Editor’s Note: This post was referenced in the one I published yesterday and as one of the commenters suggested, it would be nice to have a separate place to discuss this issue. The original post was published at my blog a couple of years ago, but the economy hasn’t gotten better in the meantime so I would imagine this is still happening. How should we respond to those who treat ministry as a career path more than a calling?
I know where I stand on this issue, but I would like to throw some thoughts out there for everyone else. The impetus for this post comes from a story on FoxNews online: Harsh Job Market Has Students Flocking to Religious Education Graduate Programs. I saw the headline and it troubled me a little bit, but reading the story proved to be more disturbing yet:
The explanation resonates strongly with Stephen Blackmer, who will begin studying for a master of divinity at YDS this fall. Blackmer, 53, had worked in conservation and sustainable development for nearly 30 years before answering a call to join the ministry.
This sounds good so far, but then he explains his “calling” and I started to wonder:
Blackmer said his experience has taught him that the main obstacle to slowing climate change is not technological or economic, but spiritual.
“Climate change is in effect a spiritual problem, because we’ve developed the technologies to protect the world from climate change, but not the wisdom to use them,” he said.
Blackmer, who said he hopes to join an “environmental ministry” after graduating, said the slumping economy made his decision to attend divinity school easier.
“If things were going gangbusters and there were opportunities all over the place, I might not have looked to the ministry at this time,” Blackmer said.
What in the world is an “environmental ministry” anyway? Have we gotten so off the tracks here in America that we are ministering to things instead of people? Even more bothersome is the direct admission that this guy is going to school for “ministry” because he couldn’t find anything else to do. Somehow, I don’t think that is exactly what was meant by the quote, “if you can’t do anything else, preach.” The drumbeat continues however:
But for other students, the impact of the economy has been more direct. Smoot Carter, 23, will enroll at YDS right out of college after rejections from business schools stymied his career plans. He hopes that after his two-year program, he’ll be able to pursue a career in public service.
“The reason I applied to divinity school was because the market wasn’t providing the opportunities to enter into the business field, while at the same time the business schools were pursuing students with more experience,” Carter said. “I was kind of stuck in the middle.”
Like Blackmer, Carter said the economy ripened a desire he had to pursue a religious education, which had been an interest of his for some time but had not been considered a serious option.
If this is the attitude of even a quarter of seminary students who are heading into ministry in a local church or a mission field somewhere, the body of Christ is in serious jeopardy of losing its heart and soul for real Great Commission work. I understand that the economy may cause more people to look for answers, but I didn’t expect that it would get people to try “being a minister” to see if it might be a good career fit for them.
Listen. I am a minister of the Gospel and not by my own choosing. God chose me for this and has made me what I am. Honestly, I would do what I do with or without a paycheck and I have proved that time and time again. I am privileged to be able to minister full time to a small church and community here in the northland of the country and support my family at the same time. I didn’t go into ministry because of the “job opportunities”; I was drawn into ministry by the one who saved me and gave me life. Frankly, this cavalier attitude toward ministry as a career path makes me sick. Paul cautioned against it in his writings and I can understand why. What do you think?