How to get Paid

$2 bill logoSome students I counsel are skeptical when I advise them that they can and should be earning more money.

If you want to earn more money, it is helpful to understand how and why employers pay employees. Understanding this will dramatically improve your earning power. Here are three main ways employees are compensated:

1.) Hourly. This is the most common and first (and usually only) way most of my students think about being paid. When I tell them they can easily earn $25+ an hour they say “Nobody is paying that.” Correction: (Almost) Nobody pays that per hour. Hourly work is the lowest common denominator – we all have an hour. It’s not based on skill or productivity. There’s nothing wrong with being paid hourly, just understand that both your hours and the dollar per hour the employer can justify are limited.

2.) Piece Work. Many jobs pay by the job, not by the hour. For example, you may be paid $100 to clean a house that should take 5 hours. That’s $20 an hour work. If you can do it in 4 hours, you just received a 25% pay raise. If you’re looking for part time work, finding work that pays by the job instead of the hour is a great way to dramatically boost your income.

3.) Value Added. The highest paying jobs pay by the amount of value you can add. A simple version of this is someone who works on commission. If I sell 3 cars instead of 1 car on a Tuesday, my hourly income is 3x higher. The employer is happy to pay me because they are earning more money. I have ‘added more value’ then I cost my employer. More jobs than you think use this model. It’s “knowing where to hit”. This is why Zig taught “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.

There are lots of other ways to make money (buying and selling stuff, investing, etc.), but those are three models employers use in determining what compensation structure to offer.

Here are some random thoughts on these compensation plans:

  • Pastors should insist on positioning themselves as ‘Piece Work’ and ‘Value Add’, never on hourly. Your Sunday sermon is ‘Piece Work’. It needs to be ready to go by Sunday at 8am. If you can train and discipline yourself to prepare it in 10 hours instead of 20, you should then go home to raise your kids, play golf, or spend time in spiritual renewal. The reality is that being able to prepare it in 10 hours instead of 20 is a unique value you bring, and you need to capture that value for yourself. If you raise a healthier family, the church will benefit from that so the value is mutually beneficial. This isn’t just true of sermon prep, it’s also true of staff meetings, budget committees, dealing with people who complain, etc.
  • When it comes to adding value, there is a huge mark up. Pastors that are educated, good leaders, and have excellent communication skills are going to command a significant premium. Rick Warren has sold over 25 million books, and while he has been blessed with lots of skills, gifts, and opportunities from his maker, he isn’t lucky. The same is true for a local electrician like my friend Tim. Tim is compensated far more than many others in his field because being honest and dependable has a huge premium in his field.
  • The great news is that the ways you can add value are truly limitless. Find the areas that have the highest return on your time. It might be recruiting new kids to the youth group. It might be solving problems without requiring direction. Studies show that food servers that use their name and smile can earn $2.00 more per tip.
  • Part time income is really well suited for piece work and value add. If you worked in retail you might make $10 an hour. 10 hours a week would be $100. But you could make several times that if you were a piano teacher or math tutor charging $40 an hour. It would require you to put together flyers and facebook posts to spread the word. The actual time you spend teaching piano is somewhat valuable, but the time you spend finding new clients is extremely valuable. Finding new clients will pay you $100-$200 an hour. No matter what job you have, figure out what part of that job is the most valuable and do it more.
  • To truly understand value, we need to understand the stories people tell themselves. Teaching little Suzy the piano probably isn’t the highest value you bring. As a parent I want to believe that I am opening up the world of music to my kids. Broadening their horizons and teaching them the arts. The REAL value you bring isn’t teaching the piano its confirming my story to myself that I’m a good parent.
  • You don’t need to be self-employed for this to work. If I cleaned houses, I might go to my boss and ask “What’s the value of a new customer?” If they hired our company once a month for an average of three years and the company made a profit of $100 each visit a new customer would be worth $3,600 to the company. Would the company pay me $500 to find them a new customer? Of course. Then I would put up flyers on the bulletin board at church, let friends know I was looking for new customers. I may have started as a house keeper, but now I have a side hustle.
  • Most people that don’t believe they can make a lot more money don’t understand where they can add true value. A piano teacher is somewhat valuable. But if the teacher asks for referrals every week at the end of the lesson, that 1-2 minutes is worth hundreds of dollars per hour.
  • If you have the capacity for 10 students and you have 15 willing to take lessons, you can raise your rate from $40 to $50 (or $20-$35 or $55-$65). You will lose a couple students, but still have 10 willing to pay the extra. You didn’t earn a 25% raise for being a great teacher (though you may and should be), you earned that by finding more clients. No matter what job or field, figure out where the value is added to the organization.
  • I’m not convinced driving for Uber or Lyft is a good job. It wears out my car (my factory), my income is limited by the hours I can work, and there are very few ways I can add additional value.
  • I watched “The Big Short” last night and was reminded that nobody understands “Value Add” like financial professionals. Hedge fund managers build it right into their agreements (2 and 20) so there isn’t any ambiguity when it comes time to get paid.
  • Perhaps the most important skill you can build is learning how to explain to the client what exactly is the value you add and why that is important and worth it to them.
  • The heart of all jobs is solving a problem. The highest paid people are able to communicate “I understand your problem” and “I can help you”. It’s really empathy. That will get you the job, following through and delivering on and above your promise will keep the job or keep the customer coming back.

