The current culture of the devaluing of church automatically comes with the devaluing of her ministers. These words are for these ones - the ministers in His house.
God takes it upon Himself to be the “lifter of our heads”, and His means are often through others. I hope to mirror the heart of God, my minister friend, and speak words that will lift your chin. A minister of the Gospel, (a pastor, or any of the other 5-fold ministries) should never be degraded by the world’s value system - not when he is faithfully, wildly imperfectly, carrying out his (or her) assignment.
There is a whole theology woven around the distinctive importance of the 5 fold minister, part-and-parcel of which is the distinctive importance of the church - the church as “living stones”, as an army, as a family, and as the very salt of the earth. When God Himself likens His people to buildings, armies, and family - is it any wonder that the people who are part of the life of the church get confused as to their role and the role of their pastor? Are we living stones built together, or are we invading, or are we at war, or are we all supposed to hug and have a well-seasoned dinner?
Because of this heavily nuanced nature of church, there is a keen and multi talented art to church leadership. Church leadership is to be deeply valued and respected because, with the possible exception of some mega-church expressions, in 98% of churches, the leader has to both inspire and administrate an all volunteer task force. Name another line of work where the “boss” is expected to stay by their post while the necessity of their even receiving an income is routinely scrutinized, its amount rarely raised, yet the results expected to be remarkable, all while advancing the agenda with mostly unpaid volunteers.
A workman is worthy of his hire. Don’t muzzle the ox that treads the corn. This letter is not about money, it is about value. Yet - it is a well established fact that money is an exchange of value. That exchange of value is designed to be equal. You are very valuable.
As an absurd aside, no one here is talking about salaries of a million dollars, or mansions, or lavish living. 98% of the church worldwide is under 200 members. I am speaking to the leadership of this beautiful 98% who work hard and live modestly. I honestly believe that in some cases the results of your ministry will be directly connected to the value you place upon the work of your hands - which is directly connected to the value you place upon the church herself. She is the very bride of Christ.
God wants you showing up in the world on her behalf in a certain way. Obviously, that way is not full of hubris and inflated ego.
At the same time, we are not well equipped, especially as leaders of the 98%, to see our service as valuable. We aren’t taught how to do that in seminary or the training our network or denomination offered us. But we can draw straight out of Scripture the deep, intrinsic value God has placed on both the church and its ministers.
Beneath the subtle, negative innuendos towards “full time pastors”, and the applause for the de-church movement is the idea that a man shouldn’t earn his whole living serving the church. Beneath the idea that a man shouldn’t earn his whole living serving the church is the falsity that 98% of God’s people can somehow thrive and grow without the job of oversight. Scriptures plainly teach the necessity of devoted oversight, and Scripture plainly states “Workers deserve their pay.”
Because gone is a high view of church, gone is a high view of her ministers. The Levitical priesthood was only as well cared for as the people valued their status as a set apart people and to the degree they deeply loved the law of God. Today, the new covenant 5 fold minister is only as well cared for as the people love God with all their heart, and then love what He loves. A minister is only as valuable to the church as the church values their status as a corporate expression of Christ in the earth, as the bride of Christ, and as the army of God. What army has little to no dedicated leadership?
Ironically, almost conversely, the church will only value its position in the earth to the degree its leaders both teach and preach the value. And its leaders will only teach and preach the worth of the church to the degree they understand their worth AS leaders, and feel a strong sense of joy and heritage and deep, nourishing pride in their calling to attend to the health of something so glorious, so fierce and full of wonder as the very bride of Jesus.
Your work brings value to the world. The world will only value the work of your hands to the extent that you value it. What you do impacts the eternity of people. When you are esteemed for your work and when you are paid for your work, there is deep blessing released into every household that willingly shares in your support. (That willing heart is THE prerequisite - but that is another book for another day.) You are pouring yourself into the pursuit of bringing the body of Christ into full maturity. This is incredibly valuable. You are actively bettering the entire world, every single day, even when “all you do” are the administrative tasks that your position demands. You have the power to inspire many to follow in your footsteps and seek to serve the church of the living God.
It has become urgent that you draw near to God and hear from Him what His great heart is towards the bride of His son. She is special. In hearing of His heart towards the bride, you will begin to grasp His heart towards you, as under-shepherd. Oh, how He loves you! Oh, how He has your back! Oh, how you have an ability to release favor and blessing into whole regions, families, and individuals!
And you bring things to the work of your hands that no one else can. You have been assigned to teach and serve a local expression of the mystical universal - and your assignment is fitted to you and you are fitted to your assignment. The people in your care need you to show up AS you, and as an ambassador of the glory of God, and as a visual aid of their own corporate pricelessness. You teach them, as only you can, that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that should show forth His praises.
Yours is no small job. Yours is no easy task. Therefore, like all the people of God of old, like the priests of old, you are not to “eat anything dead of itself”. God wants to provide for you specifically and directly. He has a heart of abundance towards you, because you tend to what is so near and dear to Him.
The way the people in your local church treat you, is a reflection of each person’s direct and vital connection to the heartbeat of God. Let that soak in. No one is advising that you become a “Snicker’s Diva” (have you seen the commercial?) - that is absurd. At the same time, you do no one a service if you allow them to treat you at a level below love and respect. The Bible clearly says that it is not good for the health of the soul of the people in your church, when your job is made a burden and not a blessing to you. Each one is advised to make your job a joy. You aren’t loving them well when you do not demonstrate what that means.
The church is God’s plan A. She is the body through which clear answers and hope and creative love and solutions are birthed into the earth. She is bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, because the Spirit of God dwells in her corporate expression. You continually offer her the story of her heritage. You continually offer her the building up of herself in the faith. You continually remind her who she is, you daily beautify her with your God-given tools and skillset. Without your tender care, she would flounder, not flourish, because God has set it in place that she be brought to health and maturity through those 5 callings of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. She will grow into her greatest glory only by your blood, sweat, tears, and words. Yours is a high and holy calling.
I write through my tears. How the Lord loves His people and those who carefully (and care - fully…it is a job that is full of difficulties and cares) tend them.