Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rev. Sanders the Tentmaker

So, you are probably wondering why I have a picture of a deerhead on this blog. I just wanted to show you where I work when I'm not at church. I work as a contract database administrator in a St. Paul suburb. The story goes that one of the engineers, who ususally works remotely, is an avid hunter. His wife didn't want him keeping his "trophies" in the house, so he brought them here. There's another deerhead in his cubicle too.

At least, I can always remember where my desk is, kitty korner from the Deerhead.

I bring all this up to share I'm one of those rare ministers that has a job outside of church. The fancy word for this is

bivocational ministry. While it's not as common in mainline Protestantism, it is pretty common in more evangelical circles. Since Community of Grace is a small congregation and new, I don't get paid at this point. So, having this job helps.

At times I wonder if God is calling me to this kind of ministry. I remember being fascinated at the story in Acts 18 about a Paul and Silas doing ministry in Corinth. He met a couple named Aquilla and Priscilla who were tentmakers and since that was also his trade, he joined them while also doing ministry. The passage goes:

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Being a tentmaker has its advantages and of course, disadvatages. The advantages is that you have your foot in the same work day world as do the people you worship with. The second is being able to be a witness to Christ in the workplace. Now, I don't mean your going bring a Bible bigger than Texas in and beat people over the head to bring the to Jesus. Witnessing or evangelism, means being who you are and allowing your life to speak. And having a gay minister be honest about who he is is bound to make people see another way to be a follower of Jesus besides the Bible Thumpers.

But like I said, there are disadvantages. Church structures, at least in mainline churches, are designed for full-time pastors. Pastoral meetings take place in the daytime when I'm at work. You also don't get the same respect. I remember when I was still in seminary and I asked a Regional Minister about part-time opportunities. He looked at me as if I was from another planet.

I don't know if I will always be a tentmaking pastor. But for now it works. It's my hope that more mainline Protestants open up to this option. A good number of churches can't afford a full time pastor and this is one way for them to get pastoral help. Time will tell if the church is willing to see this as a viable option.

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