CEO or Physician?

stethoscopeI’m working on a long article. Here is a short excerpt. What do you think is the best metaphor for a local pastor?

There are a couple of occupational metaphors for someone going into a full time ministry career. The rise of the mega church over the past 25 years has led some to equate the lead parson as the “CEO” of the local house of worship. One potential problem of this metaphor is the primary ‘work’ of a faith leader doesn’t have anything to do with that of a CEO. Eugene Peterson says “The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.”   A better metaphor might be faith leader as Physician of the Soul. The origin of that saying goes back hundreds of years, probably predating a famous sermon by George Whitefield in the mid 1700s. The phrase is taken from Jesus famous retort to those questioning the company with which he chose to keep “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.”

The primary work of a faith leader is to tend to the spiritual health of those in their care. For that reason I really like the analogy of faith leader as a physician of the soul. My proposal is this: The way the medical profession educates physicians is a good example for how we should be educating occupational ministers.

Debt in Relation to Income

Dollar signMillions of dollars are being spent researching the issues around student loan debt – preventing unhealthy amounts of it and creating paths for students to graduate with less or no debt.

One thing that we hesitate to talk about is the following truth:

Debt only makes sense in relation to Income

Our income will dramatically affect our opinion of our debt. A friend of mine graduated from an Ivy League law school and his first job after passing the bar was with a white collar, downtown firm on a partnership track with a starting salary of $140,000. He lived well below his means (drove his old car for 5 more years) and he was able to pay off his student loans within a few years. His debt was manageable in relation to his income.

You might say ‘obviously’, but it isn’t obvious. Income simply isn’t talked about much in and around graduate school or in the many conversations about addressing student debt.

$500, $5,000, $50,000, or $500,000 of debt all may be disastrous or manageable BASED ON INCOME. If you are going to have a $250 student loan payment, you need to understand how much of your income that will consume. $250 is a percentage of your take home pay. Putting your debt in relation to your income is one reason we have tried to develop rules of thumb like this.

There is a reason we hesitate to talk about income – it can vary widely. Some variables are based on things we can control and some are not. Some of those variables that can drastically change your income potential are:

  1. Geographic

A friend of mine was offered a pastoral position in downtown San Francisco that had a starting salary of $100,000 a year. After doing some research and running his budget he discovered that even with that salary he couldn’t afford to live within 30 minutes of the church. A pastoral position in Lawrence, Kansas may pay significantly less, but cost of living is much different. Student loans aren’t geographic – they travel with you.

  1. Employee Personal Capacity

Employees have very different capacities – speaking specifically of things that are in our control.  Some people are just naturally better or have worked hard on areas of personal development such as likeability, work ethic, punctuality, working well with others, and creating positive results. 70% or more jobs are landed through personal networks, so a future employee needs to be able to build and maintain relationships. These skills will have a huge impact on future income opportunities and student’s personal networks and skills vary widely.

  1. Macro Economics

Our economy is still driven by supply and demand. If there are more attorneys’ then jobs, the cost of labor (salaries) goes down. If overall church attendance in your denomination is declining, then there are fewer dollars and jobs available. If the markets do well and overall charitable giving goes up across the country it will generally increase salaries. Furthermore, certain skills pay much better in the marketplace. In America today, a pastor who is a dynamic public speaker will earn more than a less dynamic shepherd that loves his flock just as much or more.

  1. Gender, Race, Height, Etc.

Unfortunately in the broken world in which we find ourselves, there are significant wage discrepancies for things that are well outside the control of the employee. It seems insane, but age, race, gender, and even height will play a significant impact on our ability to earn.

