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Do Clergymen Have “Easy” Lives?

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Over the years, I have thought about starting a series titled “Dumb Shit Atheists Say.” Atheist YouTube creators and podcasters, in particular, say all sorts of nonsense about Christianity, Evangelicalism, and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I have, on occasion, tried to politely correct some of their more egregious errors, to no avail. I have received no response from the offenders, and far too often, they make the same factual errors over and over again. These same people object when Christians mischaracterize atheist beliefs, yet they are blind to their own mischaracterizations.

If atheists are going to talk about Christian theology, the Bible, and church history, at the very least they should have a rudimentary understanding of these things. And if they are unwilling to do this, they should shut the hell up. They are making atheists look bad.

Recently, I heard an atheist YouTuber say that clergymen have easy lives. He implied they were grifters. This strawman assertion is categorically absurd; a distortion meant to paint clerics in a bad light.

Most atheists (or Christians, for that matter) have no idea about how preachers live their lives. Are there lazy, indolent pastors? Sure, just as there are in every profession. By the same token, there are far more hard-working clergymen who devote their days to their positions. Yet, instead of recognizing this fact, these atheists portray clergy laziness and indolence as the norm for all preachers.

Most clerics are devoted to the work they believe God called them to do. They are devoted to the work of the ministry, believing they have some sort of divine purpose and calling. How else do we explain their willingness to work for low wages, often with few benefits? Many pastors even work a second job so their churches can have a pastor.

Contrary to what the aforementioned YouTuber said, pastors work hard and do so regardless of what they are paid. For every megachurch pastor making millions of dollars, there are thousands of pastors making average, or below-average wages (even when housing allowance is taken into account). It’s one thing for atheists to attack and challenge theological beliefs. It is another thing to attack the character of clergymen, all because they don’t like what they stand for.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Troy

    You should definitely start that series. I’m well aware of the fact that being a Pastor (or other spiritual leader) is a serious grind, and I know because I was involved in the church (and saw a bit of what goes on besides just the Sunday pomp). It’s always been my opinion that a Pastor should have the same standard of living as other professionals in the congregation. Many born atheists might not know this.

  2. Avatar
    Sage

    My father was a preacher and he certainly was not lazy. He believed fully and dedicated his life to his church and his congregation. He was constantly out doing things for people or helping them in various ways. He studied seriously and constantly, and worked to make sure his 3 or more presentations in a week were exactly the message god wanted. In his early days of ministry he worked various trades (carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, basically any and all construction jobs) to make ends meet, then, when his church provided salary provided to enough to live on, he then used his skills to repair congregants homes free of charge. They bought the materials and he provided free labor. He was always busy and could certainly never be called lazy

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    It’s easy to cast aspersions on people with whom we disagree, but we really should verify the veracity of what we are saying. While I may find Joel Osteen odious for a variety of reasons, I would have to admit that he put in work to get to where he is today. That’s not lazy. Same with Pat Robertson. I could go on…..

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, you really should start such a series. Obstacle makes a great point: I often called people with whom I disagreed lazy or ignorant, or cast other aspersions on their character. While some are evil grifters, a great many work very hard for what they believe in.

    The parallel in politics might be this: Folks on the right aren’t all Donald Trump or Marjorie Taylor Greene. There are very principled and hard-working people like Liz Cheyney ,with whom I almost always disagree but completely respect. And, yes, people like Ron De Santis and Ted Cruz might represent all of the wrong things, but they are smart, well-educated and work hard.

  5. Avatar
    BJW

    I think you’re right. Atheists saying preachers are lazy or grifters, is the broadest kind of wrong stereotype. Most of the pastors I’ve known in my life worked hard. In our former denomination, they weren’t paid well at all. Each man had to rely on their wife’s income. (Our denomination had women in the ministry, but didn’t give them full ordination either.)

  6. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    every pastor I’ve known, probably around a dozen, hasn’t worked much at all. They did their sunday thing, often with a purchased sermon, went to visit a few people in hospitals and then what? Working 8 or more hours a day on what? they did not have second jobs, people in the community handled their car repair, house repair, etc.

  7. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    I think the short answer to “Do Clergymen Have Easy Lives is, “Not if they’re any good at their jobs.”

    Dedicated, believing members of the clergy, men or women, work hard at practicing what they believe God called them to do. They research their sermons, practice their delivery unless they’ve been preaching forever, visit the sick, counsel people with problems that they think they might be able to help, tackle emergencies–hospital patients, people who live in nursing homes, runaway children, and every other situation under the sun, giving up their personal lives to be of service to others who need them. They report to the church governance, worry about the budget for the church, oversee the various “ministries” of the church, and attempt to keep all those plates in the air at once–a juggling act that few people ever see, and fewer who appreciate it.

    Of course, larger churches may have people who take on the burdens of some of these jobs, but the senior minister is obliged to keep track of them all. In a small church, he may be obliged to DO them all. If he (or she) cares about the congregation, being a clergy person may be a very rewarding job–but it isn’t easy, ever. Not if you care.

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Bruce Gerencser