Show Me The Money

Sorry to be so sporadic in posting recently. I did really well about a month ago, and posted two or three times a week for a couple of weeks, but now things are crazy again. Frankly, I haven't had much to say in the last couple of weeks other than preparing for preaching and Hebrew exams.

Beyond that, whatever energy we have has been thrown into the candidating and interview process at several churches who are seeking pastors. (And we've had some great conversations with some great churches). One of the things that has been interesting to me about filling out applications and questionaires for these churches is that each church asks completely different questions. Some questionaires are completely practical, some are completely theological. Some want to know exclusively about your work history and others want family information... except for one question: the question about money.

Every questionaire I've filled out so far (with the exception of one, I think) has a question about how much money I think I should make as a pastor in their church.

I hate that question because it's the hardest question in the world to answer. It's kind of like the question "Did you stop beating your wife?" There isn't exactly an easy answer to the question. You don't want churches to think you're a gold digger, but you don't want them to think your wife would be happy with Ramen and Rice every night. Here's the deal:

If a pastor comes to your church for the money, he'll go somewhere else for the money. You can't pay him as well as another church will if he is good at what he does. No matter how much money your church has, someone else has more. We want to be taken care of. We want our wives to be able to live in decent homes, and we don't want to dumpster dive for our kids' clothes, but if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't have sent my resume to your church in the first place!

On the other hand, somewhere along the line it became shameful for pastors to have nice stuff. Several years ago, I bought a brand new truck. When I drove it into the church parking lot the first Sunday after I bought it, one of the deacons of the church said, "Wow. We're paying you too much." What he didn't know is that I had been saving for that truck for seven years, and that my salary at the church had nothing to do with it. But his comment reflected an opinion that a lot of church members share.

I guess we think our pastors should suffer for Jesus, and I'm okay with that... if the church members are willing to jump on board too. Because the pastor has the same calling as the other church members: make disciples of all nations. The fact that I'm paid by the church to fill my role doesn't mean that I have any less a right to live comfortably than the average church member who fulfills his calling in another role.

A general rule of thumb is to pay your pastor the median of the amount the board members make. That's probably a pretty good place to think about starting, assuming the board members' salaries are indicative of the area in which the church lives.

No honest pastor with whom I've ever come in contact wants to be rich. We don't all want to wear white coats and be on television sitting in gold-plated furniture. But we also don't want to survive above the poverty line.

Don't ask him "what's the bare minimum you can live on and still support your family?" (Yes, I have seriously been asked that question) It's honestly best in my opinion if you don't ask him the question at all. Instead, in your first or second conversation with him, let him know a ballpark figure of how much you believe you can afford to give him, and let him decide whether or not that's a good fit for him. In most cases, it will be... as long as you view him as a stewardship rather than a grunt employee. We love our job, and would do it for free if we could get away with it. But somewhere along the way, our wives decided they wanted to eat dinner!

Your pastor works hard. He's there in the middle of the night when you're in the emergency room. He's up in the morning preparing for the wedding of your daughter in addition to his other duties for the week. He's leading staff, preparing sermons, studying the Bible and the culture, counseling, praying, and ensuring that your local church is a light in the community for the Gospel. Pay him as well as you can, and feel good about it. He doesn't need any more.

Forget I Said Anything

If you haven't read my last post, don't bother. Apparently, the way to win an NCAA basketball pool is to see which mascot looks the meanest and pick that team. Until yesterday, the Canadian was winning our bracket contest. The Canadian.

I'm not even beating Nick "I don't know where I am half the time" Strobel, or Jeff "Eye'm frum Alabama" Jones. And yes, one of the Admins decided to join the game, and she's throttling me too.

If Oregon can pull through and win the National Championship, I might have a shot. Otherwise, I'm going to have to figure out a way to cheat.

Madness I tell you...

I loooove March Madness. Thursday morning I plan to take the day off, get up out of bed around 11:00am and move to the couch, where I will watch basketball until my eyes glaze over. I might get up to use the bathroom, but I'm still undecided...

