A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was struggling tremendously with the notion of salaried pastors. I was struggling because I am essentially in training to become a pastor and yet I couldn’t imagine how at the end of my schooling I’d somehow be willing to not need a job anymore because some congregation paid me to be their pastor while they worked their crummy jobs everyday. In an effort to gain insight and make a point, I asked why did you (the public) pay me to be an Air Force officer and pilot. Only a few folks answered and there wasn’t tremendous agreement. But I know why you paid me even if you don’t. You paid me to be virtuous. Sure, military officers are “yes men” and flawed no different than anyone else, but we’d be missing something vital if we didn’t recognize that they still possess tremendous power and regularly refrain from abusing it. Military officers control the bombs. Do we want incompetent liars in control of the bombs? No. (Iowa might). So I say that the reason American citizens pay their military well (sorry folks, but the military is well-paid despite the colloquial wisdom) is because it creates the ability to recruit and maintain a virtuous fighting force.
Back to pastors. And not just any pastors but me and my future as (possibly) one. What would it mean if I took pay to be a pastor and therefore didn’t need a regular job? Here’s how I can comfortably rationalize it. (The following should come as no surprise). Christians believe in purpose. They believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord…insert the rest of the Apostle’s Creed. And yet they live in a world which behaves as if there is no purpose. Therefore, it is very easy to forget that there is purpose. How could they be reminded that there is purpose? By a leader who is designated to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak. (Remember that the reason we know, rationally, that purpose is objectively true is that it is beneficial to live accordingly, which then becomes self-fulfilling as a result.)
I started this blog with the tag line “the only way to get there is together”. I think that that is still true and theologically sound. When I came up with the additional “life on a different plane” tagline I did not intend to capture anything to do with God. Now I do.
When I served, I was a pilot of a crew helicopter. There were six of us on the crew. Four of the six served in auxiliary roles which enabled the two pilots to focus on keeping the greasy side up, as we used to say. Besides simply flying safely, the two pilots were also the ones ultimately charged with completing the mission.
So that’s what I’m proposing now. That’s what I’m comfortable with today. Maybe I’ll be a pastor someday, maybe not. If I am one, the reason I would be comfortable being paid by the congregation for what I would consider “doing nothing” is because I would interpret the monetary part of it to be that my role is again that of a captain which necessarily requires a certain level of discipline. The congregation is no different than the four non-pilot aircrew. They are doing jobs that I view as crummy, but until we collectively come up with something better those jobs are apparently necessary. Necessary? Necessary for what? Necessary to keep the plane (the Church) right-side up, safe, and able to complete its mission, its purpose.
For now, crummy job or not, keep on keeping on. I will too. And together we’ll get there.