Some People Make A Career Out of Church

You might say that St. Paul made a career out of church.  I wouldn’t deny it.  I think he did.  I would say St. James did too.  St. John might have.  Not sure who else we know from the Bible who really made a career of it.  But there probably are others.

And sure enough, St. Paul defends the idea of paying evangelists for their work, but he denied it to himself.  So, even though it seems complicated, there is nothing wrong with receiving compensation for the work done serving a church.

I want to say there is a difference between vocation and career.  If you answer a call to serve the church as a full-time minister and receive compensation for it, then surely that is a vocation.  But to my way of thinking, the word career carries other baggage with it.

It seems to me that a vocation to serve the church in ministry should be a different category of livelihood than all the others.  And there are some noble professions out there, but this is different from those too.  Serving a church should be a matter of humility, but the bigger the paycheck, the less humble it is.

And the thing is that in any profession, noble or not, those building careers in them work very hard at self-advancement and development.  They seek, not only more responsibility, but advancement up the ranks, better pay, retirement plans, and all the perks.  St. Paul worked himself in and out of jail until they finally beheaded him for all his trouble, and this is a minister who refused to accept a paycheck.  Martyrdom was common among the Apostles and many of the early church leaders.  But you don’t find in any career counseling sessions or brochures.

All the ministers I know, even those of a rather humble nature, expect a paycheck commensurate with their advancement in career.  They might live in modest dwellings, at least a few of them, but they live quite comfortably and respectably, it seems to me.  And that is not mentioning the great ones!  Book tours, seminars, private jets… this stuff is not at all unheard of amid career ministers.  But martyrdom sure is.

I think our colleges and seminaries are putting our budding ministers in hopes of, and often enough on track with, career plans with all the bells and whistles of most all the others.  And I think this both reflects the mentality of the church and helps shape it.  Churches are now trying to be respectable places that fit in the community and accessorize the culture rather than hold it to account, critique it, challenge it, and counter it with humility  and sacrifice.

Thus the church doesn’t look like the Body of Christ I see on the pages of the Bible.  And I think this is confusing for those inside the church and those outside it.  And I think those making careers of it are adding to the problem, no matter how noble their service is otherwise.


Resume On Top Of The Stack

So, speaking of resumes (, I want to interview a different candidate.  His credentials aren’t as impressive as the others – maybe, but they aren’t bad either actually.

The candidate I have in mind got a Bible degree from a top notch school and finished with highest honors.  He may not have completed grad school, but he started coursework in one of the more prestigious institutions and was accepted at several others.  Point being, he is sufficiently educated to serve.

You may wonder why he didn’t complete his graduate studies and move on to post grad, and I cannot answer that for him, but I can say he has written at least four books, and likely more.

Perhaps the reason you haven’t heard more about him is because he does not promote himself and prefers to keep his name private when discussing his work.  Thus you have not seen him in the papers or on TV.  He has served on various committees and leadership teams in various churches, but he has not sought leadership roles in organizations outside the church.  Therefore his is not the president of anything, the chairman of anything, nor the director of anything.  So, you might be forgiven if you never heard of him.

But while others were out there making names for themselves and raking in money for fundraisers and so forth, this candidate instead was down at Tent City cleaning the port-O-potty on behalf of Jesus for the homeless.

Think about that.  Jesus took up a towel and basin and assumed the role of the lowliest servant in the house, causing even his own disciples to chafe at his humility in that.  Well, this candidate was representing his church down at the homeless encampment scrubbing the filth off the crapper and stocking it with fresh paper when no one else wanted that job.  Oh, and he did not call the papers when he did it, nor did he raise any money for it.

He went on to camp out there with the homeless.  He suffered through a haboob right along with the others.  He prayed with them, worshiped with them, and led them in communion on Easter Sunday when the church of Lubbock didn’t even show up.

Then he left the relative comfort and safety of Tent City and began camping in alleys and empty lots and city parks – under “no trespassing” signs and amid all manner of alcoholics and addicts.  All the while praying, not only for them (how many of you people even do that?) but right there WITH them in the cold, the wet, the heat, and the stink!

And do you know who turned out to thank him for it?

Ask him.

I bet it wasn’t the church.

No.  If anyone ever said thanks, it is unknown to me.  Thus, this shepherd did a thankless job.  At least that is how it appears to me.

I hope we can interview THIS guy.  I think he needs a hearing.  Listen to him!  I bet you learn something.

Private Eyes (A Message For Fat Beggars)

I have been reading Fat Beggars and talking to Agent X for a long time.  I hear X get bummed about the lack of local response from street people or church leaders.  I share the concern for the poor and for the church.  That is why I write this blog.  I want to support the message what ever way I can.

But as I see it, there is one angle to this Agent X has not acknowledged.  It is possible that street people and church people are reading.

Think about it, X.  You and I have talked about this before.  You don’t have access to all the information.  You use the counter WordPress gives you for free, but that does not actually count every view.  It does not give you information on who is reading – only if they are in America or foreign.  And so you are working from limited information.

Unless your readers respond and reveal more to you, you don’t actually know who is reading or what they think.  And it is clear that more people are reading and thinking about what you share than just the ones you know.

It is possible that some local street people are reading your blog.  Like you, I think that if they are, they will respond and let you know.  So, it is likely that none are, but it is possible.  On the other hand, it also is possible that some church leaders are reading your blog too, and it is likely they will not respond.  So it actually is likely that some are reading.

You are too hot for them to handle.  If they can read your work and remain below the radar, it is to their advantage.  It is too risky getting burned by the word of God you bring to them.  It is too risky having their name associated with yours.  But your message is out there and has confronted them.  So even though you have no evidence of it, I think it is likely that at least a few local church leaders are monitoring your blog.