Some of these variables are hard to talk about. The reality is that it isn’t right or fair that some of these variables are out of the control of the employee.  It’s easier to avoid discussing injustice (or to rant against it) then to pragmatically address what to do in light of it.

For these reasons we have dropped the ball on having honest discussions with students about understanding their future income. Some of us can do different things to maximize our income potential. That may be learning a new skill or focusing on skills that pay more in the marketplace.

Others shouldn’t focus on maximizing at all. The world truly needs homemakers and small town pastors. For those called into those types of occupations, we need to talk about debt in light of their future income.

Why Fundraise?

"Win Ben Stein's Money" (TV) Ben Stein, Jimmy Kimmel Credit: Comedy Central/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

“Win Ben Stein’s Money” (TV)
Ben Stein, Jimmy Kimmel
Credit: Comedy Central/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Ministry work and fundraising seem to perpetually be stuck together. This is a brief note on why that isn’t a bad thing.

Some students have put a support team together to help them pay for a theological education with less or no student loan debt. I think this is a great way to go. If you intend to go into occupational ministry, you need to become more comfortable with fundraising – but why?

The answer to that question isn’t restricted to ministry – in fact I came across the answer 10 years ago reading Seth Godin’s phenomenal blog. He is described as an ‘author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker’, but I like to see him as a thoughtful person who is willing to share.

Seth’s post a decade ago was on a New York Times article from Ben Stein (shout out to Win Ben Stein’s Money hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (!)) in which he questions Yale’s persistence in asking him for money. If you haven’t followed it since 2005, Yale’s endowment is now over $24 Billion. That’s easily enough to never charge tuition again much less ask their alumni for donations that pale in comparison. So why do they do it? Godin answers:

Michael Motta answered that question for me when he quoted Ben Franklin in an email today. “he that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than whom you yourself have obliged”.

In other words, Yale wants Ben Stein’s money so that Ben will be inclined to do the things that Yale really wants: send over great students, hire graduates, talk up the school and maintain its place in the pantheon of liberal arts colleges. And donors are far more likely to do that than disconnected alum.

Therein lies the reason fundraising is an essential part of all ministry work from now until the end of time. There are a lot of things that your personal ministry “really wants” much more than money. It’s nice to ask for ‘prayer’, but I’m certain that people that actually support you with their real dollars are far more likely to support you with real prayer.

So what is it that you ‘really want’? If you’re in Seminary, there are a lot of things more important then money that would be deeply helpful for you: housing, prayer, a job, people with whom you can actually minister, babysitting, an audience for your teaching, wise counsel, theological reflection, and much more.

A friend of mine recent gave my car a jump start when I was stranded in a distant neighborhood. It was a friendship that started and grew through a business transaction. Finances have a way of connecting us in cool ways.

I truly believe that God has promised to meet all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. So I don’t need to do fundraising to meet my financial needs, but I think one reason God gives us financial needs is to connect us with fellow travelers through jobs, fund raising, giving, lending, and helping each other with physical needs. We are hard wired to want to help each other. And through financially helping one another we find ourselves helping each other with the things that really matter – the stuff money cannot buy.

Going out and asking other people to support your cause*, specifically including financially, is an important part of the spiritual order of the universe. It really is a blessing to you AND to them.


*BTW, if you’re diligently asking and people aren’t supporting your cause it may be because you aren’t communicating its importance in a way that they can understand. Or perhaps you are communicating it properly, in which case maybe you should quit that cause ASAP.

ARTICLE: Why College Isn’t Worth The Money

forbesForbes had an interesting article this weekend:

Change is painful. For our parent’s generation, a college education was a path to a career.  That isn’t a given anymore. In fact, if all you want is an interesting, high paying career with excellent job security, I would strongly recommend:

Welding, HVAC Tech, ElectricianPlumberDental Hygienist, etc.

Many skilled trades can have salaries above 70k, and if you start your own company (as many of my friends have), you can easily clear $100,000 a year. All without going to college for a traditional liberal arts degree. The economics are simple – these trades remain in strong demand and there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill them.

But as was pointed out earlier, not all educational decisions should be made based on a straight return on investment. In fact, if the educational system moves this direction our society will miss out.

It may be helpful to frame the pursuit of a Theological Education in these terms. The value of a theological education is critical – I want and need my personal spiritual leaders to be properly trained. But if you’re pursing a Seminary degree ONLY for the future employment opportunities it will offer, this deserves critical thought. The larger social landscape (church attendance,  tax law, freedom of religion, etc.) will determine the number of clergy employment opportunities and there is a strong possibility that this could limit the economic value of your seminary degree.

