I had a watershed moment this past week.
I attended a conference with a number of church planters from around the world. I’m not talking about our average “safe” conference where everybody flashes a lanyard to get in and sits around citing demographical research and discusses the latest Zondervan book. I have been to those and find them helpful. But this was different. These people were planting churches where no statistical data is available, if you get my drift. These people were hardcore. They were extremely kind and accommodating to me. But it became pretty clear that I was sitting with a class of minister far above my own.
One story struck me in particular. A guy had been making advances into a country for several years. Now, when I say that, I’m not saying that he’s got a 500 member congregation and health benefits. We’re talking about four converts in three years. That kind of thing. Hardcore. He was giving praise that someone in that group had invited him to visit again and was going to pay for his travel costs.
Here’s where it gets radical. I said, “Isn’t that a standard arrangement? How else would you get there?” He said, “No. Normally I have to pay them to have the opportunity to witness to them. That’s why it’s a miracle.” Read that again. He has to pay them.
We send speakers and ministers around the world at our own expense. After all, motivational speakers and ministers are worth the money right? In the U.S? Yes. Elsewhere? Nope. In the U.S., the people who are paying are already Christians and deeply entrenched in that consumer paradigm. Outside of that paradigm, no one else gives a rip. A flying rip.
Don’t call me a doomsday prophet just yet, but I believe this is on the horizon in all Westernized nations as well. Many would say it’s already here. Presently, I would venture to say that roughly anywhere between 10-20% of any U.S. city has contact with Christianity and that number is decreasing every day. As it decreases, any prestige associated with the “profession” of ministry will eventually collapse. It’s status as a reputable and viable occupation will cease and (as in other nations) it may bring scorn upon those who embrace it.
Then something else will happen. People will have a choice: they will either wait for someone to fund them or they will spend their own money to share Christianity with others. Right now, ministers and church planters still think someone else needs to pay for their services. But ministers of the future will no longer ask for funding for themselves and their families. They will ask for funding so they can “pay” someone else to listen to the Gospel.
Do you think that’s a radical idea? Let me know what you think.