Choosing to Be a Church Pastor as a Career Path, Not as a Calling

I am currently fascinated by this concept in America: In theory, a man who is not actually a believer could choose the profession of being a church pastor; not because he believes in the teachings of Christianity or that he is being called by God to do so, but instead, simply because he sees being a church pastor as a promising career path.

Church pastors have to make a living, too, you know. They have families to support. The tricky part is this, though: The salary that a pastor earns is often directly related to the size of his congregation.

Not only is there a salary to consider, but often, the church members’ tithes cover the pastor’s insurance, as well as a housing stipend.

Here’s what the career path looks like:

This man goes to seminary. This man graduates seminary.

Man starts pastoring a small country church and remains there two years, as he builds a reputation as “an engaging speaker and a strong leader, just what this church needs” (largely due to the fact he simply has the right personality for the job and is a good communicator); while using clever social media posts to build his reputation. The money isn’t amazing, but it pays the bills.

Word gets out, and now this man is offered a position at a larger church in a bigger town just an hour away: This one even has two church buses and even a humble sized “life and recreation center”. The money is definitely better and there is now basic insurance available.

He puts in three years at this one before his reputation (and his congregation’s perception of the Lord’s calling) sends him to the suburbs of a decent sized city; like Atlanta, Indianapolis, or Houston.

His church now has a dozen members in the worship band alone. His sermons get thousands of views on YouTube. The pastor even has a popular Instagram account which regularly features his high dollar sneaker collection; even if most of those shoes were given to him as publicity by the shoe companies to promote their brand.

By this point, it’s hard to speculate exactly how much money this pastor actually makes; but given all the perks with his career, it doesn’t matter as much anymore.

For example, he gets paid thousands of dollars per event, to travel and speak at other churches.

He even has his own book out, which he earns all the royalties from. So even without depending on the church itself, his side hustles help provide an extra cushion for him and his family.

As long as this man is smart enough to invest in his marriage, ultimately by avoiding cheating on his wife or getting divorced; and as long as he never involves himself in official financial scandal, like embezzlement or tax evasion, his career remains strong.

He retires in his mid 50’s and lives happily ever after. He totally gets away with “serving” as a church pastor for his entire career. Then, he peacefully dies in his sleep at age 78; having lived quite comfortably the past 30 years on his financial investments. Not to mention, he still has millions of dollars in the bank to leave for his family.

But then what?

I bet there are more of these “career path pastors” then we realize. In the end, though, we all answer individually to God at the end of our lives for our own actions:

For how we cared for the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.

For how we treated our neighbors as ourselves.

For how we made the decision to forgive, even when it didn’t make sense from a human perspective.

For how we worked out our own secret sins (gossip, judging others, apathy for the hurting), as opposed to focusing more on the ungodly tendencies of other people who have didn’t temptations than we do.

But I suppose that is a risk these career path pastors are willing to take; given that they don’t actually have to believe in order to successfully pastor a church.

Uh oh… I think I just accidentally wrote the concept for a screenplay for a Christian movie starring Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, or Nicolas Cage.

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