In preparation for an upcoming FACE board meeting in two weeks, I recently sent some questions to brother George Akpabli, the director of Benin Bible Training Center in Benin, West Africa. The board would like to see an increase in enrollment at BBTC. I wanted George to make suggestions that I could share with the board when we meet. George’s report was not encouraging. There are several schools of preaching in West Africa, and George reports that all of them are frustrated with the low enrollment numbers they are experiencing. The biggest factor is that preaching is a full-time job, but none of these fledgling congregations can sustain the financial needs of a full-time preacher. He told me about two men who were already vetted and had been accepted but were not able to attend because of finances. One brother could not come to school because, as his wife pointed out, he had a full-time job and a family to feed. Going to school and then becoming a full-time preacher would deprive his family of the only means of financial support they have.
I realize that the economy in these impoverished countries is almost nonexistent. Our preaching brethren are preaching at great personal sacrifice. However, his report was very familiar to me. We have the same challenge right here in the United States. Since the mid-70’s, the number of preachers has been steadily declining. There are hundreds upon hundreds of congregations in this country that cannot afford a preacher, and they have been without full-time preachers for decades. Good men with a heart for the word don’t become preachers because it is such a low-paying form of employment. A huge percentage of men who graduate from preaching schools or have earned Bible degrees with the intent of being full-time preachers leave the pulpit within five years. Money is the single largest contributing factor.
Christian parents provide every opportunity for their children and want them to succeed, but few are encouraging their sons to become preachers because it isn’t a vocation that offers much financially. Our larger congregations do offer benefits in addition to salary, but those are rare. Most men who preach do so without any benefits and do so for a salary far below what they could have earned had they chosen any number of honorable vocations. Sons of preachers almost never go into the pulpit, and the latest reports coming from our Christian universities indicate that the majority of their graduates going into ministry choose not to go into the pulpit.
We believe in the necessity of men working full-time in ministry, and we want the best man in our pulpit; but we don’t reflect that in the salaries we offer. We want men of faith to “live on faith” while the members of the congregation pursue degrees and career tracks that promise financial independence. The needs of a congregation seldom include salary increases. To raise the issue is a form of career suicide. But if we don’t address this inequity, we will continue to see the trends of the past 40 years increase. Fewer men will want to preach.
In the business model, a manager or a business owner looks at what makes the company grow and throw as much money in that direction as they can. That’s why salesmen command good salaries and bonuses, and service techs get far less. The Lord’s church is certainly not a business; but for all that, we do seem to expect our ministers to do the teaching and preaching that win souls and build up the body of Christ. Do we see their worthy work as a manager or business owner would?
I pray that our school in Zinvie will see greater enrollment in the future and that our schools of preaching in the USA will also see greater enrollment; but I fear that until we see the value of preaching the way we see the value of a business degree, the current trends will continue.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013