Workin’ for the Man

In the morning, I go back to work. That’s right. I have a part-time job to supplement our income from the church. It was a difficult decision to make, and it is one that not everyone will agree with. Some people would say we’re not “acting in faith” and others would say that my wife should get a full-time gig.

The reality is that in my ten years of full-time ministry, I have worked for peanuts. My first full-time position paid a grand total of $15,000 per year. Currently, I make considerably more than that and we really should be able to live on what our church pays me (by the way, our church has been generous and faithful beyond measure!), but the reality is that years of working on survival money has left my family in considerable debt.We made some choices – like buying a house – that tie us into some long-term payments and such that we cannot just dismiss. And with the volatility of the credit market right now, carrying large amounts of debt does not strike me as good stewardship.

There were a couple of options available to us. We could try to sell our house, recover our losses and move into an apartment. We could have Nichole working full-time besides taking care of our daughter and doing housework, which would mean giving up her dreams of ministry and music. We could ask our church, which is just not that big or that wealthy, to increase my already disproportionate salary (just paying me is nearly 60% of the budget!). OR I could take a part-time job.

Here then are the reasons I took the job.

Godly men provide for their families

This concept is wildly unpopular in our world, for both practical and philosophical reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • Some women want a certain amount of independence; they don’t want to be reliant on someone else. So they establish their independence by living a life almost separate from their husbands.
  • Some men want to spend their money on toys and booze rather than care for their families, so their wives take full-time jobs to provide for the family because their husbands are selfish snits.
  • Sometimes the cost of living is just so outrageous that it is impossible to afford to live on just one income.

It is not wrong for a woman to work. My wife works a part-time job at JCPenney and loves it. She likes being around people, having some extra money to spend on things. There’s nothing unbiblical about that, as long as it does not interfere with her roles of wife and mother. Some people might think that last statement is chauvinistic. Sorry, didn’t mean to offend; but that’s what the Bible says a woman should be focused on. Working wife and mother – GOOD. Career woman to the neglect of your home and children – BAD.

A man’s job is to provide for his family. Read Genesis 4:16-19. A man’s job is to work to provide for his family. That’s his place. I think one of the main problems in our culture is that men don’t work to provide for their families; they work to provide for themselves. They have wives to provide a “service” for them; they have kids to provide a “service” for them. They think of their families are accoutrements to their own existences. It is disgusting.

Men WORK. That is what we’re made to do. We are made to be providers and protectors. Those are basic instincts because that’s what God made us for. A father and husband provides for his family.

Here’s the thing. I want my wife to have nice things, pretty clothes. I want her to be able to go to the gym and workout and get fit and yummy. I want to take her and my little girl out and buy them things for no other reason than I can. I want the best foods so we are healthy; I want good health care; I want a reliable car and a house that isn’t falling over. I don’t want my daughter walking around in hand-me-downs that look like she is going for a retro 80’s look. I want to have savings in the bank. I want to be able to take my family on vacation.

I don’t want to have to write out crippling credit card payments every month. I don’t want to have to wonder where the money to pay for oil is going to come from.  I want to fix the faulty wiring the previous owner did all over my house without taking out a second mortgage.

And those things mean I have to work and work hard. I have no desire to be wealthy; I want to be able to do things for my family that I can’t do because of the giant gorilla of debt jumping up and down on my back. Am I providing for Nichole and Ariel if most of my paycheck goes to paying off the gorilla? No.

If you have the ability, do the job

The apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 4:12 that the apostles, far from living off the fat of the land, continued to work with their hands. Taken in concert with his comments about taking care of the church leaders in chapter 9, I can only assume that Paul is saying that ministers are free to take employment if it furthers the Kingdom of God.

I’m young (31) and healthy. I have some aches and pains, but I’m generally robust. There’s no reason for me to get handouts or charity. I can work, I should work. It’s my duty to my family, and God has uniquely gifted me with skills and now a part-time gig where I can use them to fulfill my duty.

Here I sit with five years of experience in mutual funds and customer service. Here I sit with a whole lot of debt from years of living on credit cards. Here I sit, leading a church with a great vision and ministry focus but with some time before it really takes off. I could continue to scrape by, which would mean that every week I get the anxiety of wondering whether the offerings will cover the church expenses and my salary or I can take a job using the skills I have, pay off my debts and live a much freer life, which in turn frees the church to greater ministry.

With that greater ministry will come the capacity to pay our bills and move things forward. The last thing I want is a church that can barely afford to pay the rent and my salary because that means we’re spending next to nothing on advancing the Kingdom.

When I presented this idea to my board, I expected a kind of grilling about what hours I would be committing to ministry and all that, but it didn’t happen. I plan on committing as many hours to ministry as I have already, but reshuffling what I do to be more effective (so if any of you want to do sermon handouts, maintain schedules, etc., let me know!). And I hope to touch a lot more people’s lives by taking my faith with me into the workplace – not in an offensive way, but in a real way.

I want to know and be known

I love what I do. Being a pastor is the greatest gig in the history of mankind, bar none. Seeing people’s lives transformed; being a part of important moments in people’s walks with God – nothing beats it. But ultimately, at the end of the day, I’m the pastor. People listen to me because there’s a certain authority of the office. I am known more as who I work for than who I am as a person. Believe it or not, sharing the true gospel (not just simple steps and religious verbiage) is harder for a full-time minister than it is for “normal” people because everyone expects the pastor to be religious.

There’s something terribly wrong about ministers who step entirely out of the world, keeping it at arm’s reach. Ivory palaces are terrible places for evangelism and they breed isolated, wacko thinking. I love what Paul has to say about the world – that they are fornicating, greedy, swindling, and idolatrous but we’re supposed to be in among them (1 Corinthians 5:10). We’re supposed to be in with them, not judging but rather speaking the truth of God’s Word with boldness. By the way, boldness is not loudness or brashness or stubbornness. Boldness is relevance and clarity.

For me, the best way to be a part of my culture is to go to work in it. I’m not comfortable just “mingling,” but in the workplace, I generally develop good relationships with people and have tremendous conversations. That’s my Mars Hill, my school of Tyrranus. I’m just comfortable there.

There’s something else too. I want to be discipled. Sounds weird, but it is true. I want to be taught about our culture, about the way people think – not about BIG things like evolution, etc. but the little things like marriage, kids. How do non-Christians think? What is their culture? I am called to speak the truth into their culture, and I can’t do that unless I am a part of their culture.

So there it is.

Tomorrow I officially become a bi-vocational minister. I don’t know how long I will stay at the job. Who knows? It may become such an intricate part of the way Jesus’ mission is lived out in my life that I may do it for a long time. On the other hand, the church might explode with growth and I will discover I do not need the other job. It is really a matter of just doing what it takes to do the job God has given us.

A few months ago, I told the church, “I believe so much in the vision of this church that I am willing to work a part-time job so more money can be invested in ministry rather than in me.” This is that promise being fleshed out. I believe in Heritage Baptist. I believe that we are relevant, that we are biblical, and that we have one of the greatest opportunities to minister of any church I have ever been a part of. But I know it will take time and work to happen.

So, I’m taking a “secular” job to advance the Kingdom.

What do you believe in so strongly that you would do that?

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