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Do pay increases undermine missional leaders?

April 18, 2012

The following is a brief excerpt from my forthcoming book Multiplying Missional Leaders, which comes out at the beginning of May. 

Missional leaders will need to embrace a more Kingdom-oriented understanding of how God says our world functions, both in terms of why we’re here in the world and more specifically, in terms of how we make decisions. I believe that scripture lays out a proper ordering of our priorities:

1.                  Our covenant with God, our Father

2.                  Our covenant with our spouse and kids

3.                  Our missional calling and family: Where and to whom am I currently called?

4.                  Our job

I don’t think this is a revolutionary list until we get to the third point. That’s because in this list I am suggesting that a person’s calling to missional leadership should dictate the type of job that person has and where it’s located.

I cannot count the number of people over the years who have felt called to our community and to a specific missional endeavor in that place but chose to leave the city and move for an annual pay increase of $5,000 or $10,000. They feel called to one place and people and mission, but leave it for a pay increase. Let’s be very clear about what they said when making that decision: “Five to ten grand a year is worth more than the missional calling God has placed on my life and the family I
was serving with.”

That is, quite literally, what their life is saying.

I’ve seen more pastors than I can count make that exact same decision. When we do this, we are using the values and the metrics that the world considers important to dictate our decisions instead of Kingdom realities. The Kingdom reality is that we have a Father who says, “Look at the birds in the air. I take care of them. Won’t I take care of you?”

Look. I’m not suggesting we work for ridiculously small amounts of money to the point where we can’t take care of our family. That would violate our covenant with our spouse and kids, which is a rung above our specific missional calling. But I am saying that time and time again, people make decisions based on money, stuff, opportunity, glamour, celebrity, consumerism, or ambition rather than asking where God is calling them to go. Missional leaders simply have a different way of making decisions, and so you would be wise to shape this Kingdom reality in the missional leaders you are training.

Let’s look at a practical example. Let’s say one of the missional leaders in your Huddle is offered a promotion for more money. Awesome. That’s great. Anyone’s knee-jerk reaction would be, “Take it! Take the money and the promotion and keep moving up the corporate ladder.”

But these would be questions I’d want to ask this missional leader:

  • If you take this job, will you be able to be faithful to your covenant with God? Will you still have time to spend with him? Will you still be in a place where you work from rest, rather than rest from work?
  • How will taking this job affect your family? Will it bring more stress? Will you still get quality time with your spouse and your kids? Will you still have time for family activities that you do together?
  • Will you still have the availability to serve the people you feel God is calling you to serve? What would change? Are you still being called to serve these people?
  • Is the increase in money and stature worth whatever decreases may come with it?

What we are doing in situations like this is helping the missional leaders we are training to live with a Kingdom understanding of how we order our lives and make decisions. We don’t answer to money. We don’t answer to stuff. We don’t answer to ambition, and we aren’t slaves to our appetites. We answer to God.

My friend Todd Hunter puts it this way: “You are an agent of the Kingdom cleverly disguised as an attorney (or artist, or banker, or stay-at-home mom, or electrician, or pastor, etc).”

I believe this is a crucial area to address for all missional leaders, because it’s one of those subtle things that our enemy uses to dull our effectiveness. Seriously, how brilliant is this? He sees that someone is starting to get some missional traction, and so he gets him or her a $7,000 raise across the country that takes him or her out of the game for a couple of years. We have to see that this is happening all around us and help our leaders see this reality.

Again, this isn’t to say raises aren’t good or that moves aren’t appropriate. But as missional leaders living in a Kingdom reality, we measure things differently, yes?



18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2012 1:02 pm

    Agree 100%!

  2. April 18, 2012 1:18 pm

    Thanks for a great blog! We spoke about a similar thing at a prophetic preaching conference the other day. I believe there are people out there that don’t teach what they feel they are called to teach, because of fear of rejection by their faith family. Once again, this may be a ‘safe’ decision, because the lives of your family may be at stake, but like you said, the Kingdom comes first. It’s not easy, but there are some things we just cannot compromise on.

  3. April 18, 2012 2:05 pm

    I do totally agree with it but…wonder what you think to this…what about the long-term strategy?

    Mike, you might remember when I was one of the leaders in Expression with Jo that I got offered a great job with BT back at their research labs down in the south of England.

