Monday, February 2, 2009

Pastoral Advocate

The pastor needs an advocate ...

We have advocates for everything & everyone else around, but the pastor gets left out. Students have advocates to speak for them. Those accused of crimes may have a public defender: that is even a Constitutional guarantee. Teachers have folks who speak to educational issues from their unique perspective to the legislatures. Companies have lobbyists. Even the lowly snail darter has entire groups of people falling all over themselves to advocate on its behalf.

But the pastor gets left out.

I can't speak for all traditions in this regard since some traditions are placed in areas of ministry. Baptists & others, however, are not. The pastor is put in a situation where he is conflicted at every turn. If he pushes for too much money, he is seen as "greedy." If he is too lenient on the money issue, the church will be more than happy to pay him pennies. If he asks a contract, the church might view it as too "legal-like" & say he is not relying on God. But if he doesn't, both he & the church may find disagreements on things that really should have been worked out initially.

Think about it: the pastor has to negotiate his salary package, vacation, benefits, retirement arrangements, insurance benefits, educational allowances, travel expenses, & a host of other money issues. These sort of things are primary to a servant of God being able to serve his congregation, his community & his family. Sadly, these things are not taught in seminary. Even if these things were taught, the issues are complex & require more than a casual understanding.

Another problem is that most faith groups are neither trained nor versed in these issues either. The laws change yearly. The complexities are real. What was a great solution one year is the absolute worst thing that should be done this year.

The end result of these problems can be devastating for both the church & the pastor. All too often the seasoned pastor doesn't realize that his "salary package" is not even what a first year teacher would make. Or that a simple restructuring of the package could save the pastor thousands in taxes.

But the church, too, suffers. I know of one situation where a long time pastor retired & the church was shocked at the cost of getting a new pastor. The salary they were paying was really good --- for 1978, but not for 2008.

I see a real need for a
Pastoral Advocate. The Advocate would negotiate for the pastor & would be able to structure a package that is current with IRS guidelines. Vacations, expenses, office hours, etc., would all be included in a contract with the congregation in order to protect everyone. The pastor is not put in an adversarial position with the very people he will be ministering, & the people will be able to honestly negotiate with a third party or the good of the church.

This idea has been floating around in my head for several years now but I have yet to act on it. I advise clients, both churches & pastors, on some fine points but actually doing the whole process --- not yet. A few tax folks have expressed an interest. One attorney who happens to be the wife of a rabbi said she would like to work with me on it, but honestly I don't know if there is enough interest. Need, yes. Would churches & pastors use this sort of service? I dunno.

What think ye?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baptists, Wine & Healthy Living

We've known for decades that the French are more healthy than Americans despite a diet that is rich, sweet & filled with all sorts of "bad" things. The question has always been why ... what is it about the French that make them healthier despite the rich diets? For that matter, most of Europe is healthier than America ... why?

The Romans were fond of saying that red wine would help cure all sorts of ailments. The new research would indicate the Romans were onto something. Researchers have isolated the active component in red wine that stimulates everything that is "good" for us.

Last week, CBS News
60 Minutes aired a segment on Resvaritrol, the "good" stuff found in red wine that may literally be the fountain of youth. Click here to watch the segment.

Antioxidants are in red wine. It helps lower bad cholesterol & raises good cholesterol. Red wine regulates blood sugar. It also contains large concentrations of folic acid, potassium, & magnesium, all of which are important to circulatory health.

Notice this is red wine, not the whites. That's because the amount of the good stuff found in white compared to red is lagging.

I am not versed enough in the science, nutrition, etc., on how all this stuff works. I'll leave that to the scientists. But what I am able to discuss is the utter silliness of some folks who take a teetotaler approach to alcohol & point to the abuse as evidence that alcohol should never be touched at all.

And these folks love to point out the crime stats involving alcohol, especially as it relates to destroying families.

Then they invariably use the Bible to say no one should ever drink at any time.

OK. There are many that abuse alcohol, just like many abuse sex. However, I don't see the same call for abstinence from married folks. Wrong use of alcohol is the issue, not the right use. And, yes, families are destroyed by alcohol just like families have been destroyed by overeating too. Finally, let's not forget that Paul did tell Timothy to
take a little wine for his stomach's sake.

I would add not only for the stomach's sake but for your family's sake, your community's sake, your friend's sake, your mind's sake, etc.

Being put in a theological position that tells people to not act in a healthy manner is a public relations nightmare. When that position also ignores science, it is seen as backwards. And when that same position actually makes X out to be a casual drug user ... well, the theology is in need of an overhaul.

Shame on the SBC for its stance on alcohol that is neither Biblical nor informed.

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