You know, there's a reason they call it "March Madness."

And just in case you were wondering, my tentative Final Four bracket for the office "Fellowship Challenge" includes Oregon, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas. That's right, read 'em and weep.

I fully intend to win the challenge this year for three reasons:

1. As far as I know, none of the admins are participating. I always get creamed by the admins, because they choose the winner based on which uniforms are cuter, or which mascots look nicer. I actually pick with my brain, and usually lose badly.

2. Let's face it, the competition isn't that stiff. Among others, I'm up against Glen "Boilermaker" Brechner (our Adult Ministries pastor), Drew "I'm from Canada, what's a basketball" Leaver (our teaching pastor), and Jeff "I'd rather be sailing on a sea of chocolate and Diet Coke" Jones (our senior pastor). Not to mention Nick Strobel, one of the interns, who has a hard enough time getting his socks to match...

3. My Okie State Cowboys aren't even in the tournament. I always tend to pick them to win it all, and always tend to miss it by a mile. But you know what they say... wait until next year.

It's going to be a good month. And chances are, you won't see a lot of me until the tourney is over. But don't you worry... I'll be back to bask in the glow of victory in a couple of weeks.

What is your Church For?

I've posted before about the fact that we're currently looking for a place to serve after graduation. It's a little nerve-wracking for Kari, especially when we get calls from churches in really cold places. But I love this process. I love hearing about what churches are doing in other areas of the country. I love talking about my philosophy of ministry, my hope for the Church, and the things I believe God has placed on my heart to do.

My very favorite part of the process is the initial phone interview with a church. You can tell so much about a church by the initial contact you have with them.

For example, if the first contact with me comes from a layperson, I get some idea of the value a church places on non-staff leaders (or the absence of staff leaders in some cases). If the interviewer asks to pray at the beginning of the conversation, I learn something from that. (interestingly, and sadly, this has only happened once in twenty or so phone interviews)

I also learn a ton about a church from the questions they ask. And the most important thing I'm looking to find out is whether or not the church is for anything.

There are too many churches today that seem to exist because of the things that they're against. Every day churches are formed because a group of people are against the music of their former church, or against the government style of their former church, against a particular nitche doctrine, or against a particular political view. Churches are great at being against stuff.

I don't want to be the pastor of a church who is only against stuff. And they're easy to spot.

I had an initial phone interview with a church the other day, and the first questions the interviewer asked me were, (1) "Are you comfortable preaching against abortion?" (2) "Do you have any problem saying that homosexuality is a sin?" (3) "Do you believe in Hymns or those new songs?" That's a church who only exists to be against stuff.

Now of course, there are things that the Church should be against. The New Testament is chock full of examples of things that the Christian should oppose. But those things are not the reason for the church's existence. The Church does not exist in the world to fix homosexuals. The Church doesn't exist in the world to keep girls from having abortions. The Church doesn't exist in the world because God needed representatives on earth to be against stuff for Him.

The Church exists in the World for the purpose of pointing the nations to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We exist for a purpose, not against a purpose.

I want to serve a church that is for making disciples, for being a light to the world, for being ambassadors for Christ, for showing the world that hope is possible in Jesus Christ. There are plenty of things to be against, but I want to be known because of the things I am for.

Satan Hates Life

I'm sure you've seen the funny billboards that sprouted up several years ago with pithy sayings attributed to God:

"Let's meet at my house on Sunday before the game" - God
"Don't make me come down there." - God

Well, is doing a billboard campaign of their own called "Satan Hates Life." They've taken a similar concept, but attributed short funny sayings about Life Church to Satan. Check it out here. You don't have to be the biggest fan in the world to appreciate the creativity.


As you're probably aware, "visionary" people are the most celebrated people in the modern people. We want to see people who have a compelling picture of the future and can make us believe it's attainable. We want to be people who can point others in the direction of new frontiers, new ideas, and new concepts that propel the gospel of Christ into the future.

