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I am a paid minister. Ever since I became an ordained minister back in February of 2002 most of my income has been supplied from a local church or parish. Getting paid to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a blessing and a privilege and something I certainly do not take lightly or for granted.
However, I have also worked as a pizza delivery driver while I serve as a pastor. Sometimes out of financial need and sometimes for extra money.
Nevertheless, throughout this process I have discovered a treasured experience and education – the paid pastor benefits greatly from remaining in the secular workplace. Yes, yes, I know – what about career, time, and ministry? These are all important things. But it seems to me that ministry is enhanced for the paid full-time pastor when he or she stays connected in the secular workplace.
Let me explain…
Perhaps the best “job description” for any paid full-time pastor is Ephesians 4:11-12:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… (ESV).
In other words, one of the main functions of a pastor is to equip (or train) the saints (or the church congregation) to do ministry.
So where does the majority of ministry take place at for the congregation? Either school (youth), the marketplace (adults), or retirement clubs and functions (the elderly). It is the job of a pastor to equip these people in how to minister.
The point is that if a pastor has not worked a secular job in some twenty-years and finds the vast majority of his or her friends and acquaintances to be Christians, how does a pastor relate to the world of the congregation? How can a pastor who is so removed from the real world of the congregation connect, equip, and encourage the electrician, the lawyer, the banker, and pizza delivery driver to do the work of ministry in the work place?
As a pizza delivery driver, I find myself constantly confronted with attitudes, filthy language, competition between employees, gossip, and differing world views. I even had an intense conversation with a co-worker who was concerned that I was trying to take their deliveries by working extra hours.
Except for personal evangelism and large community outreaches I have yet to experience much of this in the church office (with the exception of attitudes and gossip). It seems to me that it is very easy for a “professional” pastor to lose touch with the society that the church spends about 40 hours a week in.
For myself, I have found that when I encourage people in my church world about ministry in the workplace, they enjoy hearing how I let my light shine as a pizza delivery driver. They are encouraged by my stories. They can relate with my experiences.
Even the apostle Paul stayed in the workplace as a tent maker (Acts 18:1-3). Some scholars propose that because Paul had the same trade as Aquila and Priscilla that this is how they came to know Christ.
There is nothing wrong with a professional pastor – just make sure your profession includes a connection with the world that your congregation lives in and ministers in.
So what about you? How can you stay connected to the secular workplace of your congregation?
Here are a few ideas that might help:
Do you have a trade or a skill that you can do. How about one day a week for a few months?
Are there secular charity boards, school boards, business boards, and such that you might be able to join?
Is there a small business owner within your congregation that would allow you to clean tables for a night at their restaurant, clean the store with the co-workers, or tag along on a house call?
Do you have a local pizza delivery place that needs a driver for one night a week?