Kingdom Economics: Independent Contractors

Independent contractor
We must all act as independent contractors when it comes to discipling and spreading the gospel. (Flickr )

An independent contractor provides goods and/or services according to a written or oral contract.  Since they are independent, and not employees, they have more flexibility regarding their schedule, the number of hours they desire to work and the type of work they perform, all while increasing their income and usually without a long-term commitment.

Higher healthcare costs, increasingly costly administrative burdens (complexity, expanded paid time-off and legal requirements) have accelerated companies' desire to outsource. Less job security, flat wages, higher health care costs and fewer career opportunities have encouraged the workforce to supplement or replace incomes.

More work is being performed by independent contractors and the trend is accelerating.  The data shows increase regardless of gender, race, education or occupation. Over the last five years, the trend accounts for much of the increase in overall employment. Slightly more than 40 percent of independent contractors are doing it full-time. Nearly 60 percent are doing it to supplement incomes. Most have been doing it for less than a year.

The same forces encouraging independent contracting are also influencing the church. Convenient schedules, time requirements, choice of positions, perceived benefits and the lack of long-term commitment are becoming societal norms. Engaging these changes the kingdom way should help alleviate the consequences of these norms and grow the church. Specific issues and recommendations include:

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1. Convenient schedules. Today's congregants want church schedules to revolve around their needs and preferences. "I like to sleep late on Sunday so..." is heard by many pastors.  As leaders we need to be cognizant of the wishes of our congregation, while recognizing we cannot please everybody. Additional services stretch the limited resources available.

Kingdom solution: Obtain information from the congregation while maintaining leadership decisions based on the church's mission, resources and inspiration of the Lord.

2. Time requirements. In today's modern world, time may be the scarcest of all resources. Many complaints are legitimate (my job, family and/or health are suffering because of the time commitment), while some reflect poorly on their priorities (please close the service before the buffet lines get long).

Kingdom solution: Make sure all programs are needed, efficient and the result of prayer. Ensure that worship, sermon and ministry are sufficiently long that all have the opportunity to have an encounter with the Lord.

3. Choice of positions. These days, church leadership will often receive requests from individuals for specific positions. While there is nothing wrong with the requests per se, all positions should be considered a calling where church needs, gifting of the individual and guidance of the Lord are paramount.

Kingdom solution: Actively seek the interests of potential volunteers, but follow the inspiration of the Lord.

4. Perceived benefits. People attend church for a variety of reasons; to make connections, to ease their conscience, to make friends, to meet expectations of others, and/or to worship the Lord, learn His Word and serve.  Kingdom solution:  insure that the complete Word is taught, worship is filled with His presence, and that every person has the opportunity to receive ministry and have an encounter.

5. Lack of long-term commitment. Church membership is declining, church hopping is increasing, and church attendance is either not considered or optional at best for far too many. A lack of long-term commitment is a spiritual problem. When we try to compete with the world in the entertainment arena, we lose. If we compromise the Word to increase its acceptability, we reduce much of its power. If we fail to move in our spiritual gifts to avoid criticism, we are limiting blessings to our congregation.

Kingdom solution: Preach the Word and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to reverse current trends to ensure a spiritual legacy for future generations. Our callings and responsibilities are critical. Significance and impacts reach far beyond today's environment.

Let us equip the saints and raise up disciples the way the Bible instructs and the Holy Spirit directs; Jesus paid the price, the Holy Spirit empowers, and victory is assured.

Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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