Categories
Church Leadership

The Economics of Preaching

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Have you ever thought about the economics of preaching?

Probably not. 

If you were to take a moment to think about the value we ascribe to the action of preaching in the American church, you may start to wonder if we’ve overvalued it.

Think about it from an organizational economics perspective.

  • The Sunday morning sermon is seen as the single most important activity in the action of the American Protestant week.
  • Take away the sermon and you wouldn’t call it a worship service.
  • If you don’t have anyone to preach you may think about canceling church. You couldn’t say that about any other element of the standard worship service. (Music, public reading of the Bible, receiving offerings, testimonials, etc.)
  • Ask anyone in the pews what the most important qualification for a senior leader is? Preaching.
  • In many contexts the title “preacher” is a suitable substitute for the more proper title of pastor, elder, or overseer. But the connotation is clear, the main value in the senior leader is his/her ability to preach. I’ve never heard a pastor’s title swapped out to “host” or “Mr. Gentle.”
  • If a person isn’t a good preacher, even if they are good at a lot of other things, they don’t have a reasonably good chance of a career as a senior leader.
  • When a church grows, most often it’s because people say the church has a great preacher.
  • When a church dies most people blame the preaching.
  • People will put up with a lot from a pastor if that same person delivers good sermons.
  • Organizationally, you could argue that the Sunday morning message is the fulcrum for the whole organization.
  • Want to launch a new initiative? You better preach about it.
  • Want to address an issue in the congregation? You guessed it, the sermon is the best way.

Think about it from a monetary economics perspective.

  • The senior pastor makes the most money in most churches.
  • The one activity the senior pastor works the most consistently on? Preaching.
  • The highest employed staff person’s most important task, the one task costing the most amount of money per hour to the church? Preaching.
  • 30 minutes of speaking costs the church at about 25% of their highest paid employees time.
  • You’ll pay the drummer $75. But the pastor? We don’t disclose that. 

A hermeneutics problem.

You cannot argue, hermeneutically, that the New Testament values preaching to the level the American church places on it. When Paul gave Timothy qualifications for overseers he didn’t give special attention to preaching. “Able to teach” is one of 14 the qualifications listed. Preaching, specifically, is not mentioned. (Able to teach could mean a lot of things.)

If anything is emphasized by Paul it is matters of personal character. You cannot argue by Paul’s emphasis or in his order that we should value an overseer purely by his/her ability to preach. “Able to teach” is buried in the middle. If it were first on the list you could say Paul was emphasizing it. If it were mentioned twice, likewise. But stuck in the middle of a phrase like that? It’s just one of the regular qualifications.

Yet, in America we value preaching above all else. Think about it from an governance perspective. Your church could have 6 elders and 1 of them is the senior pastor. The primary difference in that person’s organizational responsibilities compared to the rest? Preaching. In most cases, the other 5 elders wouldn’t even consider payment for their service. But the preaching elder? You have to pay that person.

Here’s what we know. (We could each point to specific examples) If a person is a good preacher we will choose to overlook obvious character flaws. Even flaws that clearly disqualify a person from the role of overseer. 

The over-valuation of preaching in the American Protestant church is a classic example of syncretism.

And this one syncretism is a primary feeder for our denial of the priesthood of all believers. When you over-value preaching… you’ve created a new priesthood.

Question 1: What does it reveal about our view of God to over-emphasize the role of preaching in the local church?

Question 2: If we didn’t have regular weekly preaching what would our gatherings look like? 

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Categories
Church Leadership

Titus 1 & 1 Timothy 3: Six Things the Bible doesn’t say

Here are the two most often quoted passages from the New Testament about the qualifications of a pastor.

Titus 1:5-9 [Brackets, mine]

The reason I [Paul] left you [Titus] in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders [some translations use the word leader] in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 [Brackets mine]

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer [elder, pastor, overseer are basically the same word] desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

6 things that Paul doesn’t say that American church culture often says are qualifications to be considered a pastor.

