The recurring question of the times in 21st century America is: “What is the church?”
My flight is cancelled. That gives me time to blog. As I’m trying to get to Orlando for a couple of days at Exponential Conference with 4,000 other church leaders getting invigorated about church planting, there’ll be quite the mix of questions in its partnership with the Verge Network, where the conversation will veer towards more about being the church, and that typically looks different than a weekly worship gathering.
One question in the rethinking church subtext that’s rarely ever discussed is: if the church isn’t about the weekly worship gathering, who gets paid? (And, along with that, what kind of buildings are needed?) On the one hand, ministers who are doing the work of pastoring can be paid and deserve it. In, he Apostle Paul explained that laborers deserve to get paid, but he decided to not exercise those rights. (cf. 1 Cor 9:13-17)
At this inflection point of the church, and there may well be an increasing number of churches that would no longer have a weekly gathering. And since the church is the people and not the building, so the thinking could go, there are other ways for people to stay connected, other ways for worship to be done. Meaning, there may not be a need for a full-time paid minister. At least not a pastor as we commonly know of one as clergy. With thousands of people who have invested years in seminary training for professional ministry, if the format of church changes, what happens to their livelihood? Bi-vocational work is one option, but there’s got to be other options. New kinds of ministry jobs may well emerge.
As someone who has worked as a paid pastor, this isn’t a hypothetical question. Just thinking out loud.
[update] and found this timely post in one of the Forbes blogs about “The Seminary Bubble” by Jerry Bowyer, where he describes “the prospects are worse clergy than for other forms of professional education…” and how all that seminary training doesn’t really hone the necessary skills of preaching and leadership.