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Where I’ve Been: A Ministry Update

My ministry cup runneth over! (And some days it’s spilling all over the floor.) I haven’t posted any written material here for ages because my time and energy is absorbed with a very full daily teaching and ministry schedule. Maybe it’s time for a brief update.

Photo above: A recent Sunday communion service in our living room; a picture of a healthy church.

My own faith was awakened and my life redirected as a college student. My professor’s were larger than life, had the keys to open up new transformative ideas and were trail guides to new vistas of reality. Ever since my college days I’ve had a burning desire to do the same for young minds what my professor’s did for me: open my eyes to the Kingdom and summon me to give my life to serving King Jesus.

I’m a pastor-teacher, and the problem with being a pastor-teacher these days is that many pastors don’t actually spend much time between Sundays teaching and discipling people. They’ve got to “run the church.” I’ve never liked running anything, including just running (don’t tell my former cross country coach). So, the past 12 years pastoring MainStreet I have enjoyed preaching on Sundays and trying to meet up with people between Sundays.

But too many weekdays have been spend alone in my study, writing into the void, preparing sermons for the coming weekend, but mainly just wishing I could be doing what makes my heart sing: teaching the Way of Jesus and making disciples.

I went back to complete my doctorate 5 years ago because learning is the other thing that makes my heart sing. The focus of my research was on calling 21st pastors back to our primary task and vocation: teaching and guiding souls deeper into Christian truth. This requires (surprise, surprise) leaving the pastor’s study and church building, and finding some students!

I’m now close to living my dream, if I can only figure out how to make a living doing it. I get to pastor a beautiful community at MainStreet, gathering together each Sunday for worship, fellowship, teaching and prayer. Then all week long, I am an itinerant teacher of the Kingdom traveling from campus to campus, teaching young people about Jesus and calling them to give their life to His Kingdom Dream.

All week long. A couple hundred students. “Teaching the kingdom of God with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28). But I need your help to continue this expanding reach!

I’m passionate to make a case that this teach outreach is pastoral ministry of the highest order. This is an urgent mission field. These are the faces missing in so many church pews on Sundays. These are the hearts that need to be ignited for the Kingdom, if there’s going to be bright days ahead for Christianity. College students today are battling emotional and mental health issues like never before. Many are adrift spiritually and untethered from a local church. Many don’t have a pastor who is a personal friend and accessible guide during these most formational years. 

Listen: There are great pastors who don’t have access to college students; and there are great professors who just don’t have a pastoral presence and gifting in the classroom. I have the unique privilege of being a pastor-professor, bringing intellectual content AND a pastor’s heart to my engagements with students. Students know the difference. Just last week a student reached out to have lunch, shared some deep personal struggle, and invited me into the sacred space. When I asked if she had made her other professors aware of her situation, she said, “No.” She needed a pastor more than a professor in that moment.

While my personal fulfillment cup is running over with all of these teaching opportunities, my bank account and salary is in danger of running low. Our MainStreet Covenant community can no longer provide my full salary, and so I am trying to supplement it with other sources of income. Unfortunately, adjunct faculty are woefully underpaid. It’s sick, really. This academic year I will teach more than a full time faculty load (29 credits, 9 courses, 250 students, 4 schools, traveling over 12,000 miles). I make on average about $3,000 for a semester long course (that’s 5 months of work). Pays for gas, but doesn’t pay the bills.

I am so blessed to have a church Leadership Team that insists that in my teaching I am living out our original vision as a church of bringing the teaching and ministry of Jesus “beyond the walls” of the church building and Sunday service. They tell me how happy they are to have a pastor who is out on mission for Jesus all week between Sundays, not caught up in staff meetings and organizational business. They ask me, “How many other pastors get to spend ALL their working hours directly teaching and discipling young people?” I know the answer, and I know I’m uniquely blessed. 

I’ve never cared much about salary, and I haven’t had a raise in my base salary since I began in 2010. (The church has blessed me in other ways financially, such as contributing toward my doctoral studies.) But I want to make a modest salary and help provide for my family.

Since MainStreet is reaching and impacting more people with our teaching than EVER before in our 12 year journey, I am being bold and asking God to raise up the funding to continue this expanding reach. Before the pandemic in 2019, we had a budget of $144,000 and were reaching about 60 regular attenders. This year we are reaching 250+ people with our college outreach, our new monthly ministry at the Harrison Bay Senior Living facility in Mound, and our MainStreet community. Sadly, our total funding this year so far is just over $40,000. 

Every month Keri and I write out checks to several missionaries around the world, who have responded to God’s call and are giving their life to doing the work He has called them to. These missionaries abroad rely on charitable donations to fulfill their calling. I am no different. God has opened wide new doors of ministry here at home, and I am responding in faith to this call. But it is humbling to have one’s life and ability to do what you love at the mercy of others. But I’m in good company. 

