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Jul 30 2017

Are You a Christian Minister or a Religious Entrepreneur?

Are you considering going into the ministry? Do you want to be a minister, or an entrepreneur? Are you already in the ministry? You may not know, deep down inside, if that is truly your calling. Here are some helpful questions to consider.

  • If the thought of pastoring a small church and being unknown for the next 30 years discourages you, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If when you write or prepare to speak you find yourself frequently deleting points, comments, or even entire subjects and topics when you realize they might offend those you are speaking to, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you find yourself only encouraging people and never rebuking or correcting them–or only rebuking and correcting people but never encouraging them, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you only speak on topics that are popular and generate public goodwill and ignore the unpopular truths that divide and shrink revenue and attendance, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you spend more time developing your personal “brand” as a communicator than the collective souls of your congregation, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you enjoy the public stage more than the private mentoring or counseling office, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you are easily discouraged by people who are more famous than you in the religious world, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you find yourself reading conference agendas and wondering “why don’t they know about me” you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If your efforts are strategically designed to build a platform rather than proclaim truth day in and day out, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you value and hoard “influence” more than you value and dispense truth, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you gravitate towards the CEO style of church leadership where you have nearly unlimited autonomy and you chafe under the thought of being led by others who are less talented, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you find yourself longing for an isolated expensive home in a gated community and would rather eat your meals at the country club or trendy restaurant rather than the local bar and grill, subway shop or budget buffet, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you equate the word “godliness” to “legalist” or the word “grace” to “license to sin” you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you believe God is more likely to show up and work in the lives of your flock if attenders are convinced you are cool (or at least not a judgmental fundamentalist), you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you focus only on the popular, inclusive sayings of Jesus that frequent hallmark cards and ignore the divisive, intolerant ones, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If your goal in writing is to make a bestselling list so you can springboard a speaking career rather than to build up the faith of struggling believers, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you would rather spend time administrating than pastoring or teaching, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you share your pulpit with people who have significant platforms in hopes they will return the favor rather than bringing in unknown and uncool teachers who are filled with the Holy Spirit but not very well connected or cool, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you are a pastor and your church bookstore displays are primarily stocked with stuff written by you and your friends and theologically bland self-help religious bestsellers rather than helpful, meaty texts you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If your model of ministry leaves people thinking that you do great things through God rather than understanding that God does great things through you, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.
  • If you carefully orchestrate your social media activity to the degree you sometimes decide to forego a blog post, tweet or facebook comment because it may cost you friends and followers, you might at heart be a religious entrepreneur, not a minister.

1340919276996None of this is to suggest that any of these characteristics are in and of themselves always wrong. Not all are.  But if you think a majority of them might describe you and your primary motivating inclinations, you may feel yourself called to ministry when in reality you are called to business.

If you are inclined towards business rather than ministry and go into ministry anyway, one of two things will likely happen.  Either you will fail, and be deeply discouraged, or you will succeed and be highly tempted into materialistic trappings and will focus on teaching on felt needs rather than real needs, and that almost always results in a congregation that is not equipped to handle the inevitable  tough times in life.

A few years ago the Regent University Divinity School blog reported on the high number of people who are leaving the ministry:

Work done by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir at the Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICD) indicates a clear lack of personal transformation at work in the lives of American preachers today. What are American preachers experiencing today?  Let’s take a quick look at some statistics. Krejcir did two separate studies at separate pastor’s conferences in Orange County, California, in 2005 and 2006, involving a combined total of 1,050 pastors; the studies aimed to gauge the pastors’ health and vitality. The results show how badly preachers themselves need renewal:

  • 100% of the pastors surveyed stated that they had a close associate or friend from seminary who had left the ministry due to burnout, conflict in the church, or moral failure;
  • 90% stated that they were frequently worn out on a daily or weekly basis;
  • 89% had considered leaving the ministry, and 57% said they would leave the ministry if they had a better place to go, including secular work;

Why?

I believe its because many people make wrong vocational choices.  They go into vocational ministry primarily because they want to be involved in what God is doing and help people get the gospel, and they may decide to go into the ministry to further that cause.  But then they get into the ministry, and they find frustration.  They begin to judge themselves not on the basis of the Bible, but by the measuring stick of popularity.  And popularity is a function primarily of giving people what they want, not what they need.  It is fueled by the practice of elevating yourself, rather than others.

A pastor–a minister, if you will– gives people what they need, in accordance with 2 Timothy 4:2–and they do so both when it’s well received (“in season”) and when it isn’t (“out of season”).  A salesman, on the other hand, gives people what they want, and in the church world then hopes they will eventually figure out what they need–and they rely on others to do that unpopular part of the job.  And frequently that is another pastor or personality, often one that no one has heard of.

The modern American church isn’t struggling due to a lack of leadership, but a lack of godliness.