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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

That’s Local Funny

This is one of those things that is funny and not funny at the same time, isn’t it? I’ll admit I find it hilarious for all of the wrong reasons. Look at your neighbor and say, “F you.

What’s the lesson here?

  • Some things are funny on paper, will work live, but probably aren’t appropriate.
  • You really need someone to look over your notes before you preach/teach/speak in public. A true friend would have gently said, “You know what? This is really funny. And it makes a great point. But no. Don’t do that.
  • Sometimes your creativity has unintended consequences. Like you congregation walking around at work the next day going, “F all of you!

HT to Britt

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.
Categories
Church Leadership

Hit Me with God’s Hammer Today

A few weeks back I wrote about something I call, the Pastor Man Up Movement. (PMUM) There’s something about PMUM that annoys me and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is.

  • Is it that its mostly men and I have a strong desire to see women lead? Maybe a little.
  • Is it that its mostly racially homogenous? Maybe a little, but I’m a white male too. So what do I know?

While both of those things annoy me a tad about PMUM speakers/writes I can’t say that its contributing to the distaste I get when I hear one of these people talk about leadership.

I’ve been trying to search myself so I can articulate it. (And I want to be careful that I use words like “annoy” and “distaste” so people aren’t thinking I’m just some bizarre hater of well-known PMUM leaders.)

But here is one thing that I know doesn’t resonate with me when I listen to them talk about leadership:

Leadership isn’t about celebrating yourself.

Leadership is about moving people to do something or go somewhere they couldn’t go on their own.

Ultimately, one thing that bothers me so much is the celebration of self. You hear introductions that laud how much they’ve accomplished. How much money they raised. Where they went to school. How many people go to their church. That they are the founder of their congregation which is larger than yours. How often they meet other famous leaders. And why you should believe that every word flowing from their mouth is like little leftovers that the Holy Spirit forgot to include in the canon saved especially for you, as if it were milk and honey saved just for you… this one time.

Want to know who I want to admire? I want to admire a person who leaks transparency. I want to hear from a person who doesn’t want the microphone. I want to admire a person who doesn’t know how many books he’s sold or how many people go to his church or how many staff members he has.

I want to hear a speaker who stands up and tells the audience as her into, “Want to know why people follow me? Me too. I haven’t got a clue. God is doing it through me. I’m just a knucklehead. Know that I’m a sinner and it’s by grace that I’m standing here today. My husband and I argued about me making this appearance, but I guess we just need the money. And the message I’m about to deliver this morning– don’t get hung up on it. I have a staff who helped me and I have delivered it for 14 times. I call this my $22,000 sermon. After today, it’s my $22,500 sermon. Don’t be impressed with me today, be impressed with how God is using me to minister to you today.”

I know that isn’t exactly inspiring to most. But its the kind of leader I like to follow. (And its the kind of leader I aspire to be.) I don’t know if people would spend $100 to listen to a series of speakers talk like that. But I do know it’s worth $100, for me at least, to hear the truth over and over again.

Just hit me with the hammer God has gifted you to hit me with.

Honesty preachers to me.

Transparency preaches to me.

Humility preaches to me.

Checking what I assume against what is clear in Scripture preaches to me.

Chest-bumping doesn’t.

Categories
Church Leadership

Should pastors be formally educated?

It’s becoming increasingly popular in large churches for pastoral staff positions to be filled with people trained in business skills and not ministry skills. (i.e. They’ve got the title “pastor” and all the perks that go with it, without going to Bible College or Seminary.)

Let me know what you think about that trend. Vote in the poll below and leave a comment with your thoughts.

I’m just going to state my opinion up front. I think its a dangerous and scary trend. Particularly with some of these church structures where “pastors” are only accountable to an elder board… made of largely of successful business people who didn’t go to seminary! I think this trend is a reason we’re seeing so much open and proud heresy preached.

Categories
Church Leadership

John Piper on the Radical Results of Being a World Changer

Dang. Pastor John should spike his Bible at the end of this. I needed to hear this today. I pray you do as well. Let’s reject the ways of this world and go another, more impossible direction.

Who’s in?

HT to Travis