Christian Denominations, An Unsustainable Business Model.

There was another article today about downsizing a major seminary.  This time it was about a place many local clergy attended, Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Cuts in the upcoming budget amount to about 15 percent.

By all accounts Luther is an excellent seminar with graduates acquiring substantial training in theology.  The current problem is complex.  There are fewer students.  The lost revenue cannot be made up from the denomination.  Students cannot find employment that pays enough to take care of the debt they have at graduation.

Many evangelical denominations do not require nearly the training for their pastors mainline denominations require.  I would compare the requirements for these evangelical churches to be something like that of a trade school.  This requires a less expensive “seminary”, there may not be one, and students costs are far less.

I could not locate today an article I read a couple of years ago.  It was written by a faculty member of a famous seminary.  He said seminaries which consider themselves “producers” of theology and who consider people in the pews as “consumers” have it backwards.

People in the pews now can read theology on their own and consider themselves “producers”.   This makes the likelihood of them putting up lots of money to subsidize their denomination’s seminary or paying salaries needed by seminary graduates less likely.

The future appears to be one of preachers who are graduates of state universities instead of seminaries, shared church buildings and more mergers of denominations.

56 Responses

  1. entech

    I would compare the requirements for these evangelical churches to be something like that of a trade school.

    Even then you eventually get a problem. England has only had a few new apprentice thatchers in the last few years.

  2. Henry

    Jon: “There was another article today about downsizing a major seminary. This time it was about a place many local clergy attended, Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

    How long ago did that tornado strike the twin cities………..August 19, 2008? I would assume along with all the other societal pressures, adopting policies contrary to scripture is a great demotivator of the young men.

    1. Henry 1:13 I think your post meant you feel seminary enrollment has fallen because some branches of Lutherans approved the hiring of gay pastors.

      Lack of money had nothing to do with it??? I doubt that.

      1. Henry

        Jon: “Lack of money had nothing to do with it???”

        Jon, if you read a little further, you would see that is covered. along with all the other societal pressures

  3. Henry

    Jon: “People in the pews now can read theology on their own and consider themselves “producers”.”

    This seems to have been going on for a very long time. It seems even Paul was correcting congregations who were “producing” theology.

  4. Henry

    Jon: “Many evangelical denominations do not require nearly the training for their pastors mainline denominations require.”

    I much prefer a highly and well trained pastor of the bible over a less trained pastor.

    1. entech

      Same goes for metalworkers, better trained worker better product.
      With a better product you get a more sustainable business model, of course if the market shrinks or there is more variety in the market.

  5. Michael Ross

    “Many evangelical denominations do not require nearly the training for their pastors mainline denominations require. I would compare the requirements for these evangelical churches to be something like that of a trade school.”

    I have a cousin who is a graduate of Luther. He is now a American Free Lutheran pastor. While he is very scholarly he realizes that formal education in America today (that includes Christian collages and seminaries) is little more than a brainwashing. You, as a Phd. economist, have a good dose of this brainwashing which has made you an academic elitist.

    As far as disciples of Jesus , He ignored the religious establishment and went to the sea shore and chose ordinary working men. The weren’t brainwashed as the scribes and pharisees were.

    1. Michael 1:42 “You, as a Ph.D. economist, have a good dose of this brainwashing which has made you a academic elitist.”

      I’d be the first to say Ph. D.’s are not necessary everywhere, nor are other college degrees always necessary. What is alarming is anti knowledge, anti informationa and anti intellectualism. These are what allow us, collectively, to drift into big mistakes. I would say these are the characteristics that allowed us to drift into wars both you and I oppose.

      1. Matt

        “anti knowledge, anti informationa and anti intellectualism.” these are also characteristics that allow us to drift away from God.

        1. entech

          Matt, these are not characteristics they are mental attitudes and habits.

          They encourage a thoughtless acceptance of a blind fundamentalist belief system: I am not talking about any particular denomination or creed, all take the acceptance of a divine creator as being fundamental to any possibility, can’t deny that it is a ‘possibility’ but can say that it is not a necessity.

          1. Matt

            “I would say these are the characteristics that allowed us to drift into wars both you and I oppose.”

            not that it realy matter but characteristics was jons word not mine…

          2. entech

            Well in that case I think you both use it incorrectly, or at least not the way I would.
            Could be described a number of ways, but as long as we know what we mean, as you say, what does it matter.