  1. You have to be a leadership expert, a proven leader with years of experience, a reader of books on leadership, aspiring to be a leader, and a regular at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit and/or somehow tangentially related to John Maxwell.
  2. You have to be an employee of the church. The same passage describes the biblical qualifications for a pastor as they do positions the American church almost never considers staff-level. (Elder, overseer)
  3. Aspiring to be a well-known preacher. “Able to teach” is a pretty low standard. I am fully “able to run” but you won’t catch me out there doing it too often.
  4. Be in possession of an Masters in Divinity from a denominationally approved seminary prior to seeking ordination. That said, education was a high priority in the early church. You couldn’t even be baptized or label yourself a Christian until you’d gone through about a one year process of intense discipleship. (Prior to baptism, new believers were called catechumen.)
  5. Be a great manager of programs and projects. Since the early church was organized around the idea of family, you didn’t need to take classes in organizational leadership to understand the dynamics of a family.
  6. You have to be an amazing self-promoter of both the church and your “personal brand.” Paul didn’t have a blog, Twitter, or Facebook. And yet he somehow managed to be spur on the most powerful viral message of all time.
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hmm... thoughts

Things I’m thinking about today

Ever just have a hodgepodge of slush in your mind? Here’s some random thoughts this morning.

– While I still think of myself as a down-the-middle, maybe even conservative evangelical Christian… I’m finding myself tired of the grey haired leaders.

– As much as I’d like to say I agree with the complimentarian position of women in ministry, I thinks it’s just a politically correct version of it’s older self. I think you can put me in the egalitarian position of women in ministry, if those are my choices. I think its straight up revisionism, chauvinism, and crazy hermeneutics to say women can’t be elders and pastors in churches. (Conservative brethren allow women to practically serve in these roles, they just call them “directors of ministry” and pay them 50% less. That’s sexism.)

– Speaking of crazy hermeneutics… I think the rapture was made up by someone who liked science fiction. People argue about a pre-tribulational and post-tribulational rapture of God’s people in revelation. I keep reading the New Testement verses about that, and I have to say I think it was made up. I’m still firmly in the pre-millenial camp, but that whole rapture deal?

– This year’s American Idol is ridiculous. Paula and that new lady are cheerleaders. Seriously, what is Paula on? Randy isn’t say “dog” nearly enough. And the longer this thing goes,  the more I like Simon. At least he tells the truth.

– I’m officially addicted to the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel. I could watch them both 24 hours a day.

– I’m trying to be more green by taking the trolley to work in April. The mile walk back and forth to the trolley stop won’t hurt me either.

– I can’t wait for it to warm up a bit more so I can swim at the Kroc Center.

– The last month has been amazing on the stock market. Seriously, one of my stocks gain 25% just this week.

– Call me a hypocrite. But I made $1 per share on Ford in the last 2 months. Easy money! I think GM is going out of business in the next 6 weeks. But Ford and Chrysler are going to make it.

– I wanted to pull an April Fool’s joke on YS, I really did. But after I saw all the online jokes I was glad I didn’t.

– Speaking of work… I’ve been wanting to run around screaming about how excited I am about new stuff we’re doing. But people there already think I’m nuts so I didn’t.

– I like my iPhone, a lot.

– The other day I had dinner with Gary Shell from our church in Romeo. He asked me if I had any regrets about this move. I feel bad about it but I laughed. No regrets. I’m not the kind of leader who second guesses himself much. But I do miss our friends, big time. We are trying to scrape together a plan to go to Detroit in July.

– Baseball season is upon us, I’m calling it. Cubs win the World Series. 6 games.

– The kids Spring Break begins today. I doubt we’ll make it through April without a trip to Disneyland.

– When Jesus told his disciples, “Take up your cross and follow me” before the crucifixtion… what did they think? Is that kind of like U2’s new song, “Get on your boots?”

– Stoney still hates the water. He’s the only labrador retreiver in the world who won’t swim.