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?