Some Things for a Young Pastor to Remember When people Say that You Gotta Pay Your Dues

1. You may or may not have to “pay your dues,” but if you do, you don’t have to pay your dues to them.

“Paying your dues,” which is about earning your place or the right to be in your position, is heard often in the workplace when someone wants to get advancement, promotion, or recognition without doing the work required (without “paying your dues.”)

In church, and as it relates to pastoral ministry, this phrase is often used by older people to keep younger pastors or leaders “in their place.” The funny thing is that you already have the position, etc. because they called you to be pastor.

And they don’t get to determine when you’ve paid your dues. God called you and the church called you (presumably as part of the providence of God) and therefore, God thinks you’re qualified dues paid or not.

But think about this: If dues-paying was so important, shouldn’t they have asked you if you’ve paid your dues before they called you? Yes.

But  usually, they’re only saying this because they have no legitimate answer to whatever you’ve done or said that they don’t like. So they pull out this line.

This probably means you’re doing something right by challenging them spiritually.

2. Chances are, you’ve already paid some dues.

I moved to Michigan, from Florida, after going through (though not finishing) Bible college (part of my agreement in coming here was that I could finish that degree and continue my education). I quit my management-level job, sold my home, and moved my family a thousand miles away from all that we knew. (They didn’t even sell sweet tea up here when we moved here!)

People still had the audacity to say that they didn’t know if I would “stick.” Others said I had to pay my dues.

They forgot to check the receipt, because if all that I mentioned above isn’t part of what it means to “pay your dues” then we’re speaking different languages.

If you went to seminary or Bible college, you’ve already started paying your dues. If you left something at least equally as good, then you’ve already started paying your dues.

3. You’re paying your dues now, when you’re faithful to your calling.

If paying your dues has to do with earning your place, then you’re paying your dues every time you answer the calling God has placed on you.

Every time you roll out of bed after a late night of ministry for an early breakfast meeting you’re paying your dues.

Every time you move family events or miss family events because of a ministry emergency, you’re paying your dues.

Every hospital visit, every nursing home visit, every evangelistic call, all part of paying your dues.

Every item of slander, every hurtful word, every time someone complains that you haven’t paid you’re dues while you’re paying your dues, it’s all part of paying your dues.

Every time you faithfully preach the Word even though you know what you’re going to say will offend someone, you are paying your dues.

Now stop worrying about whether or not you’ve paid your dues, or whether or not Brother- or Sister-So-and-so thinks you’ve paid your dues because if you seek to please men you are not a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).

Instead, let God be your Judge and seek to please him by being faithful (1 Cor. 4:2) because that is the standard by which you will be judged, not the imaginary standard of men, but the righteous standard of a righteous and merciful God who didn’t call you because you were worthy, but who made you worthy.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Ministry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Some Things for a Young Pastor to Remember When people Say that You Gotta Pay Your Dues

  1. Terry Lange says:

    Great article! Unfortunately, the same people who will use that phrase, will never think that anyone has ever paid their dues enough to satisfy them.

  2. Good point, Terry! And sadly, there are oftentimes many who are hoping the young preacher will fail, though they would never say that out loud.

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