Benny’s perspective on ministry

I thought about what my first post should be. I thought and I thought. I was going to do one about tax policy, talking about the benefits of income taxation and its wealth redistribution properties.

I’ve decided to save that and instead make a post that will probably be somewhat controversial on this site but more in-line with the less-Christian alternative that goes unrepresented around here. a post inspired by Nathan’s impending career change. I guess what will be the first of many very alternative perspectives to what is usually on here.

When Nathan first told me that he was going to be a crusader, I probably didn’t give the most positive reaction. In fact I think I outright offended him. That was some fun days there. But I have decided to revisit the topic because it has some interesting points.

So, in the scheme of things, is it in society’s best interests for those with higher abilities to dedicate themselves to a life of religious promotion and services to the church community. Is it in Christianity’s best interests for those with higher abilities to be working in a church, or doing something else?

Is someone with high ability better serving the church in a church position, or better aspiring to a different position more in a non-religious field?

For example, let’s say a capable Christian became a commercial lawyer. They would earn a lot of money, and could then put his money towards training and then employing two ministers for various local churches. so, instead of one minister (who would require a source funding for their employment, and two unemployed guys that could be ministers if given the chance), you could have two slightly inferior church ministers (funded by the lawyer and who still provide adequate services), a competent Christian lawyer fighting the good fight, and the lawyer would probably still come out ahead financially. Further, the lawyer could fight the fight on other fronts.

Are the best and brightest required for positions in the ministry, or would the Christian community be equally served by adapting the roles to be filled more by the mediocre, with fewer high-ability personnel involved. It almost laps onto another topic Nathan has been talking about, in the use of technology in church, sermon recording, and possibly church planting (I am not sure what this is, I tune out generally to this one, I just thought I would throw it in). By more efficiently assigning human capital, and incorporating productivity improvements, the net benefit to Christianity could be huge.
Alternatively, there is the public representative path. The best and brightest Christians becoming parliamentarians isn’t a great outcome from my perspective. I am not Tony Abbott’s biggest fan. Another of Nathan and my pet arguments has been the role of public representatives in office, and their decision making processes. I am not a fan of super-Christian-values people rocking up to parliament and bringing Christian values to national legislation. The separation of church and state in Australia is rather unsubstantial in word but somewhat recognised in practice.

Further, I am of the strong opinion a distinction can be drawn between personal ideals and public policy. if a candidate was dripping in Christian ideals and champing to bring them to the world, I wouldn’t vote for them. However this topic deserves more than a sidenote, so it will be left for another day. Still, people who are part of church communities often have a good launching pad into more prominent positions. As a facilitator of networking and garnering community support, you probably can’t surpass a good church on a bright Sunday morning. For a person with notable abilities and a strong church community behind them, they could go far.

So, it all comes down to how the Christian community is best served by its best and brightest. Are the best and brightest compelled by their own kind to serve in theological positions? Is this situation resulting in Christians influence on societal policy being at a disadvantage?

However, turning for to the rest of the world’s views, how is this ideology affecting everyone else? The more theological pursuits are undertaken, the more negative impacts on other areas of human development, such through its impacts through the labour force. If the best and brightest are all urged to undertake theological pursuits, it will relegate more earthly positions, such as doctors, dentists, agricultural scientists etc to distant seconds. It will hamper technological and scientific advancement. So, is the Christian community doing enough to promote alternative pursuits outside of theological undertakings, which benefit the current world even if they do not focus on everyone’s salvation to the same extent? Or has the pursuit of theological pursuits taken preference to improving other areas of the world. In this way, is the Christian mindset having a negative impact on world advancement?

This further branches out into the issue, from the viewpoints of the less-Christian people, that all this time and effort expelled on a potential fairy tail being somewhat of a concern, and potentially these resources could be used better. With people suffering, not only is there a lack of aid in many situations, but actual opposing forces from religiously aligned organisations. As it was easier to jump up and down about environmental policy when the economy was going smoothly, it’s probably also much easier to jump up and down about salvation and living without sin when you are either privileged or in comfort with your situation. for the people suffering that don’t share the same religious philosophy, what is preached could almost seem to be pure selfishness.


Nathan says:

That’s incredibly long. And I’ve since laid down some ground rules for young Benny as he tries his hand at blogging.

My favourite bit was when he called me a Crusader.

Nathan says:

I’ve cut some words out. It’s now less than 1,000.

Leah says:

I think this post assumes that all of Christianity’s best and brightest are ministers/pastors, which isn’t true.

