, others were not. God certainly used Paul’s education for from the New Testament church, so this in itself is not a bad thing. God calls educated folks too.
    -3 Maturing Christians (disciples) were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and continued in teaching, prayer, fellowship (relationship) and communion. (Acts 2:42)
    -4 The pulpit was not church. Ephesians 4:11 describes those who were essential to the church from apostles and prophets to evangelists, teachers and then pastors. The idea that a pastor is the only essential leadership position is foolish.
    -5 1 Corinthians 14 describes a typical church service. It relied on the participation of those present, not a platform preacher.
    -6 We have lost the whole idea of what a body is. It has become a spectator sport. Stupid, shallow, and ineffective.
    -7 Everyone should show up at church, whatever that looks like, expecting God to do something, and use them.
    -8 Those that serve others will get used, and those that come to simply receive, will eventually get bored.

    Just my thoughts on a low caffeine Monday morning.

  2. JamesBrett says:

    i’m not so big on paying ministers in the first place. listen carefully, though: i’m not saying they don’t deserve their pay. i just think we’ve developed a poor system. a very poor system. the one way i can for sure get behind paying a minister, though, is if he’s so good at discipling and mentoring others to be Christ in their community, we’d pay him to quit his “secular” job and mentor / disciple others full-time on how to mentor / disciple others.

    this is the route i’d go with paid ministry staff if it were up to me: everyone works secular jobs. if God has gifted an individual, and he is already using these gifts in such a way that the church — and even more the community in which it exists — would benefit from him going to half-time or even less in that job, then we pay him to do so. that way we’re recognizing what God is doing in individuals in our own church family, acknowledging giftings the Spirit has placed, and not just hiring some guy because he went to college.

    i have a real problem with choosing leadership based on educational experience and background, especially when most of the guys coming out of college have done nothing but gotten their education. i think a track record of being used by God is so much more important than knowledge.

  3. David says:

    @James – good stuff. I think that “salaries” are not biblical. How about at each service or bible study we take an offering? The worker is certainly worthy of his hire. This would encourage lay folks doing good work and developing in their gifting. It would discourage folks from taking positions based on worldly security. It wold also fix the church debt problem.

    I have some friends that are itinerant ministers, and I have lived that way myself. One meeting I was at paid $0. I suppose that it was partly part of the culture. Another meeting I did with a hand full of Koreans was $900. I lived like for 3 years until my wife and I had a child. We either have faith in God, or we don’t. This is a good way to find out how really called you are.

    • JamesBrett says:

      but full disclosure: i should admit that i am paid to be a development worker / missionary in tanzania. a little over half of the needed moneys come from four churches, and the rest from individuals who believe in what my wife and i are doing. if i knew another way to be here without accepting those funds, i would (and i’m working on it). but as of now i have no other solutions, and yet believe in the work we’re doing.

      • David says:

        I don’t have a problem with churches supporting outreach and missions. I know that Paul worked as a tent maker for part of his ministry. So working is “potentially” part of the sacrifice. If you are doing God’s work, you should be paid. It is just the salaries that I have a problem with. We need to teach our disciples the joy of giving. We need to teach them to be led to give. This whole systematic giving thing is just another form of religion.

        Honestly, if we are living by faith, then salaries are opposed to that. Some of the ministers that I know do much better in terms of yearly income since they moved to faith-based existence. One often exceeds $120K a year. He is a generous giver, very generous! He cares for the widows, the homeless, gives of his time to mentor others in his gifting, and in these last days (he’s 60) he is working diligently to get all his teaching down on DVD and giving it away to folks that he doesn’t have time to minister too. I have seen him ask who has an unpaid eletric bill, and written checks for everyone that was brave enough to raise their hand. BTW – His pastoral salary used to be $40K.

        I admire him because I know the times that his car sat broken in the driveway, his kid’s tuition checks were due, and he prayed. Certanly he is human, and has his flaws – but few folks that I know really live by faith.

        Thanks for sharing, James.

  4. blast! sorry for coming in late guys – took the wife and 5 week old baby on a camping trip and just got back into the non-forested world.

    I really like the idea of working full time in secular work if you are also working in ministry. That person suddenly wouldn’t have so much time to put into a funny video to project on the screen. I can just imagine how that would resharpen their focus. I also think there is something to discipling others on how to disciple – thats the model I see the early church working from.

    @David – you can expect to see at least 100 posts on how the pulpit isn’t the church – it drives me nuts!

    great discussion fellers!

  5. “This whole systematic giving thing is just another form of religion. ”

    yet this is what so many churches require if they are going to stay afloat. I mean buildings and salaries cost big bucks. Great point David, I haven’t looked at it that way.

  6. Pingback: I May Just Get A Little More Sleep On Sundays, Or Wondering About House Churches | Charlie's Church of Christ

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