Consider the apostle Paul. He traveled across land and sea proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching people about Jesus. But he had a number of churches supporting his ministry. Not one church that paid his salary. Several churches and households pooled resources to enable Paul to fulfill his ministry. 

And, surprise, surprise! Do you know what Paul did in Ephesus when his ministry in the “weekend service” proved less fruitful? “He took his disciples and held classes daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus from 11am-4pm” (Acts 19). That’s right. I thought I was being innovative, but was taking another strategy out of the apostolic playbook. Paul was essentially an adjunct professor teaching his course on Kingdom Living in a university classroom all week long. 

How many missionaries do you support each month as a family? How about your church? How many people will hear the gospel preached and the Way of Jesus expounded this year because you are helping make sure the missionary teacher can make a living teaching? Do you think young adults are in need of wise teachers and pastoral support in these days? Do you lament how many young adults are missing in our churches these days? Are you alarmed at the growing rate of biblical illiteracy in our generation? 

Will you help me continue my vital teaching outreach by becoming a monthly supporter? I am praying for 3-5 churches and 20 new households to join our support team and help raise a salary to continue teaching the Kingdom and pastoring MainStreet Covenant Church into the future. Will you be ONE of the 20?

You can give a tax-deductible donation securely online through our MainStreet website here

Here’s a video of Jeremy, itinerant teacher of the Kingdom teaching on the go!

FAQs

How can you pastor MainStreet while teaching all week long? 

The Leadership Team supports my teaching on campuses as an outreach and extension of MainStreet’s ministry in keeping with our original vision to be a church reaching beyond our walls daily (see Acts 17:17; Acts 19:8-10). Many pastors lament how many hours they spend each week “running the organization”, and how few hours they spend teaching, pastoring and discipling people.  I am blessed to spend ALL my time—Sundays and all week long—teaching the Kingdom!

How do you divide your time between MainStreet and teaching responsibilities? 

MainStreet’s simple structure at the moment consists mainly of me leading our Sunday gathering while being available for pastoral needs between Sundays as they arise. Moreover, my classroom teaching prep and material often feeds my Sunday teaching at MainStreet, and my real-life pastoral experiences certainly fuels my classroom teaching. 

What’s the future of MainStreet? Is the church slowly dying? 

By biblical standards, we’re a thriving healthy church. By worldly standards (“counting butts & bucks”), we look weak. As a fellowship of believers gathering weekly for the sacraments, teaching, and ministry, MainStreet is alive and well. But my ability to earn a salary is key to us continuing.

Aren’t you getting paid to teach at all these schools? If so, why are you raising funds to teach?

A small adjunct stipend helps a bit but is not enough to make a living on (e.g., Crown pays $2,800 for entire 5-month semester course). Teaching as an adjunct full time earns me only about $10,000-15,000 for the entire school year. 

Why don’t you just get a full-time teaching position at one of these schools?

I am open to that possibility, but full time faculty positions are very few and hard to get. In fact, many schools are cutting full-time faculty and relying more heavily on adjunct faculty like me to move their institutions forward in a more frugal fashion. This is sad, but a reality in higher education right now.

Are you being called out of church ministry and into the classroom? 

I feel called to be in both worlds: a professor with a pastor’s heart teaching the Kingdom in the pulpit and classroom, casting a more compelling vision for the church’s mission, and equipping and calling students to active service in a church. I wear both the professor and pastor hat on campuses, and God is giving me opportunities to pastor students instead and outside of class. Excitingly, students are beginning to make their way to MainStreet Covenant on Sundays bringing new life!

Where is MainStreet located these days? 

As the pandemic was beginning, we had just moved to St. Martin’s By-the-Lake Episcopal in Minnetonka Beach to cut our annual rent expense down from $45,000/year in 2019 at the Stonegate Plaza to just $200-$600 / month at St. Martins. Our lower rent allows most of our giving to go directly into teaching and discipleship ministry.

What is Kingdom Harbor? A new ministry or part of MainStreet’s ministry? 

Kingdom Harbor is the new name I’ve given to my formerly called Daily Illumination website. Kingdom Harbor the umbrella under which I can further develop my personal “freelance” ministries as an extension of MainStreet but also, in some cases, independent of MainStreet. Currently all funding still goes through MainStreet as our 501c3.

Will my financial support go directly to Jeremy’s salary, or to the MainStreet general fund? 

You can indicate your preference on the Pledge Card enclosed, and when you set up your online giving. Giving to the general fund also contributes to my salary, while also funding our other ministries.

Dr. Jeremy Berg is the founding and Lead Pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Minnetonka Beach, MN, where he has served since 2010. He is an Adjunct Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University, University of Northwestern—St. Paul, North Central University, and Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy earned a doctorate in New Testament Context under Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary (Chicago). He and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

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