You also have to ask the question, what does this person *want* to do? If a person *wants* to be in some form of ministry, does it really matter if they could be an amazing surgeon or lawyer? That reminds me of being back in grade 12 and my first year of uni; hearing kids around me deciding what they wanted to do with their lives. You’d hear some of the brightest kids say they wanted to be teachers, and then hear the teachers moan “oh, but what a waste of your brains!” Which is really quite insulting to the student. Yeah, he might have the brains to be a surgeon, but he’d rather be a science teacher.

This is a little different to how a Christian decides to serve his or her church; whether through ministry, or through financial means, or through volunteer service; but it’s still got the same aspect of having to keep in mind what the person enjoys and wants to do.

Leah says:

Oh, and if you think all of Christianity’s resources and brains are being poured into a “potential fairy trail” and neglecting real world issues and therefore having a negative impact on the world, you need to look at organisations such as World Vision, Compassion International, Salvation Army, PresCare, AngliCare, Samaritan’s Purse, Tear Australia, ChildFund, Mercy Ships, St Vincent de Paul, etc – all organisations that were founded by christians, are operated by christians, or have christians in significant roles working for them.

I’m not saying we are doing perfectly. There are more areas christians and their churches could support. But the idea that we are neglecting the world’s problems in favour of beefing up our theological ranks is somewhat faulty, I think.

Kutz says:

Hey Benny,

Is this the Benny I think it is?

If so,

BENNY!!!! It’s been so long!

In response to your post: Are you implying that Nathan is our best and brightest!?!?!?*

I guess the question you have to ask is whether any Christian is being a blessing to the utmost that their gifts allow them to. In fact, 1 Peter would say that they are demanded to be a blessing to their culture. So I ask a return question: If, by Nathan’s ministry, he equips a whole congregation(could be thousands of people) of people to help the needy and cause less hurt to themselves and others(James 1:27), and trains them to train others to do so, is that not, long term, a sound investment of a Nathan?

*Sorry, couldn’t resist. No matter how I tried. Really.

queenstuss says:

I like your point of view, Benny. It is good food for thought. Especially since I have two Bachelors degrees and now spend my days making things from playdough and watching Play School with a small child.
I do agree with your point about if all the best and brightest undertake theological pursuits, then what impact does that have on the rest of society. From a Christian perspective, I think it’s good to have Christians in all those other fields you mentioned.

Amy says:

Hi Benny!
Yay – someone else to argue with…

As always, you make good points from a purely economic view, without any space given to the idea of what people are driven to do / want to do.

Ie. I got pretty good marks at school, I could have done almost anything. Economically, probably I should have gone and done something like law so I could earn more money and pass it on as you say.
But I did design, because it makes me happy, and inspires me, and keeps me sane and I am reasonably good at it. I know if I had done law or something else very likely I would have burnt out, and become disillusioned, etc etc.

And this is where we will have most of our fights – because you think ‘economic’ concerns are the most important things in life, and I don’t.

benny says:

I got comments! hoorah!

All good points. indeed, if a persons desire is to enter the ministry (which i think would generally be the case), then the last thing i guess we would want to do is put up artificial barriers to stop them.

I am not a very christian-linked character. my main connection to the christian world is smiley. however, even i have noticed many people who had careers in various fields all move into minister positions. i know a very competent professor/researcher jump ship to become a minister, IT personnal, medical workers, and who can forget a standout figure in this little discussion, a reportedly very capable engineer who runs mitchelton’s favourite church.

In my follow up post that i sent to smiley yesterday which smiley will post in the next few days (a post on the general benefits v negatives of religion on general society), i actually commented on charitable organisations, but i chopped it for various reasons (see smiley i “edited” my post). i am (mostly) glad these organisaitons exist. but again, i am not entirely sure if working for these organisations is still the most efficient allocation of resources. sure, you probably need some good personnal at the top, but many of the positions can be filled by low-ability workers. i acknowlege that christians do address many of the world’s problems, but an alternative perspective is that from the outside it often appears christians are selective what problems they address, often have different views on what is a problem and what isn’t, and at times also direct aid in ways that it favours christian ideals rather than more broad non-christian humanitarian goals. but this is more on the topic from the coming post. this doesnt really impact the point that theological pursuits are reducing the benefits that could be obtained if resources were differently allocated. however, this is just one component of a larger arguement.

benny says:

Kutz, you have always been such an awesome lad. I am not sure if Nathan is the best and brightest, as I don’t know the competition, but if he is only average, then you must have some very very smart cookies hanging around. Again, you make a good point. this is about allocaiton of resources. if your example was the case, and he had the greatest net gain to society, then that would be the best allocation. my arguement here is the next best minister option may do almost as well, whereas the more capable christians could be of more net benefit to society and christianity by pursuing less theological but more (i hate to say it) capitalistic pursuits.