        2. Matt 3:27 “..these are also characteristics that allow us to drift away from God.”

          I think one reason people drift away from God is that, according to the Bible, he killed 2.5 million people. That’s just by adding up the passages that included numbers. Using estimates for the other mass exocutions, the number is probably about 25 million killed.

          1. entech

            Certainly wasn’t the advantage one would expect to be “the chosen people”. Actually it is something of a miracle that enough survived the the onslaughts to be the founders of Christianity.

            Thinking of the most extreme case, postdiluvian population was so small, the gene pool so shallow that it is surprising they did not become extinct or at least have severe breeding problems.

          2. Matt

            jon, i dont think you have a very clear idea of who God is and how He works…it was not him but our own evil that was our demise then and will be in the future…interesting how all your questions can be answered if you are willing to do a little research(not from an atheist source)

          3. Matt 11:42 “Jon, I don’t think you have a very clear idea of who God is ..”

            Actually, that is close but not quite right. I don’t have any idea who these invisible and mythological characters are.

            I’ve asked posters before here what the almighty will look like when he/she returns. That is, how will we know it it the real deal and not another imposter? How can we be certain there will not be disagreement as to whether this is the real deal or not? I’d like to know the details.

            I’ve been told this is an unfair question. There seem to be all kinds of ideas on what a god or spirit will look like. My take on this is no one, even yourself, has “a clear idea of who God is”. I am certain whatever your idea is of what the god is would be countered by people who have a different idea.

          4. entech

            Matt, there are so many different gods, which one are we supposed to see. If I see a different one from you, then what?

      2. Michael Ross

        Like my cousin I respect scholarly study but few have the discernment to pick through the brainwashing (such as Keynesian economics and Darwinian evolution) to find objective truth. Without Lord Keynes and the central bank system most wars of the last century could not have been financed. If you Freethinkers oppose these wars, why not spend some time getting after the warmongers of the religious right. I could use some help on that front.

  6. Wanna B Sure

    Jon; You indicated that Lutheran pastors are “hired”. This is not the case. They are not employees of the congregation, and are considered self employed for IRS purposes. When a congregation has a pastoral vacancy, names of potential candidates are provided by the regional/district office of Synod, recomendations, and from the floor of the congregational pre-call meeting. There are various reasons these names are there. Some pastors may have given an indication of their openess to a call if they believe their usefullness in their current location has been fulfilled, are looking for new challenges, downsizing of congregation size due to aging, or sometimes the desire to be closer to family if they are on the other side of the country. There are many legitemate reasons. Once these names have been recieved along with their bio, (strengths and weaknesses in various fields,) personal specifics, and after a criminal and sexual background check, an election is held, and a call is issued to the candidate who under the guidance of the Holy Spirit accepts, or declines the call. A pre-call interview is virtually unheard of, (at least in the Synod I belong to.) Removal of a pastor is very difficult. About the only reason/s a pastor can be removed is due to preaching unsound doctrine, or serious criminal mis-conduct. (Too many speeding tickets would not be a reason) Ha. The Synod acts as a facilitator in the process. The specific congregation is the one who extends the call, and has the final voice in who recieves the call. The pastoral candidate has the final word as to his acceptance of the new call. Some calls last for a few short years to many years. I have a nephew that went from seminary to his first call, and is still there, with just two years to retirement. Each congregation has it’s own distinctive personality, as does each pastor. They self adjust for a better fit. Different congregations have different needs, and different pastors have different skills.

  7. It is clear that religious organizations are having trouble with their business model because theirs is a contracting enterprise. Churches generally are losing ground, although, individually, it can be shown that some mega-churches are prospering at the expense of old-school denominations. You have to face it: fewer people are attracted to church attendance as part of their spiritual paths. Ergo fewer church workers are required. As a parenthetical note, it is also true that “scholars” of all stripe have fallen from favor in recent decades. Professors have been replaced by part-time junior teaching assistants creating a glut of Ph.D. holders who are unemployed.

    1. Michael Ross

      “It is clear that religious organizations are having trouble with their business model because theirs is a contracting enterprise.”

