Monday Morning Insights

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    If Someone Would Offer me $200,000, I’d Leave the Ministry Right Away.

    If Someone Would Offer me $200,000, I’d Leave the Ministry Right Away.

    Hmmm...  That's an interesting quote.  Take a moment to read this:  a recent study by Tufts University is telling stories about pastors who do NOT believe what they preach.  In fact, some are true atheists...

    Baptist Press recently did a story on this.  Check out this quote:

    "Ambiguity regarding who is a believer in Jesus and who is a nonbeliever, the report said, is a result of the pluralism that has been fostered by many religious leaders for at least a century."

    Here's a bit more from the article:

    One pastor, a Methodist, said he no longer believes that God exists, but his church members do not know that he is an atheist. Most of them, he said, don't even believe Jesus literally rose from the dead or literally was born of a virgin.

    Another pastor, from the United Church of Christ, said he didn't even believe in the doctrinal content of the Christian faith at the beginning of his ministry, but he continues to preach as if he believes because it's the way of life he knows.

    A Presbyterian pastor in the study said he remains in ministry largely for financial reasons and acknowledged that if he were to make known that he rejects most tenets of the Christian faith he would obliterate his "ability to earn a living this way."

    A Church of Christ pastor explained how he continues to lead his church despite losing all theological confidence.

    "Here's how I'm handling my job on Sunday mornings: I see it as play acting. I see myself as taking on the role of a believer in a worship service, and performing," the pastor said.

    He describes himself as an atheistic agnostic and said he still needs the ministerial job and no longer believes hypocrisy is wrong.

    A Southern Baptist pastor included in the study said he was attracted to Christianity as a religion of love and now has become an atheist. If someone would offer him $200,000, he said, he'd leave the ministry right away.

    You can read the whole article here. 

    As I was reading this article, I thought... sure... there are always finge people... even pastors who leave the faith.

    But the quote from the guy who said if someone would offer him enough money, he'd leave the ministry made me stop dead in my tracks.


    Because I think a lot of pastors, while they haven't lost their faith (entirely), would leave the ministry in a heartbeat if they had the chance.  But they feel trapped.

    They'd leave the ministry for a number of reasons:  the stress; the toll on the family; the 24 hour work clock; the low pay; church politics... you name it.  But they don't leave because they don't know what else in the world they are skilled to do.

    They say 'every man has his price'.  What's yours?


    Church work is an admirable vocation.  But if you're not called to it... can I say this nicely?... get out.

    If you're at the point that you don't believe what you preach anymore... get out.

    If you're at a point where you'd take another position because it pays more money, has better hours, or has better, nicer people... get out.

    And if you're convinced that you have no other marketable skills and the church gig is the only thing you know how to do... quick... take some online classes and learn a new skill.

    And if you HATE what you're doing... please, by all means, quit today.

    Am I wrong?  Let me know.






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    1. joy ren�e on Mon, May 03, 2010

      Am I naive?  Because this completely dropped my jaw.  I had no clue there could be that many ministers who just flat-out don’t believe what they’re saying from the pulpit. 

      I knew there were pastors who didn’t believe in a literal resurrection or virgin birth, but athiesm?  Wow…

      You are spot on, in my opinion.  Just get out of the ministry.  Learn a new trade, Find a different way to make money…just do it.

    2. stewart on Mon, May 03, 2010

      Todd -

      I agree with most of your comments.

      I would add that the guy who said he’d “get out of the ministry for 200,000” is already out of the ministry. I don’t know what I’d call what he’s doing - but I wouldn’t call it ministry.

      My one point of disagreement: I don’t think just because you want to quit you should. There are long standing jokes about how lots of pastors write resignation letters every Monday. I don’t even think just because you have doubts you should quit. Perhaps if the desire to quit or the doubts persist over a long period - then you should consider getting out. But i believe honest doubts are good from time to time. And wanting to quit occasionally is a perfectly reasonable response to stress, low pay, high accountability and low levels of autonomy.

    3. joy ren�e on Mon, May 03, 2010

      In some ways, Stewart, I see what you’re saying.  My husband and I are in the ministry.  He’s the Associate Pastor at our church, and we share responsibility in pastoring the youth group.  If we didn’t moonlight, there’s no way we (or anyone else) could even make it on the pay we do.  That’s something that’s not necessarily important to us, but when coupled with “church” people, politics and other ‘atmospheric’ pressures, we can come out feeling pretty stressed, and at times, doubtful that we’re in the right place.

