Why It’s Time to Ban Ministerial Prostitution

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"Never go after a minister serving at another church who has given no indication he or she is open to the possibility of moving."

A man once mistook me for a hooker. I know what you’re thinking. No, I was not dressed in drag and I was as surprised and ultimately pretty offended by the mistake. Perhaps more surprisingly, it all happened over the telephone.

The Solicitation

There I was, peacefully sitting in my office grading exams when the phone rang. The man introduced himself. He was an elder at a rather large and very well-known church. The conversation began with small talk, but quickly got around to the exchange of money for services.

“So,” he asked after explaining the purpose of his call, “are you ready to come up here and be our pastor?”

I replied that I was content where I was (I was serving on the faculty of Kentucky Christian University). I also knew the offer was being tendered pretty much on the sole basis of several people in the leadership having heard me speak somewhere. As far as I know, I’d never had a personal conversation with any of them about anything. Preaching is one of my strengths. But, I also know I have a boatload of weaknesses. Offering the leadership of a church to someone solely on the basis of hearing them preach a sermon or two is as dumb as voting for a President based on who looks best in a televised debate.

“We think you need to reconsider.”

I was, to be honest, flattered. If I felt God prodding me to move, I might have been at least willing to enter into a longer dialogue. I didn’t, so I didn’t.

“Thank you for the kind offer, but I’m really not interested.”

“Whatever you’re making at that school, we’ll at least double it.”

This is what might be called closing the sale. Like all such exchanges, at least one of the parties thinks it always comes down to negotiating the price.

I guess maybe I was having a grumpy day or maybe it just hit me wrong. Instead of being attracted or even flattered, I was embarrassed and a little upset.

“Listen, I may be many things I wish I was not, but I’m not up for sale to the highest bidder.”

Tom Lawson Tom has taught in Christian higher education for 25 years, with a focus on the theology and history of Christian worship. Tom, along with his wife Linda, serves on the faculty of Ozark Christian College (Joplin, Missouri, US). Tom grew up among the Primitive Baptists of the Appalachian mountains. Through his adult life, he has served in churches and taught at schools associated with the Christian Churches (of the Stone-Campbell Movement).

More from Tom Lawson or visit Tom at http://www.adorate.org

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  • Naissance

    Wow, we’ll said; and unfortunately all too true. A pastor and congregational leaders’ best protection from this I think would have to be godly wisdom and sensitivity (and obedience) to the holy spirit’s guidance and discernment.

  • Joe McKeever

    I once dealt with a search committee where a former big college football coach was a key member. I turned them down, saying simply that the Lord was not leading me to leave where I was. Later, that coach and his wife were coming through my town and we had a meal together. He said, “You know what surprised me most of all in our dealings with you? Not once did you mention money. In my profession, that would be the first question asked.”

  • Doctor W

    Thank you for what you have shared–it is so, so true. I witnessed this kind of behavior often in the Church of Christ world. In fact, what was most distressing was the number of ministers who could be “bought.” In the past few years, I have transitioned to the Disciples of Christ world. And, I’m thankful to see that churches and pastors are generally more committed to following a more respectful “process” when it comes to matching a pastor with a church.

  • Donaldo

    I would agree with your assessments except for the first premise: “Never go after a minister serving at another church who has given no indication he or she is open to the possibility of moving. Never directly contact someone who has not given permission, even through a third party, to be contacted.” Ministry is not, as you consistently point out, business. I find it very possible for the Spirit of God to speak to one of the Lord’s churches about a servant in another church who may be totally unaware that the Lord plans to use him in another place. We have to be careful not to use absolute words, like never, in contexts where the Scripture has not written a never.