Why Did You Pay Me? – Part 2
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.
Yo Pete—-using my law nomenclature, I would say you have conflated the rationale for why the military is paid with why the clergy is paid. In my opinion, while the public may want their military to be virtuous, I think more importantly the public pays the military to protect them from international threat by employing the most advanced weaponry…..they want tough and effective warriors—being virtuous is a bonus, but as between tough v. virtuous, I suspect most of the public would chose tough over virtuous if they had to choose, the Geneva Convention notwithstanding. And lest we not forget, the Commander in Chief is a civilian who may not control battlefield decisions but does control the overall military big picture and there is probably more of an index of virtue placed there—blending protection of national interests with some form of virtue/morality code.
Now a congregation does indeed pay a pastor to be virtuous and to lead and inspire the congregation to be virtuous, to offer understanding, compassion, empathy, vision and direction. It is hardly a sinecure, but rather a critically important job—to guard, inspire and grow the spirituality of the congregation. What a difficult, demanding but wonderfully important calling.
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Sinecure? What other context have you had the pleasure to display puissant command of that word before? Anyhow, I don’t mean to imply that being a pastor is a sinecure, I mean that preparing sermons, studying, and working with people to help them on the journey sounds in no way like tasks that I call work. It’s like being a dad is never work (to me). Sure it has requirements and responsibilities but it is something I believe in fully and never do grudgingly–which I cannot say for any other job I’ve ever had.
As a member of the military you were protecting your fellow countrymen. As a pastor, you would be protecting (supporting) their souls. I think being a pastor may be one of the hardest jobs: part psychiatrist, part counselor, part celebrant of rituals, part encouraging voice, part sympathizer, the list goes on… may you have the strength to take that on!
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