For the love of Money, what about God, what about me…

This morning Carol Howard Merritt, alumni from APTS, discussed the financial disparity that exists out there in ChurchWorldLand. She says, “I wish that each pastor had a set amount, based on cost of living, housing, experience, and education. A set salary, where certain things don’t matter—things like ethnicity, age, gender. And certain things do matter, like how much you had to go into debt to get your seminary education.” Carol I am with you. It hurts deeply to imagine a world full of debt and suffering in a place that is supposedly home to most of the world’s wealth.

I will be the first person to admit that even our lowest standard of living is higher than many countries average daily income levels. We are not the worst. We are also sitting atop a volatile mountain of debt, spending, and imaginary power cells. What the fuck are we living for? Where is the service to Christ? Where is the transformation? We are dying as a church in the west and people say they care but they are not supporting it.

I wrote this in response to Carol’s post. I am not a pastor, but a seminarian on the verge of graduation. I am terrified to go into ministry. All of the fears you spoke of add to my anxiety. What shall I do to ensure I can afford to raise a family or even serve a congregation? I heard far too much, “trust God! It is a matter of faith.” I agree trusting God is the beginning. Where is the practice of trust when it comes to financial support from the congregants? Folks will complain, but they will not support.

We are all to blame in the decline. We are part of the problem. This stance of “trust God and if you do not then you have no faith” removes the responsibility from congregations, the Body, and all have in supporting the church. We do not train pastors for free. Is it fair and good stewardship to expect these individuals to shoulder the cost of training that is required?

We have to pay 80dollars per ordination exam that is 400 dollars if you can pass these antiquated monsters in the first shot. Not many do! Then there are the psychological evaluations, anywhere from 600 to 2500 dollars. Then the cost of seminary itself, from 10,000 to 15,000 per year for tuition and an additional 10,000 or so to live each year. That is about 60,000 to 75,000 in debt to begin your service with. We need to be smarter with this. If we say we are concerned with the death of the church then we need to step up and support.

The day of the full time pastor maybe behind us I for one think it is. We must seek sustainable ways to minister in the context to which we find ourselves. Does this mean we have to do away with seminaries and the education they provide? No, the seminary education is foundational to service in the reformed tradition. We must change our lives to live responsibly and centered on Christ.

Do you need the ipod? The newest phone? The cable TV? The two cars? The this or the that? All of this stuff is nice. What does it say about what you live your life for and for whom you live for? I am a fucking hypocrite right along with many of us. I crave the technologies! The Apple computers. The name brand running shoes, the jeans, the shirts, the designer vitamins and food. I love to eat out and an overweight and a burden to this world. I do not practice all that I preach. I need grace, forgiveness, and courage to be what I have witnessed in this world. To stand against the tyranny of consumerism and stereotypes, and hopelessness.

There is a better way. Please pray about it and pray that we can find the way to the cross and sit at the feet of Jesus. The rebel rousing Jesus that kicks the money lenders out of the house of Prayer. WTFWJD?

6 thoughts on “For the love of Money, what about God, what about me…

  1. Tribal Church says:

    Ryan,You’re in an amazing time. For me, the last semester of seminary was like a roller coaster ride. So hang on. It’s a bumpy ride!The coffee house/bowling alley/pub church sounds great. The is an astonishing time of innovation in the church and culture right now, and you’re right in the middle of it. It’s fascinating to watch really… just as so many churches are reaching the end of their life span, I’ve been blown away by watching this innovative crop of seminarians across the country who are itching to start churches. You can see the Spirit moving here, even in the frustration and anger. Especially in the frustration and anger.The denomination isn’t always on board with everything… but the important part is that you have the vision for it. In churches, that’s the key. Write down exactly what you want to do. In as much detail as possible. Pray about it. Collage it. Blog about it. Whatever stimulates your imagination….Then do your day-to-day work. Work really hard. Volunteer for the grunt work. And within just a couple of years, you’ll be the one making the decisions.I can’t wait to see where this goes!

  2. Kendra says:

    ryan — i really enjoyed the honesty of this post and the reality that sometimes the call process caters to those who can breeze through without financial woes, or it assumes that one (or a family) can handle the debt dent. i also regret that i didn’t get to meet Carol. your post and her blog intrigue me….

  3. dforbess says:

    Ryan – I am also so interested in this new “movement.” Doesn’t it all go back to the conversation we had so long ago in the Sierras about being in ministry?? I think you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Tentmaker is much more feasible than pastor these days.

  4. Pappy McVulgar says:

    Dani, I do remember the conversation. I think I am finally beginning to accept the “call” on my life. I could use some prayer. I am scared and am not too sure how to follow the “call”. I am sort of laughing at myself right now…somethings make more sense in light of this particular remembrance.I am putting together a “vision packet” for supporters and churches, and congregations that what to support this ministry.I t is my hope to have 4 to 5 part time pastors in the mix and also work a part time job in the community or n the coffee shop to minister to the surrounding communities. It is my fear that the PCUSA is not ready for this or wants to control it so much that it cannot organically flow from the reconciling community.BLESSINGS!

  5. BCDees says:

    This whole education debt thing is a truly insidious system. It’s how we have turned the middle class into wage slaves. It used to be the case the a college/grad school education meant some degree of financial certainty. Now, it takes decades to pay off the debt one must accrue to be competitive in the job market. One loses social mobility because this debt is large and long term. All just part of the diabolical plan to get everyone possible into debt.

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