Category Archives: Church

Why Do Ministries Pay So Badly?

Over the last few months I’ve had conversations with numerous people who used to work in either fundamentalist or evangelical ministries and just can’t afford to keep doing it. When you’re putting in a full week of work but eating from your own church’s food pantry because you can’t afford groceries that might be a problem.

There is a serious problem in American Christianity with “ministry” employees being underpaid, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Isolation.

By the nature of being sacred instead of secular, many ministry employees are isolated from the rest of the job market. Being cut off from the rest of their colleagues makes them prone to believing the lies that they didn’t need to get accreditation or certification. As a result they have no relationships with those kinds of bodies and they don’t participate in continuing education with their secular counterparts.

As a result they simply have no idea what their skills might be worth in the rest of the world or how to build a set of credentials that makes them worth more.

2. Delayed Gratification.

“Treasures in heaven” is the cry of those who really don’t want to pay for good dental benefits on earth. Christian workers are told that somehow their efforts are more special and worthy of greater rewards. Lots of people work in school cafeterias but Jesus loves people who work in Christian school cafeterias just a little bit more. The celestial payout is going to be awesome! (So we’ll need you to go ahead and work for peanuts while you’re here.)

After all, it’s all about getting people saved! Who can put a price tag on that?

3. Shrinking Population.

Church attendance is in decline. That means fewer checks in the offering plate and less operating budget. Like any other business the first place any ministry is going to start cutting its expenses is not in buildings or salaries at the top. They’re going to start by seeing how much they can save by reducing the number of paid days off or requiring all employees to contribute some amount of time for free.

This is just suffering for Jesus.

4. Heavy Indoctrination.

Fundamentalist and Evangelicals have done well in playing the education game. Every year there is a crop of idealistic fresh faces that emerge from their high-schools and colleges having spent hundreds of hours in classrooms being taught that there is no higher calling than being grist to the ministry mill. With new cheap labor being manufactured every day there’s no incentive for raises for the people who have been here all along.

Jesus is the greatest coupon ever.

5. Total Prevarication.

If you ever work for a ministry that tells you that if you just serve the Lord with them for 30 years that there will be a pension at the end to take care of you in your old age I advise you to smile politely and then walk away quickly. There is no retirement. There. is. no. retirement. There is, however, a pink slip with your name on it sealed in an envelope that says “to be opened when the employee is 65.”

Unless you’re putting savings in your own IRA or stuffing it in your mattress then there will be no money.

So the formula goes like this:

Isolated employees + A Heavenly Mission + Declining Revenue + Renewable Workforce + Lies = Starvation Wages.

If you give people too much then how will they ever learn to trust God? The food pantry is open from 3-6 on Thursdays.

Church Planting in…Atlanta

Thank goodness somebody is finally planting a Bible-believing church in Atlanta.

This does make me wonder: are there people who also raise money to found a true “Torah-Believing” synagogue in Jerusalem or a “Quran-Believing” mosque in Mecca?

Update 1:

Here’s Patrick making his case (starts about 23 minutes in) for support in his church planting efforts. In so many words his claim is that 90% of the good Bible-believing churches packed up and left in the white flight out of the Atlanta urban areas.

Quote: “Today there are 951,000 people living inside [the 85 beltway]…and where there were 170 Baptist churches now we can find 3. There were 4 that still preach the gospel — I’ll tell you more about that in just a minute — there were 4 and one just closed its doors.”

Today…

There are those who claim that the fundamentalism featured here on SFL is an artifact of the past or focused on the fringes. No matter how much evidence is brought to light, these apologists insist that Fundamentalism has changed into a kinder, gentler movement where all that crazy stuff just doesn’t happen any more. This is a strange claim given that the entire premise of fundamentalism is that it does not waver from its convictions — no matter how many convictions its leaders receive in court.

With that in mind let us consider the following facts…

Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Pensacola Christian College, West Coast Baptist College, and Crown College (to name only a few) are still in full operation. Not one of those institutions has significantly changed since their founding. Not one has apologized for the racist, sexist, or abusive behavior of the past. Not one has made meaningful changes to the core philosophy of man-centered religion, outward-focused rules, or performance-based spirituality.

Many of the same evangelists who were touring in the 70′s and 80′s are still on the road today visiting churches that are still run by the same pastors who were big names in decades past. If, perchance, those pastors of yesteryear have retired you can be sure that their son, son-in-law, or hand-picked disciple is now running the show the same way that daddy did. Does anybody remember a man named Jack Schaap? If you’ll check you’ll see that he was sentenced in 2013 not 1983.

I could fill pages with the scandals that have broken in fundamentalism over the past five years since SFL started but I simply don’t have the stomach to revisit them all. Suffice it to say that Chuck Phelps is still preaching, Greg Neal is still being defended, and Matt Jarrell is still dead. How many examples have to occur before people can finally admit that the lunatic fringe is not that far from the center of fundamentalism?

It is the greatest of ironies that fundamentalism can proudly proclaim that their music is the same, their message is the same, their Bible version is the same, their convictions are the same, their standards are the same, and their methods are the same but at the same time expect us all to believe that they’ve completely changed with regards to their faults and follies. I don’t buy it. Do you?

Update 1: It has been pointed out to me by several different people that Bob Jones University did indeed apologize for its racism and support of segregation. The words “not one” should instead read “Very few.”