Therefore, I encourage you to keep it up.  Keep the heat on.  I think you are being heard.  I think you have a hearing with your intended audience.  And I think that in God’s time, your message will make a difference.

I wish these church leaders had the guts to step up and answer for themselves or better yet openly repent and change the direction of the church in this town.  The internet gives them the chance to lay low.  They can watch with private eyes.  But God knows who is looking.  And the Holy Spirit brings conviction.

Don’t give up.  Don’t lose heart.  Stay on task.  The arrow has found the chink in the armor.  You are hitting the mark right now.  God guides his word and it does not return to him void.

I was in Prison and you visited Me

My heart breaks for Lucio.  I don’t really know his story.  I know what they said in the papers and on TV.  “A homeless man was arrested on charges of attempted kidnapping.”  The face under the headline was familiar.  That’s my friend.  I know him.  I pray for him every day.

I already believe he is addicted to street drugs.  I have seen him when he was high.  He could not remember me when he was high.  But I prayed for him.  I could be wrong, but I really think he is a psych patient – probably self-medicating while drifting on the streets.

So I went to the jail and visited him.  I did not ask.  I did not ask any questions.  Well, I asked one.  But I did not ask if he did it.  I did not ask what he did.  I did not ask why.  I feel terrible for the lady that got attacked, and I thank God she survived it and got away before the crime was completed (at least I hope she did).  But I am sure, she has support from the community, from the prosecutor’s office, from friends.  Victims have a lot of support network, and I don’t begrudge a bit of that.  But there is precious little support for the homeless, the addicted, and the mentally ill.  I stand in Lucio’s corner, but it does not mean I am against his victim.  It does not mean I hope he gets out to do it again.  But I do hope he gets forgiveness and freedom from the demons that ravage him.

So I showed up out of the blue.  He did not know I was coming.  I just showed up and asked for a visit.  He is in jail.  He did not say no.

He looked really surprised to see me.  And I did not stay long, but I told him that I am praying for him – that we are praying for him.  I think it shocked him.  He said he is praying every day too.  I bet he is.  He could be in some deep trouble over this.  It makes me so sad.  I don’t want my friend in deep trouble.  I know he needs to act right, but I want him to get help and to know God loves him and that God’s people do to.  So I told him about praying for him.  I hope it brings hope and healing to him to know that.

I would really like it if people reading here would speak up and tell him that they prayed for him too.  Even if you only prayed for him one time, it would be good if you left a message on Agent X’s blog and tell him.  Because I know X prays for him too, and I think some day Lucio will get out of there, and I will make sure he has the blog address.  I think it would be cool if he saw all the people praying for him all over the world.

I think if I was a homeless man in jail for a serious crime, I would be affected by it if I found people out there in the world who took a couple of minutes to talk to God about me and then took a couple more minutes to tell the world about it too.  I think it is one really small but important way we can all minister to Lucio, and it might have real power to change his life.

Really? God? Is This Your Answer To My Prayer???

I care about this man. I hope you will pray for him too.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

So I have this lengthy prayer list.  An ever growing list of homeless friends that I pray for by name almost daily.  In fact, it is a daily habit that only occasionally gets interrupted.  And last night/this morning, one of the lead stories in town is about a homeless man on my prayer list.

Please pray for the woman he victimized.  I do not wish to belittle her trauma at all.  But of course the other person in this crime appears to be a victim of neglect by a system that does not care – enough.

I invite my readers to pray for this one too.  Perhaps together, we can assure that he is not neglected by prayer.

Here is the story:

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Street Wise

A man on the sidewalk outside Walmart holding a beer in a brown bag with USMC tattooed on his arm announces, “You don’t have to do anything.  You don’t have to do anything.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but you have to except the consequences.”

Then after a brief silence, the beer holding tattooed man says, “You don’t have to walk to your execution.  They will carry you.  You don’t have to walk to your execution, they can carry you.”

Wise words to die by.

Making a Stink in Church

After reading Agent X’s blog and the mission assignment, I felt like God was calling me to humble myself before him.  So I did like the assignment said.  I skipped my shower for a couple of days.  Did some labor in the yard and then wore my nasty work clothes to church last Sunday.

I don’t usually talk to many people there.  I mostly say hi to just a couple of people and sometimes I don’t see even them.  Sometimes people want to greet me, but not that often.  But last Sunday, I tried to just hang low.  I came into the service as soon as I heard the singing get started because I thought that way I would not have to talk to people.  It worked, but I felt like that was cheating too.  So I stayed there in the pew until almost everybody left.

I shook one guy’s hand on the way out.  But we didn’t say anything more than greetings.

I didn’t hear the voices.  Sometimes I hear them, but this time is was like I felt them.  I could sense people, not the voices in my head, but the people all around me talking.  But I never heard them say anything either.  So, really, it wasn’t my disease, it was my imagination going wild.

I felt so ashamed to stink like that.  There is no reason for people in America to stink like that.  Accept if they are homeless.  Then they sometimes stink because they cant always shower daily.

It felt like my church was against me.  Even people I don’t know.  Which is almost everybody.  I felt like I didn’t belong there.  Like nobody would want to sit with me or talk to me.  I felt like they probably wish I would get the hint and leave because they didn’t talk to me.  But that is not fair, really because how can I know that unless they say it?

But that is what it felt like.  I was afraid I would have to talk to people about it, but I didn’t.  Not really.  But I felt like I wasn’t wanted either.  So, I felt like I could hear them talking about me behind my back.

“That guy” or “the smelly bum” or whatever.

The whole time I did it, I was praying for me.  I needed strength to actually go through with it.  But after talking to X about it, I am praying for them.  I am praying for my church now.  I came looking and smelling like the Jesus they really don’t want to be confronted with.  And it is lonely being Jesus in church.