When we think about visionary people, we typically think of the guys who live in the future. They can project what the near future will bring, and position their organizations such that it will meet the needs of the future when the future arrives.

But I wonder if our current celebration of "visionary" people might be a little misplaced.

Let me first say that I consider myself a "visionary" person. I love to dream about the future, and think about strategy and goals for reaching others with the gospel in the future. But I see "vision" in a little different way.

First, being a visionary person demands being a student of history. There are some celebrated "visionaries" in the church today who threw the rear-view mirror out of their car several years ago. That's a problem for me. Because when we detach ourselves from history, we detach ourselves from thousands of years of people who all sought answers to the same problems we face today. We also detach ourselves from a community of faith that extends thousands of years earlier than the latest book from some 1980s pipe-smoking hippie who wants to solve the problems of the church. Only when we realize where the church has been are we able to see where the church should go in the future. Without our past, there is no future. To be truly visionary, you have to be a student of history as well.

Secondly, a lot of the "visionary" people we celebrate have a compelling 5 or 10 year vision, but not much beyond that. But I believe the visionary people who will do the most for the church are the men who are able to cast a vision that is bigger than 5 or 10 years down the road. Most of our "visionaries" today only think as long as they're going to be in ministry. They seek to patch up the current issues and leave the issues their fixes create for someone else to mess with. What if our most visionary people started dreaming about what the church could look like in 100 years? 200 years? What if we laid the groundwork for that kind of revolution and stopped offering culturally based reactions?

Don't Drink the Evil Coffee

Ever have those moments where something dawns on you that has been bugging you for months? I just had one of those moments, and need to share it to get it recorded before it slips my mind and bothers me for another several months.

I've been researching a ton of churches in the last several months as I contemplate my transition from seminary to having both feet in "the real world." I'm attracted to the types of churches that are doctrinally sound, but missionally minded - that is, the kinds of church who are internally healthy and outwardly focused. Believe it or not, it's rare to find both.

The easy (and way over-simplified) test to see whether a church is externally focused or not is to look at their calendar on October 31st to see what they do. If they throw a "Hallelujah Party" and invite everyone off the "evil" streets to come to the "not evil" church for a party about Jesus, the chances are they are inwardly focused. If the church locks the doors and decides to be living a witness out on the street with "the evil people," the chances are you're dealing with an externally focused church. (Again, that's an illustration made half in jest... please don't send the throng of irate homeschool moms my way)

To make a long story short, I like the externally focused model. I think the Church has the responsibility to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5), and wonder how the Church can be salt and light in the world if the church never sets foot in the world.

Anyway, have you ever noticed that the new cool thing for all the externally focused churches out there is to put coffee houses in or near their churches? (Not just the place that's open Sunday mornings for people to get a cup of coffee on the way into the service - the type that is open all the time). That has always bothered me. Yesterday, I was thinking about Halloween and walking by a church coffee shop (don't ask), and it clicked. What message are we sending the world when we build a coffee shop in our church when there's a perfectly functional Starbucks right around the corner?

Don't drink the evil coffee.

There was a church coffee house owned by a church in the town where I went to college. It was the "cool place" for all the "I love Jesus, yes I do" people to hang out. It always drove me nuts, and now I get it.

I'm not sure the Church needs to be in the business of building "holy" coffee shops or other retail outlets inside their walls. I'm fairly convinced that the Church needs to put more people in the evil coffee shops, talking to evil people about the God who can fix their evil problem (But maybe using different words...).

It's so much easier to ask the world to come to us. "Come to our holy coffee shop." "Come to our Hallelujah Party." "Come to the movie at our church." What would happen if we invested the time, talent, and treasure it takes to build and run a "holy" coffee shop, and spent it training Christians to go into the world instead of begging the world to come to us? We'd have a lot more money left over to drink evil coffee, that's for sure.