      Not surprising. When people are well fed, feel safe and secure, they tend to forget God, moral and spiritual values. After 9-11 church attendance soared, as did the sale of Bibles and other religious materials. People were humbled and looked to their faith. That didn’t last long, however. When we saw cruise missiles and other high-tech munitions going into Afghanistan we got up off our knees and began to cheer and wave the flag. We put our trust in our military prowess. Now we have Predator Drones to do our murdering. They are controlled stateside at no risk to our troops. War is great fun, like a video game.
      “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1)

      When the next crisis hits, be it military or economic (likely both), you will see a return to faith like never before. I will guarantee it.

      1. Michael 2:14 re: Isaiah 31:1

        Is that the passage where the god killed all those Eygption soldiers? Were they all guilty of sin? It seems like some of them might have been taken into the army by force.

        1. Michael Ross

          What sin is an unborn baby guilty of? 4000 die every day. Liberals applaud this as “free choice.” 2million innocents have perished in Iraq. Conservatives applaud this as “freedom and democracy”. Both sides condemn each other. All are hypocrites.

          “for every one is an hypocrite and an evil doer” (Isaiah 9:17 )

          1. Michael 2:53 re Isaish 9:17

            I’ll ask again. Of the 2.5 million to 25 million people the god of the Bible killed, were any innocent? It seems like many, if not possibly the majority, were innocent.

          2. Stanta

            50 million since Roe vs Wade, less then 50 years, you really want to go there Jon since a certain amount of the fees wound up in your pocket?

          3. entech

            Jon 2:29 There is really no point in talking of Biblical massacres, many as they were all demanded by the perfect God; in many cases with the assistance of the merciful God; with many innocent women, children and women with child killed along with their livestock murdered under the watchful and approving gaze of the God of justice and all the other strangeness that we can read.
            All these things and more are written in a set of books that talk of the perfect creator and his imperfect creation, his creation born in sin, a victim of the original sin of Adam and Eve imposed on them from before birth, conception or anything by a just god who can’t make up his mind whether the sins of the father pass to the children or whether each person is responsible for their own sin. He even tried to drown them all because they were evil in thought and deed.
            So evil, intrinsically sinful humanity is guilty of terminating pregnancies without valid cause. Some say there is no valid cause not even if the a child dying in the womb causes the death of the mother (Ireland recently) or the child is known to have a limited and painfully crippled lifespan, in fact anything at all is thwarting the will of God.

            Mention or criticise the actions written about in the good book, the inerrant Holt Bible and we get an immediate condemnation of what sinful man does, as if this somehow exonerates God, excuses all the evil things said about him in his book of actions in his name? It must be the ultimate blasphemy for you to compare the works of God to the acts of man.

          4. Stanta

            Forgive me if I am wrong. Wasn’t you wife an administrator for the clinic in Fargo? I thought you faced protestors over abortion? My apologize if I am wrong.

          5. Stanta

            I am truly ambarrassed, a little research on my part would have saved me from making a false accusation. But I will stand on the first part of the comment.

          6. entech

            There is an old saying about stones and glass houses, and we are all guilty of that one.
            But it does confirm a point I try to make, some people go to extremes trying to attack Jon simply because he is an atheist.
            Stanta says: April 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      2. Michael Ross

        Were they all innocent? They were all deluded by their wicked rulers. God judged harshly back then. It was all they understood. That was centuries ago. Abortion and “wars of choice” (aggression) are happening now and you support abortion and are mostly silent on wars.

        1. entech

          Certainly the potential offspring destroyed in the Midianite women’s wombs were innocent. Of course, I don’t really believe there is a great deal of truth in any of it, I only bring it up because of the constant quotes from that collection of myth and magic with a little history assembled by an unknown number of authors with unknown agendas.

          I have said many times I think abortion should be safe and available and very rare, as a means of birth control or selecting the gender of you children I would be as against as anyone. I exclude myself from any talk of war on this site as I am not a resident and have no say in American politics, having said that I am vehemently opposed to the country of my birth and the country of my residence being involved Iraq or Afghanistan

        1. Wanna B Sure

          In this context yes. This was mentioned many many centuries ago. When something gets smaller, something else expands. Be prepared to grab your ankles.

