A wonderful pastor in our area was talking about Tribal Church, particularly the chapter on sharing power with younger generations, and he said, “The only problem is, it’s the older members who pay the bills.”
I don’t know who gives what. In every congregation I serve, I’ve made it a point not to look (what do you do?). But, I have a clear view of our personal financial situation, I know my husband and I are at starting salaries, trying to prepare for the future. We bought a house, and we’re saving for our daughter’s college and our retirement. We always want to give more than we actually can, which is probably not as much as someone who’s at the end of the salary game and owns her home. So, I imagine that my pastor friend is right: Older people probably give more than younger. But I don’t think a surplus of money or time should automatically equal church leadership….
I bring this up, because I’ve heard some disturbing news. I heard that one of the most prominent emerging church leaders is a tentmaker (a pastor who gets most of his/her income from working a second job). This guy is a frontrunner in the movement. He writes all the time and leads seminars (which–I’m learning–is a second job in itself). He has a church. And he works another job. Is it because most of his gathering is made up of people in their twenties and thirties?
Okay. I’m fully aware that it’s in bad taste to write about the financial situation of a colleague. Please forgive me for that. I am in no way questioning his personal model for ministry. I have utter and complete respect for what he’s doing. In fact, I’m in awe. But I am concerned that tentmaking might become the norm for the church. And, if it does, I’m not sure how pastors will sustain.
Being a pastor’s lot of work–spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in a small church or a large one. It is plain and simple. To do the job well, you’ve got to put in imagination, energy, and love. With a call as deep and wide as most pastors have, we often over do it. When we finally settle down for Christmas with our family, we’re exhausted from Advent. When we finally go for vacation, it takes a couple of days for our depleted selves just to feel human again. I have teetered on the edge of burnout a couple of times. So I, for one, could not add another job to the mix.
It’s strange. There are two major perceptions of the emerging church movement that I come across most often. One is that it’s a fad–like the Jesus people of the sixties–that will simply make a quick splash, but the stone will sink to the bottom of the river, the ripples will die down, and the waters will move on. Others think that we are in the midst of a Reformation, that the men and women involved could shake the very foundations of Christianity.
I’m ready for a Reformation. I don’t think that we’re watching a splash. This is a wave–an extremely exciting time. But, there is a part of me (is it the pastor, the mother, or the surfer in me?) that also wants to yell, “Be careful. Pace yourselves. There’s some wisdom in the structures, and the pension plans. We’re all giving up our lives here, but we want make sure that we have a good, rich, long life to donate.”
After all, I want these waters to stay stirred up for a long time.
photo’s by mrbernie