It doesn’t mean there will be less ministry opportunities – in fact probably just the opposite. That’s why I believe so strongly in the value of a theological education. But the economics of the social landscape may cause future ministers to pursue bi-vocational or other alternative funding models to traditional pastoral ministry jobs.

As our title article articulated, for a full generation student loans were an easy sell because a liberal arts education was worth $1 million more than a high school diploma. But as the math of that equation starts to erode, it makes sense to be very diligent about limiting the debt burden of pursing higher education. This is one reason I strongly recommend pursing your theological seminary education with as little debt as possible.


Do you have Millionaire Myths?

The_millioner_mind_bookcoverThomas Stanley was one of the most important myth busters in America. His original Millionaire Next Door changed the way we understand wealth building in America. His book Stop Acting Rich is probably my favorite, but his book Millionaire Mind tried to address the mindset (as opposed to the practical – cut spending, investing, etc.) of the most financially successful.

Since Dr. Stanley passed away last year, Dave Ramsey has started doing a Millionaire theme hour every few months where he brings on real life average millionaires and asks them a few questions. What becomes apparent listening to a few of these is that there are a number of popular myths around those that have accumulated wealth:


  1. Wealthy inherited their money
  2. Wealthy are famous
  3. The wealthy did something unethical to gain their wealth
  4. The wealthy are workaholics without families
  5. The wealthy went to a top college or university
  6. The wealthy are smarter or more intelligent
  7. The wealthy started with money (It takes money to make money)
  8. The wealthy live extravagantly (new cars, expensive jeans, etc.)

The reality – both statistically and anecdotally – is that that these just aren’t true. The vast majority are first generation millionaires (88%) that live very inconspicuous lives (1% are famous musicians or athletes), acquired their wealth slowly by saving over a long period of time, have long stable marriages, and graduated in the middle of their class with average GPAs.

Instead, in the Millionaire Mind, Stanley ranked the most important attributes:

  1. Being Honest – Integrity
  2. Being Disciplined
  3. Getting along with people
  4. Having a supportive spouse
  5. Working hard


You might be wondering how this applies if you’re in Seminary or a graduate school. First, it’s amazing the wisdom of scripture (especially Proverbs) that bleeds through:

  1. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by duplicity.”
  2. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
  3. “The prudent hold their tongues.” “Blessed are the peacemakers”
  4. “A wife of noble character….more precious than rubies. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
  5. Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

If you’ve chosen to spend your life studying and teaching the scriptures, rest assured that if you practically apply what you’ve learned to your own life you are on the road to “all these things being added unto you.”

Second, critically analyze any negative thinking you may have around going into ministry. “I’m going into ministry, so I’ll never be financially stable.” “I’ll never be able to go to Seminary without debt.” Is that true? Maybe. But maybe not. God calls different people into different circumstances, but we do know that “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” I believe the key to that verse isn’t “rich”, it’s “no sorrow”. You can have a rich ministry with no financial sorrow. You can have a rich marriage, with no sorrow. A rich friendship without drama is a blessing from the LORD.

Third, in The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren says God cares more about your Character than your Circumstances. You may have noticed that Stanley’s keys are all issues of character. In Seminary, you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of information – brain knowledge. But it’s important to remember that the hard work of discipleship is developing your inner life to be “the same as that of Christ Jesus”. Regardless of your and my future financial gain, we can agree that Jesus had great integrity, showed great diligence and discipline, worked well with others, and wasn’t lazy. This is why Paul said “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The point of this post: If you’re struggling with financial matters, let’s look at:

Mind: Do I have Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) around money, the wealthy, my finances, my future? Are these true in light of scripture?

Body: Do I practically have financially destructive actions or habits in my income or outgo?

Spirit: Do I have character issues that I need to work through?


In reviewing this article I think it’s important to note that the scriptures don’t give a formula that teaches CHARACTER leads to WEALTH. The point of this article is that many believe that wealth and good character are incompatible or incongruent, and that certainly isn’t the case.

It’s also important to note that the point of our finances isn’t becoming a millionaire or independence – especially from God who provides all our needs (Pro 30:9, I Cor 4:7, Matt 6:11, 1 Tim 6:17, Phil 4:19). Instead I believe we can and should aspire towards ‘Freedom’, specifically from debt both current and future.