benny says:

Hi Amy :)

well, its not that the economic component is the only concern, nor necessarily the primary concern. it is one component of the arguement. as mentioned, there are other components.

net society benefit doesnt always reflect first degree economic payments. you could have become a doctor, gone to work in africa for nothing, and helped millions. the societal benefit would not be easily measured here by your renumeration. but it is still important to point out that net benefit can be improved through efficient allocation of resources. economic arguements arent heartless. this entire arguement is at the centre aimed at bringing the optimum benefit to society.

finally, as a bit of an aside, as for law burning you out, that is quite possible. but i want to say that law is awesome. after studying maths, finance and economics, all of which i liked, on a different level i have clicked with law, and i really like it.

Amy says:

The problem with treating people as resources is that they rarely operate in a logical manner.

Glad you are enjoying law. I am a bit worried though that if you do any more study your brain will become so weighty you may be unable to hold it up…

Mark says:

Hey Benny, also long time no see.

You make an interesting case, and one that makes sense if we’re looking to optimise our economic/social benefit. This can be rationalised not only for Christian “work” but for almost any other profession or pursuit with a social benefit (somewhere down the line) as well.

You don’t say it in these terms, but you could have put it that the best and brightest could be “wasting their potential” in ministry.

Like most arguments, the various premises play a large part in the outcome. You see, from a Christian point of view, there is no “better” job that has more import or benefit for society than to be studying and teaching others about God, and getting your hands dirty and helping them do it in their daily life. It’s not an easy job, or a cop out from “real” work. Also, the ability to study, reason and communicate well is important, but only part of the picture. Those who are best at it, and who strongly desire it and work hard toward it should be given that opportunity.

As for “reaching one’s full potential”, for the Christian, we see there are some things that are limited to this life, and others that we have eternity for. Things with a time limit – like telling people about their status with God, and how this can be changed before judgement – should have a priority on things that don’t.

This doesn’t mean Christians give up on studying science, medicine, creative arts, etc. We also need good Christian lawyers maintaining the standards of civil freedoms and justice we enjoy. Nor does it mean that every Christian in these professions should drop everything and jump into ministry. But maybe a couple of next-best lawyers, or doctors, or scientists, or engineers, or musicians, et al, could do a “good enough” job, and support several “top notch” ministry workers.

Of course, that seems like chasing a “pie in the sky” fairy tale for someone with a different starting point. But given a Christian premise, would you agree it makes sense?

Personally, I think it’s great that Nathan is heading into ministry. It’s great that he will be developing and using his skills (I’d say “gifts”) to make things easier for possibly me and others to understand Christianity better, and help us put it into action in a practical way.

benny says:

Hi Mark :)

I can’t argue with anything you have said. if i wasn’t trying to restrain my word count, i would have acknowledged christians have a different preference system as well as what they see as good use of their time. Also, the whole living as god intended totally changes the life-goals landscape.

The economic arguement is also to point out how christians could improve their religion-related output, by more affectively allocating resources. yes it is a generic arguement that can be applied anywhere. it boils down to the economic utility concept, which isnt a very complex concept to start with. whether the best and brightest people are best spent in theological pursuits or something else is determined by which utility function you are using. a non-christians viewpoint and a christians viewpoint will have very different results. So from a christian perspective, it may be that the utility of fantasitic ministers outweighs having the best involved in medicla professions. it is likely even what they would prefer to be doing.

Again, from the outside looking in, this can appear that a lot of effort and resources expended when others feel they could be used elsewhere. it is just one of the many divides that occur down religious lines. When a person does not believe in an afterlife, their decision making process is radically affected.

Mark says:

I’ll agree with you many Christians individually and churches/denominations collectively haven’t got the best handle on optimising their inputs and outputs. Perhaps we need more bright Christians studying (or at least applying) good economics as well.

Kutz says:

Benny, it IS you!


You said, “it boils down to the economic utility concept.”

Now, I imagine that Nath has shared this with you before, but I guess the thing for me is that the gospel is almost the opposite of the economic utility concept, at points.

Essentially, what is less efficient for God than to come to earth and enter into the mess that we’ve made for ourselves, get himself caught up in it, get betrayed by his mates, rejected by his people, humiliated and then even killed to add the cherry to the cake? That sounds like a high-input, low-yield strategy to me!

But I guess God has a different way of doing things than we do, and although he created things which work beautifully economically, he also chose to save us all by giving his own blood. Something Corinthians says sounds foolish!

So it’s an interesting God we’ve got. Willing to get His everything dirty, to go through what we go through (and worse) so he can represent us before God, and guaruntee us life with God. I don’t understand it, but I’m thankful for it!