on being a professional Christian

on being a professional Christian August 19, 2013

Dr. Enns, we would like you to come talk to us about God, Jesus, and the Bible, and we will pay you money. So, do you agree to come? And, have I mentioned we will give you money in exchange for telling us what you think about God, Jesus, and the Bible? 

I’ve never gotten used to this.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t think this is “wrong” and or that I’m above it all. We all have to make a living and positive cash flow is a wonderful thing. The banks that lend me money for a house, car, and college agree wholeheartedly.

But I just…feel funny about it. Like it’s not quite…right.

I and others like me have a limited skill set. I can’t weld, build houses, work in securities, or transplant organs. I went to seminary and  graduate school to study the Bible and stuff. So here I am, with bills like everyone else, getting paid for telling people what he thinks about God, Jesus, and the Bible.

The plight of professional Christians–whether writer, speaker, professor, clergy. We make our income talking about the Creator, the one responsible for everything from subatomic particles to an expanding universe.

I just need to let that settle once in a while. And when I do I feel…sort of unqualified.

I think this is on my mind with my semester staring in a little over a week, finishing up a book manuscript in the next two weeks, and finalizing speaking plans for the next few months. It’s that time of year when I am surrounded by reminders of how I actually make a living.

The deep, ineffable, mysterious, and ultimate reality, the ground of all being–Being itself–is a for-profit gig.

Remembering that puts me in an introspective mood.

OK, I feel better now. It also helps that I am reading books like thisthis, and this keep the bigger picture in mind.

Anyway, I’d love to keep chatting, but I’ve got a list of God, Jesus, and Bible stuff to finish in the next two weeks.





Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jon G

    Pete, you shouldn’t feel weird at all, you’re part of the Levitical priesthood who was supposed to be supported by the rest of the nation. Besides, the difference you are making in believers’ lives like mine greatly outweighs the billions (

  • Paul Bruggink

    . . . not to mention that you get to teach at the #3 Most Beautiful Christian University. http://www.christianuniversitiesonline.org/beautiful-christian-colleges/

    I second Jon G’s comment. I have learned a lot from your books and blogs and am looking forward to your contributions to the forthcoming “Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.”

  • Rebecca Trotter

    Oh, to have such problems! 😉

  • When I worked on staff at a church, I really struggled with this precise dilemma. It’s not the main reason why I didn’t go into ministry, but it contributed toward moving me toward writing full time.

  • Susan_G1

    I make my living treating sick people. Don’t you think that should be free? Why should I get paid to stitch up a kid’s chin or treat Diabetic KetoAcidosis, or someone having an asthma attack? I would surely do it for free (well, except for the malpractice insurance, and the hundred-thousand in student loans, and the travel to and from work, and the need to eat, and educate my kids, and have a roof over my head, and…)

    Stop feeling guilty. Didn’t you go to school to learn what you did? Did someone pay you to do that? Is anyone giving you free housing and transportation to do what you do? If all your expenses are being covered, then simply stop accepting money for what you do. If not, take it, and do pro bono work, too.

  • I agree, this should be a moral dilemma for all those living in ministry or working as a theologian.

    But you need bread to live, don’t you? (we would say something like that in France).

    Since I’ve a full-time job as a Chemist, during my free time I do lots of things with friends and am creating a blog, and quite naturally, God, philosophy and Thology are very important topics, even with non-believers.

    Fortunately, I don’t need to be paid by anyone 😉

    My reward is seeing people thinking in new directions, albeit not necessarily my directions.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    • Of course, I do the same things in my every day life.

      Since I’ve given up Biblical inerrancy, I no longer feel embarrassed talking about my hope in Jesus.

      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • James

    Professionalism in ministry is an unavoidable dilemma to manage effectively. The backbone of our large church of small groups is volunteerism. So the professionals teach the people to be volunteers.

  • On the one hand, I understand your sentiment as well as a non-professional Christian could. On the other hand I must ask: what is more worth spending money on, than understanding God better? I’m reminded of this little interchange:

    Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

        “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
            but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  • Roxee

    It’s why so many atheists remain preachers once they lose their faith. There’s not a lot of transferability of a degree in theology into other employment fields. Thankfully The Clergy Project exists now to help people leave.

  • I’ve once heard the term: Being set free from making a living (I’m trying to translate from German: vom Broterwerb freigestellt). I don’t know in how far this would be applicable for professors, but I think it’s a valid description for clergy: The congregation gathers money to set the clergy free from earning money on their own behalf, so they can use the spare time to serve the congregation.