Andrew (TSK) Jones posts today another interesting article on the issue of money.
In a longish post he makes the clear point that most people who study for Christian ministry do so at a cost, often of many thousands of pounds/dollars, leaving them with a large debt to clear on graduation.
In order to sustain themselves, and pay off their debt they move into paid ministry, in established churches of one sort or another, instead of taking part in the vibrant and exciting underground church movement, meeting in small groups, often in homes or rented spaces.
The problem of course goes further than that, all of us in ‘full time’ ministry have to wrestle with how to fund our work. Some find funding through church support, where a congregation(s) donate money to them on a monthly basis, others win individual patrons who support their work in a financial way. Some find part time work, whether that be a supermarket or some kind of freelance work. Benefits too play a part, the government is kind enough to support those who choose to work in voluntary positions with charities through the tax credit system.
Some people, who manage to get their hands on a wadge of capital enter into arenas like property (real estate) or similar, living off the income from rented houses and so on.
But the question is, how many of these paths are a) sustainable, and b) justifiable?
The traditional model of church or individual patronage is being squeezed, and fewer full time workers are managing to make ends meet through this channel. More individuals are having to look elsewhere to find a sustainable path for their personal income.
Part time jobs are a suitable solution for some, although often they interfere with other work, and people end up doing full time ‘ministry jobs’ in time they should be spending resting or reflecting, because the rest of their time is taken up stacking shelves.
However the other solution, that of entering the capitalist system and plunging into property or other investments is fraught with difficulty. I wont go all the way down the line on this now, but suffice it to say that this is a part of a very inquitous economic system which unfortunately enslaves many. I dont see how we can in all conscience take part in this – we need to ask the question, ‘in what way are we distinguishable from the rest of the world here?’
So where are we left? First point to make is that as followers of Jesus we need to learn to live differently from the world. I see no justification for any of us to be driving bmw’s – seriously, how can we justify that?
It may be that if we need a car, we have to settle for something which rattles a bit, and looks a bit crap. Our car wont win any beauty contests, but it works and gets us all over the country, our flat isnt the beautiful farm house we secretly covet, but its a suitable place for us to live. We need to learn this lesson, that we are to live differently from others, not just the same as them.
With this in mind we can immediately cut our costs, a cheap rented flat is less of a burden than a massive mortgage. Sharing costs with others too can make a difference – living in community is the classic example, lets not take things as our own property, but be ready to share them with one another – this is as much a challenge to me as anyone else, but its a central part of this different economy.
More and more I think we are being called to look again at what work we engage ourselves in, most of us have things we can do which will benefit others, and will allow us to earn a bit of money in a sustainable way. I reckon that wont work for everyone, but for many of us it will – perhaps we need to think less about how important we are (cos our ministry will fail if we arent there 12 hours a day) and change our work patterns to incorporate what you might call manual work of one sort or another. That manual work might be at a computer, or it might be on a farm, but it does all of us good to be involved in work outside of a ‘ministry’ situation in one way or another.