So You Want To Become A Pastor?
I found it interesting to expand upon a comment I made on Dalrock’s site. What I wrote is there, but I thought on what I’ve heard in the process of my college classes as it relates to what most careers entail, along with the stories I have from my own life and from others. The fact is that jobs almost always entail something much different than what most people are led to believe. This is done for trying to get people in the door, along with the “paying dues” aspect of things. They don’t want the younger ones to have it any better or different than they did in breaking in. Counting the costs is always a good thing to get into when it comes to any endeavor:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:28-30)
The original comment from okrahead was:
Maybe more manosphere bloggers should look into becoming preachers.
To become a preacher within the realm of Churchianity requires becoming a pastor, minister, reverend, or whatever the title that is assigned. This usually involves going to a seminary, Bible college, or the like. Then in most cases, you are expected to go full-time as an official of either a local church or a denominational organization depending on the denomination in question. You will have to pick a denomination, since they have differing standards and will only typically allow their own to preach in their Churchian environment.
Given this schooling requirement, it is natural that there will be several men and women coming out of school and claiming they have “the calling”, but ultimately treat being a pastor as a vocation. These are expected Churchianity buzz words that people respond to, and there isn’t any way to independently verify an experience from God, and people don’t challenge them, so they go on. Despite the other issues that exist with the headship of Christ over each and every individual in His Church, there are some other things that can be said outside of Scriptural arguments.
First, it has been expressed several times that the seminary experience can be very destructive on a person’s faith, riding them off the rails of following Christ in any way. There can be various reasons for such things, from the environment to how the teachers push, but it happens. “Whitney from Candler School of Theology” notes that the atmosphere of sin bothered her:
What I didn’t expect, I think, is how challenging seminary would be to my faith. . . Then I come to this much smaller school where everyone is a Christian, and suddenly I’m encountering much more alcohol, sex, swearing, etc. than I ever did in InterVarsity at UNC! So these types of experiences have been forcing me to reconsider my own boundaries and the boundaries of what I consider Christian community to be—I am re-learning who I am as a person and as a Christian.
Several of my friends went through crises of faith during seminary, ranging from shock that Moses didn’t write the first five books of the bible, to textual criticism rendering that the bible is the “exact word” difficult, to feminist interpretations that challenged long-held theological assertions.
There are a number of other reasons why and how faith can be broken from the regular college student pressures, to seminary professors pushing on you to break your faith understanding, to having to speak doctrine that’s against your heart-felt beliefs to be accepted within the denomination. The second person notes that people can get through seminary with their faith intact, as well. But the point is, there are challenges in this light.
Second, being a pastor isn’t all about learning the Bible. The major thrust of a Bible college or seminary education is learning about how to “do church”. It involves managing the resources put under your control (the building, money, paid and unpaid staff) and carrying out the programs, policies, and procedures that are expected of you by the local church or the denomination, and getting results as defined by that group. Most all of the goals of Churchianity can be distilled down into these three non-Biblical goals, which all pastors will typically have to meet or exceed for them to keep their jobs:
1. Increase attendance. They do not have to accept Christ or believe in Him, just have to be attending. Needless to say, doctrine has changed in many churches to fit this goal.
2. Increase offerings. Increasing attendance helps in this matter, but the goal is to get them to give money to you. Regularly. And often.
3. Provide an appearance of “spirituality”. This is just providing enough Scripture to seem “spiritual” but going after feel-good things. Another way to say it is to “feed the hamster”.
Given this is an increasing burden upon people put in these positions, they can be swallowed up by fulfilling them. This burden can be quantified by the following business statistics (1), which could only have gone up since 2008:
• The value of real estate held by churches in the US: $230 billion
• Amount given by people to churches annually in the US: $50-60 billion
• Church building debt, service (major repairs and renovations), and maintenance consumes about 18% of that value.
• “Overhead” (as defined in a business sense – any expense that does not involve directly providing the good or service – in other words Biblical functions) consumes anywhere between 50-85% of that total (the average trends towards the 85% mark and some up to 90%).
In the end, a pastor just spends his time trying to stoke the machinery and keep it going week after week. It can be a spiritual drain as well as physical one with the pressure of keeping money coming for the increasing salaries and building expenses.
Then you’re supposed to fit a sermon in there somewhere. 95% of the people involved will only know the sermon as the only thing you do. And you would have very little control over what you say or do in some denominations as you would have to follow a ritual and lectionary to the letter.
Finally, the problem with becoming an actual factual preacher in these venues is that you serve at the pleasure of the people (be it the congregation, denominational authority, or otherwise). In short layman’s terms, you’re an employee. An employee with certain responsibilities, goals, and such to meet as any employee has to anywhere else in order to keep your job. These involve meeting the three Churchian goals listed above. In that way, it affords the people you act as preacher to a certain level of control over you and your message. If they don’t find the message pleasing (Isaiah 30:8-10; 2 Timothy 4:1-5), they’ll drop you and find someone that will, sending you away with bad references (insubordination) which will follow you elsewhere and really crimp your ability to preach anywhere else. These factors make it so you become a servant to men and not a servant to Christ (Galatians 1:10).
Yes, preaching on women’s responsibilities is a great idea. I have seen it done. The women revolt and the pastor is quickly fired.
Pagan Christianity says it this way as part of relaying the conclusions of some statistics cited (2):
Imagine for a moment you were working for a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your behavior was?
Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role – all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? (For this reason, many pastors are resistant to receiving any kind of help)
Given the expectations placed on these men, is it any wonder that there will be bad results out of it. The book continues in making observations about the statistical survey results of pastors as it was given (3, 4):
• 1400 ministers in the US are fired or forced to resign each month.
• The average length of a pastorate in the US is four years. 40% of those resignations are due to burnout.
• Professional standards of conduct dictate how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why pastors live artificial lives. In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty.
• Most pastors state that they can not stay in their office without being corrupted in some way.
• The politics involved in the position is a huge problem that causes isolation and poisons relationships with others.
• Loneliness is common in the position. It drives people into other careers or (worse) into destructive behavior.
In conclusion, here is some of the truth that’s been found about what the position of pastor is about. Only your own conscience can decide what you do with all of this. Hopefully, if you have considered becoming a pastor, you’ve seen this and can use this as an aid to “count the costs” and see if that calling is really right for you. Otherwise, for those not considering it, hopefully it’s somewhat of a window into what is going on in the rest of the life of the pastor. Consider and do with it what you will.
(1) Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna 2008 page 41 (2) ibid page 139
(3) ibid page 138 (4) ibid page 140