I've never lived in the Bible belt. I've never attended a church with more than about 400 members. I pastor a very young church with far fewer folks. Resources are slim--slim enough to make me often think about what it's going to take to get our feet under us while we still have so many Christians from other parts of the country helping hold us up. It's tough work. Sometime is so tough that I wonder how in the world Salt Lake will be redeemed by the power of the gospel. How can our little church be a blessing to our community? How can our small band of "salt and light" be salty enough? Bright enough?
That's were milk comes in. Well, not milk, but a love for selling milk and other groceries.
"I want to serve God but I love the grocery business," the young man basically told me. He probably didn't use those exact words, but he has a barcode belt buckle and gets excited about stocking cheese. He's also serving as an intern in our children's ministry and does a fantastic job preaching children's sermons. (This young man is pictured above with my children, who love him as their childrens' pastor.) He's basically a bi-vocational minister; and shouldn't we all be? Yes, yes we should. Maybe not in the exact way we think of bi-vocational ministry, but we all should serve God well in all he has equipped us to do.
As we go into our places of work, we should do the best we can to serve the community as we serve God. Church and state are not mutually exclusive. We should be light in our workplace, and salt too. Our presence there might just be God's way of blessing our work places and our communities. These things we're doing don't keep us from serving God, they enhance our service to the Lord. And the same should be completely true of our hobbies too. Our places of work and play should be just as much mission fields and places of service as any place we go 'to do ministry.' There need not be any difference. We can and should be a blessing to our employers and our communities.
Martin Luther said it this way,
"The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor. [...] The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living" (1)
I regularly meet with another young man. He too is on our staff where I pastor and he's bi-vocational. We spent a great deal of time discussing the difference between the sacred and the secular when it comes to work and play. As soon as he realized that this idea is a false dichotomy, he was free to be a minister, that is to be salt and light, everywhere. What amazing freedom!
So as I think about how our little church will impact my huge community, I see that it is through the very interests, hobbies, skills, and crafts of God's people. Could it be that he gave us those interests, that job, and a specific set of skills for just such a reason? I believe so.
1. Martin Luther, “Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar” (25 October 1522, Saturday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity), in D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 60 vols. (Weimar: Herman Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1883–1980) 10/3:382.