I spoke to a Reformed Pastor this past week, and he is in a dilemma. He is in a financial crisis. No, the crisis does not run around the current economical trends of wall street and main street and the continual government overreach into those sectors. Rather, this pastor’s financial crisis surrounds being a Reformed minister and supporting his family as a Reformed minister. What does one find in truly reformed churches? Few People.
Now, I am not referring to mainline denominational lines where pastors will refer to themselves as Reformed because they have a copy of the Westminster Confession on their bookshelf, or even that a denomination may say they hold to the Westminster Confession in their book of church order while at the same time having a hoopla worship service adorned with everything but the kitchen sink. No, I am referring to a truly Reformed Pastor who desires to preach the truth, but cannot afford to preach the truth in the midst of a postmodern age that is more interested in hoopla than the truth.
This pastor has gone to bible college AND seminary, having more than the typical MDiv degree that most current Presbyterian pastors have. This brother is a step up. If he were a house, and a price value was placed on him as a house with special improvements, he would be worth more and have more equity than the general houses of the neighborhood.
This pastor is an exceptionally good preacher, has a wonderful heart for ministry, loves the truth, and loves the God of truth. His desire is to see people transformed by the Word of God. His problem is that his church has 12 people on a regular Sunday. With his own family, and possibly a visitor, his maxes out at about 17-20.
Can a minister, worthy of his wages as Christ states, live on the 3% average tithing of 3 other families? The answer to that is a resounding no. So what does he do? He goes out to find another job and becomes a tentmaker. In that other job his interests are now divided and it begins to take a toll on his health and his family. He is now working full time, and at the same time holding ALL the responsibilities of a pastor. The people still need counseling. He still needs to prepare sermons, and the order of worship each week. But even now, in the midst of his second job, the economy is starting to affect that as well. Now what does he do?
Well, he has to reinvent himself again. He has to think, at 49 years old, of going to school and learning a new trade that will benefit him and help support his family. Remember, he has 7 years of school and two degrees, but they are useless degrees in our day to provide for his family.
At this point his zeal for preaching is displaced for fear of losing his house, feeding his children, and caring for his family. The ideal he once had for the ministry has become shattered.
The emergent church is winning. This pastor cannot compete with the churches who cater to the flesh. People are far more interested in seeing the bouncing ball during a hoopla service bounce across the screen while they hold a parade in their sanctuary, than they are hearing a sermon about sin and salvation. What does a Reformed Pastor do? There is, for lack of a better phrase, no money in reformed theology.
In talking with this pastor, he conveyed that unless he is willing to sell out and compromise on 70% percent of his ministry, he will never have a church that would be able to support his family. He would never have a church bigger than 12. He would never have a church that competes with 7 other emergent churches that have gone the way of Balaam across his small town and in his area. How can he compete with a church that has Starbucks in the foyer?
This pastor will leave the ministry. Then where does he go? There is no church in his area for hundreds of miles where he could attend in good faith, or the few others in his area that attend his church services. There is no place to go for him. So in leaving the ministry by necessity, he leaves the church. In leaving the church, who knows what will spiritually happen to his family and his own walk with Christ.
For the Reformed pastor, this is not a happy story, or an unfamiliar one. Reformed theology may be true, and the Gospel may be housed inside TULIP and Calvinism, it may be given to the saints by Christ Himself through His providential oversight of HIS pastors, but it is in contest with mega churches and their ministries who are willing to compromise for the sake of having MORE ministries and willing to turn their churches into mini malls. The entertainment factor is winning out over the truth.
That tells us two things – 1) people are willing to peddle the word of God for profit, and 2) people are willing to let them. The flesh would be far more content with a Java Chip Frappacino before the band starts, than hearing a sermon on the crucified Savior and the mortification of the flesh in obedience to His commandments.
Reformed Theology will never lose out to the emergent church and its non-theology since Christ said that the gates of hell will never prevail against the truth. Those churches, their pastors and their members will be sorely judged for their wickedness and contempt for the truth. But the emergent church will cause Reformed Churches to close and press true pastors to find new employment.
Reader beware. If your pastor is more interested in a bouncing ball during the Sunday morning sermonette, or they constitute a new committee for restructuring the foyer to serve coffee, then the devil is visiting your church and may steal the truth away from you for the sake of modernity without you being the wiser. In our age there is no more scary an idea than the truth being given up for modern conveniences and entertainment.