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A WORD TO PROFESSIONAL PREACHERS

Very few career pastors and preachers talk about where Jesus got his talent pool. Fact is, when Jesus chose his twelve disciples, he didn’t go to the temple and recruit the elders there; he didn’t go to synagogues or to schools run by the Pharisees. Not one of the twelve was a member of the religious elite or of any religious sect. None of them had any experience in teaching or preaching, but that didn’t seem to be a barrier to their being chosen and it also didn’t seem to be a requirement for the job. Rather than look for people who earned their living in a religious role, Jesus sourced his talent from places like fishing boats and from the IRS of his day. Anyone who was sourced from a religious sect (like Paul, who was educated as a Pharisee) disavowed the sect when they became Jesus’ follower.

Very few professional pastors and preachers talk about where Jesus got his talent pool, because it would highlight how little regard Jesus had for mainstream religion or for those who were trained in it or made their living from it. Throughout history, God almost exclusively chose people disconnected from mainstream religion to be his voice. He didn’t do this to be ironic, but because he knew his chosen few would do the job they were sent to do, not get bogged down in dogma, money, and misplaced obligation. Jesus himself, the son of a carpenter, of dubious parentage, and allegedly uneducated, was the poster child for the person least likely to be the Messiah.

If you’re genuinely born-again, you have personal experience in how God chooses the “least likely”. I was an atheist until I was born-again at age 36, so I guess I’m a case in point. Zero religious background (other than being dragged to church as a very young child), zero religious training, zero knowledge of scripture, and then one day BOOM!, I’m a follower of Jesus. A few years later, with no formal religious training, I’m teaching scripture, based solely on God’s guidance through his Spirit.

Perhaps Bible school-trained and seminary-educated pastors and preachers don’t dwell on where Jesus sourced his talent because it would reflect poorly on them. They would be presenting themselves as the talent pool that Jesus not only overlooked but outright rejected. The best pastor I ever heard preach was neither Bible school-trained nor seminary-educated. He had a background in radio, so he had some voice training, but his knowledge of scripture came from scripture and from God, not from a formal program of study. Unfortunately, being influenced by the mainstream denominational church he eventually accepted a full-time job from, he’s been scrambling over the past few years to stack up letters behind his name, and his sermons reflect his shift in focus. Now instead of preaching the Word, he preaches his denominational agenda and the theologians he’s studying. I stopped listening to his sermons because of it. God was no longer in them.

For the most part, professional pastors and preachers are like car mechanics – they’re in an industry that requires their customers to keep on needing them, so they rightly or wrongly keep finding things that need to be fixed. You could drive a new car off the lot and straight into a repair shop, and the mechanic would find something wrong with it. That is a guarantee. In the same way, pastors and preachers who rely on your donations to keep their church business going will also keep you thinking that you need constant spiritual realignment, so you’d better keep coming back. And don’t forget to bring your wallet! That village well in Africa isn’t going to dig itself, any more than the power bills at the church will pay themselves. Your ongoing support is sincerely appreciated, it truly is. See you next Sunday!

When Jesus made his remark about not being able to serve both God and mammon, he was referring to people in general, but he was targeting in particular professional preachers and all those who made their money from religion. Christianity is awash in preachers who preach only for the money, and if you took that incentive away, they would stop preaching. There are many ways to know whether or not someone is genuinely sent from God, but the main way is whether they’ll preach the Word for free.

*****

There should never be an expectation of having to pay to hear God’s Word. There should never be a sense of obligation to give a financial offering during a service. The “Donate” button should not exist on a Christian website. Mammon and God’s Word should be entirely separate from each other. You shouldn’t have to worry about having your purse stolen while you’re at a church service because you shouldn’t be bringing your purse to church.

How, then, is a church building to be maintained? In the same way Paul’s ministry was maintained (through the labouring of the ministers in other pursuits and the free-will offerings of believers) or Jesus’ ministry was maintained (through followers’ free-will donations, as God led them to give). Years ago, when I did some stupid things and was down and out as a result, sitting on the side of a highway bawling my eyes out, God spoke to a woman who was driving by to give me the only cash she had in her purse at the time, which happened to be $20. So the woman turned her car around, drove back to me, and gave me the $20. It was all the money that she had with her and it was then all the money that I had, but it was enough to feed me for the next few days. The good Lord always provides for his children.

*****

When he chose his disciples, Jesus didn’t go to the professional preachers and those who made a living from religion, because he knew what was in their heart. God guided Jesus to look for his disciples elsewhere. Nothing has changed in that regard over the past 2000 years; the true followers of Jesus are either teaching and preaching or preparing to do so, and none of them are doing it for money: All of them do it for free.

Remember Simon, the magician who offered the disciples money to give him the power to baptize people in the Holy Spirit? Professional preachers and teachers or anyone who expects money in exchange for preaching God’s Word are Simon’s descendants in spirit. Jesus steered clear of these people and didn’t include them among his chosen few because he knew their hearts were not right with God.

*****

I hope, if you’re a professional preacher (or have a “Donate” button on your website), you’ll consider these words and consider your ways.


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