prophets for hire: preaching God in a congregation’s image

This is what the Lord says: “As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.”  — Micah 3:5

In my last post, I wrote about the dangers of creating a God to confirm what we already believe.  I believe the hiring of “professional teachers” often is indicative of, and contributes to, this problem.  I’m not arguing a minister / preacher / pastor is not worth his wages, but I am suggesting that, just like in Micah’s day, there exist today too many prophets for hire.

We create an atmosphere in many of our churches of “absolute correctness” in doctrine, and we come together several times each week to further convince ourselves of what we already believe.  We hire a preacher from an approved school, to teach us our approved doctrine.  We may even give that preacher a list of topics or texts he is to preach (and state how often).  It’s well communicated to the professional teacher he’s expected to teach this party line in order to keep his paid position.  And another prophet is hired.

I believe every church should interpret scripture in order to find truth; and I believe they should then teach that truth.  But we enter dangerous territory when we begin to exchange open dialogue on the truths of God for the preservation of predetermined conclusions.  When we require our preachers to arrive at a fixed interpretation of scripture, we’ve traded objectivity for pride and comfort.  It’s become more important for us to defend our position and stance, than to be led by God to his heart.  We quench the Holy Spirit in order to drink of our own arrogance and pigheadedness.  Tradition trumps truth.  And we pay a guy to cultivate this in us.

Joe Preacher is married with three children — he’s moved to a new city and state in order to proclaim the truth of God in a congregation there.  They’ve hired him to be their prophet.

  • When Joe argues the plan for salvation is not as cut and dry as they’ve made it out to be;
  • Every time Joe suggests God is more concerned with greed and the abuse of material possessions than with the method of “worship” on Sunday mornings;
  • Each time Joe questions the congregation’s longheld view of the church down the street;

…He is putting his family in danger of being without food and shelter.  We’ve created this system, and Joe Preacher’s willingly submitted himself to it.

Proclaim the truth at any cost.
Or conceal the truth at a certain price?

So not all blame goes on the church.  Every teacher should count the cost (and not the zeroes) of that salary before making a commitment to proclaim the word of God in the midst of a particular congregation.  If I’m called by God to proclaim his truth, I must be willing to proclaim that truth at any cost.  Too many preachers today are willing to conceal God’s truth for a certain price.

The dangers of a prophet for hire are many:

  • God’s truth is not proclaimed as he desires.
  • Members of a congregation are unable to wholeheartedly pursue God and truth — and often are ignorant that this is the case.
  • The Bible is not the final authority on the word of God.  An already agreed upon tradition / position is.
  • Security and a salary are pitted against honesty and integrity in the life of the prophet.
  • A prophet and his family are placed on the scales opposite preserving the status quo — and will always find themselves on the lighter side of that scale.
  • The line is easily blurred between being called to another place and being “called” to another salary.
  • If God is the same as in Micah’s day, the prophet will eventually be unable to see or understand the truth of God he was originally called to proclaim.

My goal is not to convince churches they shouldn’t be sure of any position on any issue.  And my goal isn’t to convince congregations never to pay a preacher.  But a church has to open to God’s truth.  And a prophet has to preach God’s word, no matter the cost.  I am only encouraging us to take an honest assessment of our current position.

Are we paying someone to further our own ideologies and opinions?

Am I willing to lose my paid position in order to speak on behalf of God?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “prophets for hire: preaching God in a congregation’s image

  1. Brett: good thoughts. I have to “guilty” if pressed about preaching “party line” stuff. I did lose a position at one church because I didn’t preach about baptism enough. Go figure. Like there isn’t more to preach about…like living out your faith. I’m not much of a “party” person anymore so I will approach something with an inquiring mindset and it seems to be accepted. Plus the diversity of today’s culture (least here) makes that somewhat easier. I do have to admit that my family eating is a powerful motivator/deterrent to going off half-cocked though.

  2. I’m paid as a missionary / development worker, just to be clear where I’m coming from. But I really don’t like the idea that I might ever be pressured to teach certain things or even gloss over others, for the sake of a paycheck. I think it’s a horrible position in which to be put.

    For me, I think I favor a small church without paid staff. One in which those with the gift of teaching teach, etc. Who knows how many Spiritual gifts in large churches might be underdeveloped or unknown completely, because there is already someone paid to be in that position? Just thinking…

  3. T

    Good stuff here. We also pay someone so where we don’t have to do it. Well I am speaking for me not for others.

  4. Hank

    James,

    I have a growing respect for your thoughts. Undoubtedly, we disagree on a Bible teaching or two (or three?)…. But, from what you write, I have a great appreciation for your desire to please God and you have encouraged me to do the same. I am glad you are my brother.

    God is so good!

  5. T, I miss living with you. Your honesty is so refreshing. Also it would have been nice to gloat in person about winning our fantasy football league…

    Hank, thank you for your kind words. I, too, appreciate you and the studying you’ve urged / motivated me to do. By the way, I studied through John 16 this morning. I by no means have all the answers — not many at all — but my thoughts concerning v 8 follow in brief:

    My first reaction is to say that the Spirit convicting the world here is speaking of his role in salvation. The “world” then would be those who are open to hearing God, and are being drawn to Christ. I guess I see it as the Holy Spirit acting ON them, until they accept Christ, at which time the Spirit indwells them.

    My other thought is similar to 2 Cor 2:15, where disciples are the aroma of life to the saved — and death to those who are perishing. The Spirit living in us, then, convicts non-believers of their sin — because they’re able to see what true life might look like (to some extent at least). This might also be related to the Corinthians text in which non-believers are in the assembly and witness prophecy and speaking in tongues.

    Just some thoughts. But I guess your question was whether or not the Spirit convicts the whole world in the same way he convicts believers. I think my answer is no. The believers have already been convicted of sin (in the way the world as a whole is) — and that’s one reason they accepted Christ.

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  9. Light

    Do not be discouraged, real prophets work for God alone; not a church, or any other organization. A true prophet of The Most High has as much need as the average preacher; the difference between them being that the prophet trusts God to provide for him/her, while the preacher relies on the church.

    How can you truly be a messenger of Light if you require worldly payment to do so?…

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