Skye Jethani on CALLING

skyeA biblical theology of work is critical to understand why you’re going into ministry vs the work place. One of the most important perspectives I’ve read on this is Skye Jethani’s explanation of a Christian’s three callings. You can find all his writings here:

and this particular post here:

I’ve re-posted it fully here because of it’s relevance and importance. Enjoy:

For years I served as a teaching pastor at my church, but then left the pastoral team to pursue a calling outside the institutional church. For the first time since graduating from seminary, I found myself in the pews more often than in the pulpit. It changed my perspective. Working as a writer and editor, traveling more often, and juggling a young family left very little discretionary time in my schedule. There was simply no way I could participate in everything the church was asking me to do while also fulfilling the calling God had given me to pursue outside the church.

Within a few months, I understood how most of my congregation felt. And I realized how insensitive and guilt-inducing many of my past sermons had been. In sermon after sermon I had called them to give more time, more money, more energy to the work of the church. Little did I understand or affirm their callings in the world.

I had inadvertently created a secular/sacred divide in which the “sacred” calling of the church was pitted against their “secular” callings in the world. I never said this explicitly, of course, but it was implied.

Later I was invited to preach again. This time my message included an apology for my failure to understand the value of their work outside the church. The sermon was met with shouts of “Amen!”—not a common occurrence in our predominantly Anglo suburban congregation. Why did it take me so long to see my error, and why did I have to leave pastoral ministry to recognize it? Part of the problem is history.

Centuries ago the word vocation, meaning literally “a calling,” applied only to bishops, priests, and monks—those occupying offices within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. It was believed that the clergy had been called by God. They alone had a vocation while everyone else merely worked.

The idea dates back to Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century. He wrote that Christ had established two ways of life, the “perfect life” and the “permitted life.” The perfect life was the one God called the clergy to—a life of prayer, worship, and service to Christ through the church. Other occupations, while necessary, carried less dignity. The labor of farmers, artists, merchants, and homemakers was not evil, but neither was it blessed, nor were these roles callings from God. After all, they were concerned with the things of earth, while the clergy were occupied with the things of heaven.

This hierarchy of labor went largely unchallenged until the Protestant Reformation. Leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin called Christians back to the authority of Scripture, and there they found no justification for the exaltation of the clergy or the abasement of other labor. They read in the New Testament that everyone should work and do “something with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). This was more than a rebuke of laziness; it was an affirmation of work, including physical labor, as a way of blessing others and manifesting Christian love. The Reformers also recognized that worship of God was not limited to one’s time in a cathedral. God received glory in the ordinary activities of life, including work.

Luther wrote: “The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.”

With this recalibration of the doctrine of vocation, many came to view their labor differently, not as menial labor to be endured but as a God-ordained calling to be pursued with religious zeal. It resulted in a new devotion to work that historians refer to as “the Protestant work ethic,” and it was coupled with a vision that Christ was actively engaged in every part of the world—not just the church.

This new understanding meant things suddenly mattered that the church had long ago abandoned. Commerce, agriculture, government, and the home became honored and even holy arenas in which to serve God. And a person determined where to serve the same way clergy did—by listening for Christ’s call upon his life.

Later the Puritans gave added nuance and dimension to this theology of vocation. There are three levels of calling:

First, a Christian’s highest calling is to abide in communion with Christ.

Second, all Christians also share a set of common callings. These are the many commands of Scripture that apply to all of God’s children in every time and place. These include instructions to love one another, pray for those who persecute you, forgive those who wrong you, give to those in need, honor your father and mother, do not steal, do not covet, do not commit adultery, be prepared to share about your hope in Christ, and hundreds of other commands.

Third, each Christian will also have a specific calling that God directs him or her to accomplish.

The second level, our common callings, are what most churches focus upon today. The reason is simple—common callings are easy to discover. One simply opens the Bible and reads them. Having read Ephesians, Pastor Brian can stand before his congregation on Sunday with divine authority and say, “Husbands, love your wives.” This is the common calling of all married Christians, but Pastor Brian cannot cite chapter and verse to proclaim a specific calling, like, “Sally, go to law school.”

A specific calling, which is what we often mean when we use the word vocation, requires Sally to live in communion with God and discern his call directly. While her specific calling may be blessed and confirmed by members of her community, as Paul and Barnabas experienced in Acts 13, it cannot be discovered without the illuminating role of God’s Spirit in her life.

Herein lies the problem. In many of our Christian communities, we may affirm the Spirit as a doctrinal truth, but the reality of his presence is often ignored.