    I really wanted to stay in Sheffield and develop what would later become ‘d3’ the clubbing missional community.

    But, after processing the job opportunity with various people including Mal and Jo I decided it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss!

    Now, would this decision go against your post above? BUT…the long-term strategy was that, at that time, the church and community couldn’t invest in me or provide the valuable experiences, lessons etc that such a large corporate like BT could. I didn’t really care for the money etc…I wanted to see clubland redeemed. But, I did want to honour BT and their investment as well which made it a tough time but well worth it.

    Sure, I was out of the loop for a while and found it hard but, I learnt so much from my time there that when I came back to Sheffield to start d3 properly I brought all of that with me.

    Plus, now my business is booming because of the incredible opportunity BT gave me.

    So…although I totally agree with your post I think the long-term perspective, especially with young adults, needs to be considered and mentioned?

    It’s not just about what we can see immediately in front of us – maybe God has other ideas or experiences for us?

    Pay is massive distraction and pulls us every which way if we’re not careful but, we do need to be careful not to miss a blessed opportunity?

    All of your post is very valid and, as I say, I totally agree with it so sorry if I’ve gone off at a tangent to what your post was about – this was just my immediate thought after reading it.

    • April 18, 2012 5:09 pm

      Dave, I also enjoyed Mike’s comments very much. I think your related “tangent” is one many would also consider. Perhaps the focal point for such consideration is that of “current” calling? Meaning, at the time you accepted the BT job, you had desire to see a new ministry launched well. However, was that what the Lord “currently” called you to do in mission? It would appear, according to your own comments, you either did not sense the current calling at the time to remain in Sheffield, or, you were not sure of the calling and one desire rose above another desire– and you chose to accept the BT position.

    • April 19, 2012 12:28 pm

      Dave loves money! Burn him!

  4. April 18, 2012 2:08 pm

    Yes, we do. I struggle too with leaders who choose to be missional down the block where others are also being missional, perhaps because of convenience or finances or family issues.

    On finances, some of us have moved worldwide for the call and put away any desire for gain. I can understand why others would not do this because in later years it leads to financial struggle. But we trust God for that too.

    So it is understandable that some would choose finances over kingdom because the choices in priorities are very difficult. God help us all.

  5. April 18, 2012 4:46 pm

    Thanks for this Mike. Reading this today was very timely.

  6. April 18, 2012 5:42 pm

    Mike, thanks so much for posting this excerpt from your book. I was so encouraged by it. I have been too often grieved by pastors and mature Christians who simply don’t consider seriously enough the calling of God in the their present context to a specific community before accepting new jobs elsewhere. My own path affirms this, sadly, time and time again.

    Christian friends and even some pastors thought I had taken leave of my senses for leaving high-tech work here in Silicon Valley, California (with great personal freedom, privacy and much higher pay) for full-time work in pastoral ministry here where 95% of the population has no church home (talk about a mission field!). When I accepted positions on the staff of churches that were not clearly “promotions” that included more pay and status, fellow pastor friends were baffled. I wish I were kidding. I simply responded to the Lord’s calling.

    I am no longer surprised at how common this is. Many think a job offer with more pay must be a “blessing” from the Lord. With this thinking, leaders position themselves to obtain ministry jobs with more pay, benefits, status and responsibility, just like their secular counter-parts in the corporate world who may also not consider their context and missional calling as an agent in the Kingdom of God.

    I have spoken of this often when giving spiritual direction to others. I’m glad that you can offer this encouragement to a wider audience. Living differently is simply one critical way in which the Church distinguishes itself attractively from the cultural norms.

  7. MARTIN ROBINSON permalink
    April 18, 2012 5:55 pm

    As a 50+ and I am looking back on life. I can see that as a 35 year old I was beguiled to follow a career move (one which culminated in broken promises!) and as I did so I left probably the best church we ever belonged to, a budding ministry, and friends.

    Recently I apologised to one of those leader friends. God is good and I am hoping He will return some part of those years, and I say to my younger brethren; do not go after material comforts, but hold onto the promise, It comes with the rich reward! God is no man’s debtor. He will honour your commitment. This country needs disciples. We need revival!!

