Earlier this week I had the privilege of leading one of my favorite groups of people. These are the men and women who make up our local center of Liberty Church Network. Each month I meet with this group, many of whom are pastors and church leaders. We are a highly relational network focused on fulfilling the Great Commission.
Mark DeYmaz was leading our discussion when he asked an unexpected question. “How many of you have a second source of income?” Of the many pastors in the group, almost 80% of the attendees raised their hands. I was shocked. While Mark continued to speak, I began to think about the pastors who indicated that they were working other jobs while serving in the pastorate. There is the man who recently stepped away from a full-time job as assistant pastor to go back into aviation. But he is still serving his local church in a huge way, fulfilling about 80% of his former workload with no remuneration. There is another man who sells real estate yet serves as a senior pastor. Another senior pastor at the table builds houses. A very successful church planter in the group works as an IT job recruiter. The list grew as I looked around the table. Honestly, I was surprised. But I shouldn’t be.
Every projection is that these numbers will grow exponentially over the next decade. Why? Is this an indicator of poor church health? Is it bad financial planning on the part of the pastor or board? In some cases, leadership can be found lacking, but for the most part, the answer would be a resounding “No!” No, this is not the result of bad leadership. No, it is not bad planning. It is simply a return to a kingdom-based ministry focus.
Bottom line…when you turn your ministry efforts heavily toward the Great Commission…reaching lost people and turning them into disciples, you destroy the financial model of the church that has taken shape over the last three or four decades. Lost people do not come to your church with money. They come with baggage, with sin, with brokenness. When a pastor makes the tough decisions that are required in order to impact a broken community with Christ, it results in what I call church magnetism. Think about what happens when you take two magnets and try to push them together at similar poles. They push each other away. Many times that is what happens in churches. And that has a financial consequence.
What we are seeing today in co-vocational ministry is not something new. As I said earlier, it is a return to kingdom-based ministry. This is how Christianity has spread throughout history…all the way up to my grandfather’s ministry era. People do whatever is needed in order to reach lost people and turn them into Christ followers.
One last thought…what I am writing about is not intended in any way to reflect poorly on those who are fully compensated for ministry. These are wonderful men and women who serve faithfully, and many times are under-paid for what they do. I am simply sharing with you what I believe we are going to see take place more and more in American church ministry. And it is not a bad thing!