The Great Gamble, The Big Sin, and the Huge Cop Out
There is a dance that is performed every day across the Southern Baptist Convention. It is a strange waltz between chance, neglect and hypocrisy.
This dance is performed daily by not a few local church pastors and church planters and their families while church members, sister churches and denominational workers choose to look the other way.
I am writing about and on behalf of the unknown number of local church pastors and church planters who are ministering without adequate health care insurance across our convention. I am always humbled when I think of the dedication of men who will risk their entire family’s financial well being by choosing to minister even when they cannot afford or do not have adequate health insurance provided them by their churches or denomination.
Having encountered four such pastors and church planters in the last few weeks has prompted me to ask some tough moral and ethical questions about this darker side of our denominational life.
1. Is it ever right for a pastor to have to gamble that he and his family will remain healthy for an indefinite period of time? I know they call it “trusting in the Lord” but is it not really taking a very big risk? Does God demand that men take such steps of faith when they may be forced steps caused by the neglect of other parties? Is it ever right for a congregation or a denominational entity to put a man in such a position where he has to choose no healthcare coverage?
2. Is it right for any congregation to simply give a pastor a “Salary Package” and let him decide how to break it down? Does not each local congregation have a moral obligation to take care of their pastor and his family and insist that health insurance be provided? How they work that out is obviously up to each individual church and pastor but is it not responsible churchmanship to at least expect from God’s Church the same benefits we would demand from secular employers?
3. What about sister churches who observe this happening in neighboring congregations? Do they not have a moral obligation to at least take care of “missions” at home before sending contributions to denominational entities that do provide health care insurance for all denominational workers?
4. What role do denominational leaders have in working to ensure that all SBC Pastors and Church Planters be at least minimally covered when it comes to healthcare insurance? Is it morally right to hire a church planter who receives denominational support without providing minimal health care insurance? When a church planter’s children are forced to be on Medicaid or go to Charity Clinics for their health care needs is this a good witness and testimony for the largest non catholic denomination in
5. How long can denominational leaders hide behind the “autonomy of the local church” as an excuse for not addressing in a real and meaningful way this problem that exists in the SBC? Is it ethical for SBC leaders to continue to rail against a “Public Health Care Option” when it comes to the current national health care debate while at the same time they are presiding over a “No Care Option” in many flung reaches of the SBC?
6. Why is health care insurance through Guidestone Financial not the most affordable option for all SBC pastors and church planters? Is it ethical for Guidestone to deny healthcare coverage to any SBC pastor and his family? Do we not have a responsibility to “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us?” even in the area of health care insurance?
It seems to me that SBC Pastors and Church Planters are always expected to be “on the team” when it comes to CP promotion and support but we are virtually “on our own” when it comes to health insurance. For most of us that works out fine but for a growing number of SBC Pastors and Church Planters there is a real need that is not even being quantified or addressed in the SBC. We have a growing mission opportunity in our own denomination that we are simply choosing to neglect.
Is it a gamble, a sin or a cop out or all three?