      But wanting to quit from time to time, you’re right, is not a sign you should actually follow through with it.  But it also isn’t really the scenario that was described up there.  I’m also an opera singer (side note here), or at least on my way to become one.  It is one of the most miserable and joyous things I could ever do with my life.  I question what I do regularly, but not because I don’t belive it’s what I’m called to do or because I don’t deep down love it.  It’s just because it’s HARD.  Just like ministry.  Questioning one’s ability and place in both life and vocation is natural and healthy. 

      I completely agree with you that the man who’d get out for 200k is truly already out.  So very true and well said.

    4. JAN on Mon, May 03, 2010

      200,000 would not be enough for us to leave the ministry.  In fact, I don’t think any amount of money would induce us to do so.

      It’s about calling.

      Paul talked about those who preached the gospel for wrong motives. 

      Phil 1:18
      But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

    5. Daniel Hahn on Mon, May 03, 2010

      The statistics about so many Pastors being atheists does come at a surprise, but I guess it shouldn’t, which is the real shame.

      But the 200k guy doesn’t surprise me a bit.  Ministry is hard. Real hard. And keeping the faith in such a hard job is even harder.

      Lord, bring us all a refreshing—a new burning bush experience to catalyze us again.

    6. bishopdave on Mon, May 03, 2010

      Joy and Stewart make a lot of sense. Because of the spiritual war (that these guys don’t believe in) there is always a temptation to quit. But when you realize it’s just an act, you’re done.

      Struggle often produces the best fruit. As we battle our doubts and try to redeem our failures, that may be where God works most. I think of an example like Ray Boltz coming out of the closet. His music was such a blessing, how could all this have gone on in the background? Well, maybe as long as he battled the darkness, blessing was upon him; when one surrenders to the sin, and might I aid attempts to view the sin as acceptable, the blessing may be gone.

      To apply here, as we struggle with quitting,  that may be that God is struggling with us to build us for the next level. Seeing as we have this ministry we faint not, 2 Cor. 4

    7. CS on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I’d say this isn’t symptomatic of pastors alone, but also extends to Christianity in general.  If you offered up $200k in most churches today in exchange for people never darkening the footsteps of a house of worship again, I bet there would be tons of people who would be willing to renounce their faith.


    8. Jason Fairbanks on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I would be interested to see the age of those highlighted in the article. I know of many, many pastors in my tradition who are biding their time until they get to retire. Then there are those of us who are working two jobs to support the privilege of proclaiming what we believe from the pulpit.

      I tend to be more progressive in my theology, but since I am part of a progressive denomination, the United Church of Christ, I have no issues with sharing snapshots of my unfolding spiritual journey with my congregation.

    9. Jason Poling on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I did a piece on the Newsweek/Washington Post blog On Faith a few weeks back; it’s at

      I’m especially heartbroken by the phenomenon Jason describes, which goes hand in hand with many of these pastors’ dying churches clinging to property they don’t need while healthy and vibrant startups deal with the hassles and expense of renting space.

    10. Brianmpei on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I’m shocked by full-time atheists gigging as pastors.  “Part-time” I get but not full-time.  As Stewart said, we have doubts, we do the Monday morning resignation thing but that’s not a reason to quit.

      But quitting because you’d like to work for better pay, better hours and nicer people?  No.  It’s absurd that the problem in the scenario is the guy/gal who wants better conditions as if the call to ministry to THE CHURCH is SUPPOSED to mean being accepting of crappy pay and crappy treatment.

      A friend of mine who left pastoring to start teaching had a revelation.  He realized that the guys on his board all made twice what he made.  He figured it out that from their perspective in business someone who would work for so little must not have much going for them and much to respect - so they treated him accordingly.

      Faithful people fleeing ministry is a problem the Church needs to face and deal with honestly and it’s separate from people who take the gig but don’t believe the story.

    11. Peter Hamm on Mon, May 03, 2010

      Too many pastors find themselves in the place where they are not actually doing ministry… and think that’s a bad thing. Actually, if you’re equipping the saints for ministry, the fact that you aren’t always doing it is a good thing, a la Ephesians 4:11-13.

