I commend Les for this kind of thinking. Yes, a church can be started without having to tap a financial straw into the SBC Cooperative Program. It can be done with putting no one's money at risk.
But as Les points out, it would require the church planter to do something they are not prone to do, and for which their years at seminary have left them completely unprepared:
They must get a real job. Or what Les calls a "secular" job.
1. Get a Secular Job" is Les's # 1 tip.
Les' plan is for the planter to start a "bible study" in the home, with the idea it will grow into a church plant. So toward this end, Les' offers his explanation about this "secular job", and how long the "planter" must endure it, and how to get out of it, and why it would be good for business:
"Don't take any salary from the new church until the church can meet its financial needs for startup costs and weekly expenses. Also, when you are in a secular job, you are actually around lost people. These are the people you are trying to reach with your new church plant."Let me give you the Watchdog's "WIV" interpretation of that paragraph:
"Get yourself a real job, but only until you can get enough members into your home bible study to the point you can begin collecting money they earn in THEIR secular jobs, take that money, rent some space for your church, quit your real job, and then begin drawing an income as a "pastor". And in the meantime you can use the opportunity of rubbing elbows with lost people in your secular job to invite them to your bible study, where you can teach them tithing and they can begin contributing money toward the goal of quitting your job and becoming their pastor."I know that is cynical. But if a pastor can get a "secular job", and if they are a solid bible teacher and have a bible study in their home, why must the natural progression be: get job - start bible study - collect money from those who do work - quit job - rent space - become pastor - have church?
Why can't a church planter just do what most committed Christians do: they have careers and families, and they serve the body of Christ for free as a part of their time away from work. I have seen the most committed Christians lay people work a full time job, AND be incredibly productive in ministry at a church for no pay at all.
I think Les' use of the word "secular job" is significant. I know he is using it to differentiate from a "religious" job such as a pastor...but let's be real. I wish pastors would stop viewing their jobs as ministers as something different or "special" from those who work in "secular" jobs. Their jobs as minister is "secular" every bit as much as a school teacher's or a doctor, or anyone else. They have a job, they have an employer, they have a boss to whom they are accountable, they have a job description, and they earn pay in exchange for their services. They get evaluated, and they earn raises based on their tenure and performance. I know pastors and ordained ministers say they were "called by God" into their ministry, but they are working stiffs like anyone else is. A pastor or a minister is not any more called into their profession than an engineer, doctor, or educator, or electrician, etc.
I also noticed that Les advocates "have your wife get a secular job" and putting the kiddos in public school. Yes, "have" her (make her, as she must obey you) go out and get a secular job, too. Les says she needs to be around "lost people", so get her out there to make a buck to help you start your church.
My advice for Les: keep your secular job, maybe even go to night school and re-educate yourself to get a better job, but keep your Bible study in your home. If you teach tithing to your attendees, have them tithe and imagine what good you could accomplish in your community helping people with that cash flow that does not have to go to buildings, utilities, and salaries. If the bible study gets too big, then sure, rent out the YMCA for your meetings. Or meet at a library or a conference room of one of your attendees' employers.
It is called "home church" or "organic church" - a church without a team of men who demand payment for their ministry services, and they are becoming more and more popular.