Amateur or Professional? (Alma 1)
In Alma 1, a man named Nehor goes about, challenging the way the church operates. In particular, he promotes the concept of a paid ministry, “declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.” (Alma 1:3) Apparently, his words are quite persuasive, as people begin to give him money, and he becomes quite wealthy.
The concept of a minister becoming wealthy with money collected from people who think they are donating to God is quite distasteful. It’s in fact one of the things that has made people cynical when it comes to organized religion, as they think that every minister is in it for the money and is cheating the poor people in the congregation.
When I was a young minister, I performed a wedding for a couple from our community. The church building was filled with their family members who were all strangers to us. After the wedding, one man came up to me and said, “I saw your car in the parking lot.” As I looked at him quizzically, he continued, “The Rolls Royce — that’s your car, right?” I, of course, made sure he knew that the Rolls Royce was most definitely not my car, but the cynicism was not lost on me. As far as he was concerned, the most expensive car in the lot must belong to the pastor.
For those who may not be aware, The Church of Jesus Christ operates with an unpaid ministry — just as in the days of Alma. Following the scriptural examples of not only Alma but also the Apostle Paul, King Benjamin, and many others, the ministers of the church “labor with their own hands,” working at their own jobs to earn the money they need to live on. Whether one is an Apostle, an Evangelist, or an Elder, the financial compensation from the church is the same — zero.
A minister who earns a salary might be referred to as a professional minister. But, wait a minute, what does that make a minister who does the job for no salary? An amateur? Is that what we are — amateur ministers?
We, of course, don’t have to accept the worldly definition that indicates that someone who is paid to do something is more qualified than someone who is not paid. Possessing the authority of God and the spirit of God qualifies our ministers to operate at the top of the profession.
However, do we as individuals approach our ministry as amateurs or as professionals? For that matter, whether we are ministers or not, do we approach our service to God as amateurs or as professionals?
In the workplace, if you hear someone make the statement that they are a professional, what they are typically saying is:
- My job requires some level of preparation — education, certification, experience — and I am sufficiently prepared to perform this job.
- I am willing to continue to learn so that I can do the job the best I can.
- I don’t do my job well just because someone is watching but because it is within me to do the job right.
- I’m not an amateur who is not serious about this type of work — someone who just fools around with it from time to time.
Applying the same types of statements to our ministry or service to God, we can ask ourselves:
- Are we prepared — through fasting and prayer, studying the scriptures, devoting the necessary time — to do the job?
- Are we seeking God’s direction to move forward in His service?
- Do we do the job to please people or to please God?
- Or, do we just like to “play church” when the mood strikes us?
You don’t need to be paid money to approach your service to God in a professional manner. Jesus has already more than paid you for whatever you can do in this life. So, don’t settle for being an amateur. Do your best to perform at the level of a professional servant of God, and He will bless your efforts.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.