      Too many have no time that they are really spending seeking God… And if they burn out or lose faith, they should not be surprised in the slightest.

      Too many have nobody they can be honest with. I’m not saying you can be totally transparent and honest with loads of people… you can’t. You shouldn’t. But you should have SOMEBODY!

      But I’ll be bold and say that for some who might even defend their calling vehemently on this board even, that we might be less than transparent about our fears, doubts, frustrations, etc. I will freely admit to having challenges that I will not share with y’all.

      This job is way more stressful and less rewarding than when I worked in the secular world. And yet… I totally absolutely adore it. I was made for it. I love it. And I totally and completely need to rely on God for it and do, I think, a little more all the time…

    12. RevJay on Mon, May 03, 2010

      Well, if most (hopefully) of us were in it for the bucks, where would Christianity be? Probably right where it is. God knows the hearts and minds of these unbelievers, or wolves in sheep clothing, The Bible (mine anyway) tells ministers of the Gospel to be aware of these people wandering in and out of religious circles. They are the ones who think their ‘flock’ doesn’t know that they have no conviction to their ministry, yet fail to get out and go teach evolution at a state university somewhere else, just for the big bucks (?). God is the judge and will judge these people and their fall will be great and their charges will hate them for what they said and did to the ‘cause’ of Christ. Satan doesn’t win, he is a looser from the beginning. It is The Job of believers to spread the word and see to it that these wolves are naked before their churches. God will recompense. Amen.

    13. Leonard on Mon, May 03, 2010

      This is not new… Paul warned the elders in Ephesus that there were wolves even there.  From the garden till now people have been exchanging what God offers for something else. 

      I am not shocked, nor do I think it is as wide spread as an article can paint it.  There are hundreds of thousands of pastors in this country.  It would be more shocking to me if we were all in the right place.

      If you need a job to be a pastor, then you might be missing something.  I pastored 6 years as a volunteer, did it because that is who God made me.  I am a believer in vocational ministry. 

      I tend to see ministry as what I GET to do rather than what I HAVE to do. 

      All that to say this… If you are in ministry and do not stay close to Jesus, you are going to hurt someone.  Yourself, others and most of all, the Father who loves you and called you in the first place.

    14. ShaneT on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I really enjoyed Peter Hamm’s thoughts on this.  My wife and I were a natural fit for the minsitry because as my late grandfather used to say, “we have never had nuthn.  we have always lived on the interest of the money we owed.”  I was a bivocational pastor for over 10 years…. currently my church of 50-60 have me on full time.  I have never in my life experienced such love, support and unity.  An old pastor told me, “If God called you to be a pastor, don’t settle to be a king”.  A retired pastor in my church always makes a point of looking at my back, I always ask him what he is doing.  He comments, “All pastors have a target on their backs and I am keeping an eye on yours.”  This man of God has respects my ministry and loves me enough to “cover my 6”.  What an amazing experience.

    15. joy ren�e on Mon, May 03, 2010

      I have a hard time swallowing what Daniel said: “Keeping the faith in such a hard job is even harder.”

      While it may be true that ministry is hard, I find it difficult to want to say that keeping the faith in ministry is hard.  There’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me on that…

      I think it’s this:  LIFE is hard.  FAMILY is hard.  LOVE is hard. In this world we will have trouble… It’s all hard.  I get that.  But there is absolutely nothing in this entire world that could get me to change my mind about Christ, who He is, who *I* am through Him, and what He has done for us.  Keeping my faith is the one NON-hard thing about ministry!

      If one is to be in ministry, she must “know that she knows that she knows” that Christ is alive, and that no amount of trial or stress can steal what He has given.  Doubt is natural, yes, but I look to the disciples, Paul, the early Christians, my friends in other countries like Russia, and I see their intensity in sharing the gospel, despite not only difficulty, but financial strain, significant resistance, and even danger. 

      Maybe it’s because both my ministry AND my “job” as a singer require similar levels passion, hard work, and extreme devotion that I can say that it is not an issue of losing one’s faith because of how difficult the task is.  It is an issue of whether or not one’s faith was grounded before the difficulty and stress every arose.

      I knew I was to be a singer long before I felt the weight of its pressures.  I knew I was to be serving the Lord from the moment I gave Him my heart as a teenager.  When one’s faith is proofed by God from the inside, no amount of outward pressure or strain can steal that.

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