  8. April 18, 2012 7:19 pm

    Mike I love it…def looking forward to the book.
    I am preaching on contentment and mission this weekend…1 Corinthians 7:17-24 and this is perfect timing

  9. April 19, 2012 12:13 pm

    As a ministry leader, it has always disappointed me when people opted for more money/power/position that robbed them of their call to ministry. A few years ago I was mentoring a very promising leader–children had just “left the nest,” her job was being cut to part-time, and she was excited about stepping into ministry leadership. Then her company offered her a new role–more money and, of course, full time plus. Now she fights to have time for ministry (let alone leading anything) and is a slave to her job and company. The kingdom lost out and so did she.

    Great blog post, Mike. Thanks very much!

  10. April 19, 2012 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the post, Mike.

    Speaking purely for myself, I’m really glad not to have to depend on income from ministry. Following Jesus is way simpler.

    God is providing for my family through a solid, albeit demanding, job in retail management. A different job might free me up for more ministry without detracting from family time, but this job is helping us to clean up some debt from some bad spending decisions when we were in paid ministry.

    How many of these ministry moves are driven by the desire for relief from debt? Do you think debt is holding believers back from fully following God into the harvest, or is debt a symptom of a bigger issue?

  11. daddyworkfromhome permalink
    April 19, 2012 9:04 pm

    Can you further unpack the phrase “work from rest?”

    That phrase struck me and challenged me.

    I am the pastor of an institutional church who is burnt out and I am leaving the ministry for a spell to heal my family and recuperate personally. However, God’s call on my life is still valid and real. We will seek to begin forming missional communities in the next few years as the seminal forming of a local church.

    The Fieldbook has been a great blessing as we seek to reach our community for Christ.

  12. April 25, 2012 2:47 pm

    Love the inherent idea here, however I’d make some tweaks to the practical application of the questions you suggest asking… The way you’ve structured these questions is so that they’re binary, almost to the point of leading someone into making the “right” call of refusing any promotion… More open questions I’d suggest would help someone more fully listen to what God is saying and then decide what to do about it…

    If you take this job, how would it impact your ability to be faithful to your covenant with God? How much time will you set aside to spend with him? What would you need to do to continue to work from rest, rather than rest from work?
    How will taking this job affect your family? How do you plan to respond to the increase in stress? How will you ensure you still get quality time with your spouse and your kids? Will you still have time for family activities that you do together?
    How will it impact your availability to serve the people you feel God is calling you to serve? What would change? Are you still being called to serve these people?
    [New question] What decreases can you see alongside the increase in money and stature? Is the increase in money and stature worth those decreases?

    The problem with “Will you XYZ” is that it only makes available a “yes” or “no” answer, and the questions are worded such that inevitably any no leads directly to a “well it cant be right then”… There’s little scope for light and shade, interpretation, wrestling, thought and growth… I know we all want to avoid high-control so I offer up the above with that in mind… Sean

  13. James Wilson permalink
    April 26, 2012 8:10 pm

    I also think there is a wider question here about how people are released when their missional calling is intrinsically linked to their career / workplace and Sean’s comments above are really helpful in this respect. I know that you are not saying that promotions are bad but there is a danger that by not explicitly affirming something this is what people can hear.

    I have been really encouraged in my church to pursue God’s call through my work (in a non-ministry/church environment) but I know this is not always the case. In many church contexts full-time Christian work is often held up as the highest calling (at least implicitly) and being surrounded by people who don’t yet know Jesus and serving God in a different workplace is somehow seen as lesser calling.

    To see our cities and nations impacted by God’s kingdom and transformed, we need to see Daniels and Josephs released to infiltrate every sphere of society and be agents of change in places of influence and power. We need followers of Jesus to be promoted to positions of leadership in companies, organisations and governments and for them to be the go-to people for wisdom and solutions. To do this there will be sacrifices and difficult decisions made and a whole lot of grace needed but this is part of God’s call on us to disciple nations and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

    Perhaps we need to be more creative about how we do community so that these people are supported when in pursuing their missional callings even if this has put increased pressures on them and/or taken them to different locations.

  14. May 5, 2012 4:32 pm

    I think the biggest factor in being able to live like Mike is suggesting has to do with our understanding of our identity under God. When people grasp that they are heirs (not orphans) loved by a good Father who promises to provide for our needs, they can develop enough trust in God to take decisions which don’t immediately seem to meet their wants.

    Of course there remain the practical questions, and tough decisions, but I think this is the best motivation to be missional.


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