As a result Christians are not equipped to engage either their highest calling (communion with God), or discern their specific calling (vocation). What remains is the one thing the church can access without the Spirit’s presence—Scripture.

While God-given and certainly good, our common callings as captured in the Bible constitute only one facet of our Christian life, and without the presence of the Spirit, we remain powerless to follow these commands as well.

For this reason if Christians do not grasp their highest calling to live in vibrant, continual communion with God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then neither our common nor specific callings can be properly engaged. If we get our highest calling right, however, and welcome the reality of the Spirit into our lives, then in most cases the other dimensions of our calling take care of themselves.

By neglecting the doctrines of our highest and specific callings, the contemporary church has also found itself employing a leadership model that looks more like a corporation in which a centralized organization determines everyone’s role. Drawn by the efficiency and success of corporations, many pastors have been told to think of themselves as CEOs. They articulate a mission, set goals, rally people and resources, and align them all to accomplish a single task.

In this model the senior leader is the individual hearing from God, and the work of the institutional church is what ultimately gets all the attention. Whether a person is a nurse, farmer, architect, or shopkeeper is irrelevant, as long as she or he is supporting the church’s vision with finances and volunteer time. A person’s value, in this model, is determined by how closely she or he aligns with the institutional church’s vision.

Often the mission articulated in this model is rooted in Scripture and part of our common calling, such as the call to “make disciples” or to “serve the least of these.” Who would disagree with the importance of these works?

Still, when these callings are untethered from our highest call (commune with God) or the specific call Christ has given to each of his followers, it can do great damage. When this happens the institutional church’s work soon becomes all-consuming and many Christians develop a suspicion that the church’s leaders really care only about advancing their institution’s agenda. They begin to feel like the church is using them rather than loving them.

Resistance to the sacred/secular divide and to the expectation that one’s first commitment should be to the institutional church is especially evident among the younger adults I have engaged. While earlier generations may have valued the idea of surrendering their lives and fortunes to an institution, the young today do not. In fact, they are increasingly suspicious of large organizations. According to Gallup, forty years ago 68 percent of Americans reported having a strong or high confidence in the church. Today it is down to 44 percent, and among the young it is even lower.

This generation’s lack of response to the institutional church’s call has left many pastors flummoxed. They mistakenly believe it is a matter of style. “If we just change our music, add some candles, and turn up the ‘cool’ factor, more young people will engage,” they assume. Others blame it on immaturity. One pastor asked me, “How do I get a generation that doesn’t believe in commitment to commit to the church?” Maybe the problem is the object of the commitment.

I do not believe the problem is style or immaturity; it is a church that has lost a theology of vocation. We fail to see beyond our common callings to either the believer’s highest call (God) or specific call (vocation).

Younger people today, perhaps more than previous generations, have a strong sense of their specific calling. They believe God has called them into business, the arts, government, the household, education, the media, the social sector, or health care, and they are often very committed to these venues of cultural engagement. But when their specific callings are never acknowledged by the church, and instead only our common callings or the goal of the institutional church is extolled, the young feel like something important is missing.

Rather than embracing the fullness of the Christian life comprising multiple facets—highest, common, and specific callings—the church unknowingly communicates that following Christ is a tension between sacred callings and secular work. Often the message is: “You must sacrifice your specific, secular calling to do more of the sacred work that’s important to the institutional church,” this guilt-laden message is one a young, jaded generation is much less likely to tolerate. It is seen as a self-serving power play by church leaders even if, like me, they never intended it to be. The ancient error of Eusebius is alive and well in the evangelical church today.

Does this mean the institutional church should stop emphasizing our common callings or its evangelistic work? Absolutely not! Rather, it is vital that the church rediscover the God-given dignity of all callings and how they fit together.

It is not the pastor’s task to wrestle more people away from “secular” engagements in order to help him accomplish his “sacred” work, but to erase these categories in the lives of those he leads in order that Christ might come to reign over all parts of their lives and world.

Echoing the Protestant reformers and the Puritans, Dallas Willard recognizes the danger of dividing our work into departments and the destructive illusion it fosters. He says: “There truly is no division between sacred and secular except what we have created. And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and secular does incalculable damage to our individual lives and the cause of Christ. Holy people must stop going into ‘church work’ as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking, and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work.”

If we are to embrace this united view then we must advance a new vision for Christian engagement in the world, employ a new model of leadership, and create a new spirit of affirmation that values each person’s specific, Christ-given call within our churches.

That is what I set out to accomplish in my upcoming book, Futureville. Stay tuned for more information about the book and how you can get an advanced copy.