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?