  8. Krista

    Jon: What is alarming is anti knowledge, anti informationa and anti intellectualism.

    You see Jon, you look down at all of us Christians like we don’t have a clue of the real world but in reality it is you who doesn’t seem to have all the information, a lack of knowledge and intellectualism. You lack the knowledge of our Savior. You lack the child like faith to believe that God has everything to do with you just existing. You lack the understanding that there is a Heaven and a Hell. Many denominations tend to leave out the part about Hell because it does feel better to just believe that everyone goes to Heaven. My purpose as a follower of Jesus is to seek out the lost as he did and show them the love of the Lord. You Jon are lost – don’t worry, I once was too. Now we can all go on believing as you do that this serves no purpose in your life and that’s fine for you, but not for me. If you’re like me and believe entirely in the Bible, God, the Savior and the Holy Spirit then I don’t really have anything to lose now do I? But for you Jon, if you’re wrong, then what? The truth to that answer, is Hell. A place I don’t wish anybody to spend eternity in – not even you! I never agree on any of your points of view but yet I sit here today and get a prompting from God to write. Writing to someone who is so opposite of everything I believe in and yet I abide. So Jon, please just think about – What if you are wrong? Then what? Only you can make that conclusion and I hope and pray you find Jesus. You’re life will be miles better than you could ever imagine – I promise. It’s not an easy life but it’s an amazing life. May God surround you in his everlasting love!

    1. Krista 4:48 Thank you for the first time post. I appreciate your concern.

      Those of us who are skeptical look always for sources other than the Bible for evidence of its importance and relevance.

      1. Matt

        have you read the book i recomended jon? probaly not…so what other sources are you talking about….all anti christian im sure…

        1. Matt 11:38 “have you read the book I reccommended Jon?”

          Any book that asks, “How do we know Jesus was the one?” and anwers by saying, “Because he said so,” is not one I’m interested in reading. If you can assure me this is not one of those books, and tell me again what it is, I might consider it.

    2. Wanna B Sure

      Anti intelectualism is not new. At the time of the Reformation, The reformers had a big problem with the Zwickau Prophets, from Zwickau Saxony. Related to the Anabaptists of the time, they were semi charasmatic. In general, they disregarded the Bible, and relied on private revelation only. (Sound familiar? “God spoke to me, and told me to tell you…”). A couple years ago while scanning the channels, I ran into a self named”Prophet”, dressed in something close to a zoot suit. He declared he had never been to school or a seminary, and the crowd went wild with shouts and screams of approval. Followed by a “God spoke to me last night”. Some things haven’t changed in 500 years.

      1. Krista

        Truth be told, God does speak to people! Look back at all the scripture, he uses us the same way. Many denominations shy away from the fact that God will speak to people, people talk in tongues or are even baptized in the Holy Spirit, they find it weird. It just shows that we all have a long way to go in our faith. Once you’ve witnessed these events, there is no doubt in your mind that its all GOD!! If you’re ever interested in feeling the Holy Spirit move in a place, I have just the right place to show up on a Sunday – water baptism Sunday! A day where people from all ages come forward to outwardly show their committment to the one and only. Tears of joy are an understatement for these events. I’d love for any of you to take me up on that offer!

  9. Morgan Christian

    Luther seminary found that 4 million dollars was missing from their books. Their president had to resign. Another fine case of no accountability due to tax free status.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      Not defending an ELCA seminary, but went to Star Trib article, (It’s available on the internet), Google . Feel free. To be fair and honest, Several things contributed to the short fall in the article. Some of which were the loss of 600 congregations, due to you know what, greatly reduced income from investments due to the economy, and several other economic conditions. General Motors, many other corporations , banks, private business and investment firms had problems, all of which had nothing to do with “tax free status”. Your emphasis reveals a non objective bias.

      1. Morgan Christian

        Non-religious, non- profits have to report regularly to the IRS about their finances. It is unlikely for such a non-profit entity to rack up losses without running afoul of regulators. Religious non-profits on the otherhand are not required to submit any reports to the IRS and can therefore rack up invisible losses until they reach unmanageable purportions. If four million dollars in red ink involves no malfeasance, why does anyone have to resign?

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