Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Can ministry exist in a secular job?

I hesitated to use the term "secular" in the title for this post, but I knew this is a question people sometimes ask, and they often use the word secular to separate it from ministry. Some bivocational ministers even do this. I don't think there should be that separation because I believe that everything that a Christian does should be seen as ministry.

I have been a bivocational minister throughout my 34 year ministry. I've always done something else besides my ministry. Much of that time I worked in a factory. During part of the time I owned and operated a small business. Recently, I obtained my auctioneer's license and started an auction business. In each of these settings I've had the opportunity to minister to people who I would never have met in my formal ministry settings.

Since starting an auction business people have asked why at my age I would want to start doing something like this. For starters, I love auctions, and the idea of being an auctioneer appealed to me. Secondly, I saw opportunities to minister to people in this setting. Essentially, there are three groups of people who use the services of an auctioneer.

  • Some people make their living buying and selling. Many of these people are pickers who support their families by buying what other people don't want and selling those items for a profit. I work hard to see that they get top dollar for these items, and in so doing I'm able to serve them and their families.
  • A second group of people are those who need to downsize or begin to sell off items that their family members do not want. A common statement I hear from many of these people is, "We're getting older and need to get rid of some of this stuff, and no one in our family is interested in it." It's a relief to these folks when I'm able to begin selling these items and getting them out of their homes.
  • The third group of people are those who have an estate they need to sell. Parents or other family members have passed away, and often their heirs don't even know what all is in the estate. Perhaps they live in another state and cannot easily dispose of the estate. An auctioneer is able to minister to these family members by selling off the estate for them.
In each of these scenarios I'm able to provide a service, a ministry, to people. It is not unusual when I tell people that I am a minister that people begin to open up personal issues they are dealing with. Recently, this happened to me twice in one week when I was meeting with people who wanted me to sell some items for them. These folks began to share some significant recent hurts in their lives. Neither of them attended church or had a pastor to talk to. Not only was I able to listen and minister to them, I was able to suggest a good church in their communities that had pastors who could continue to provide ministry to them.

The answer to the question is that ministry can exist in your secular job. In fact, if there are no opportunities for ministry you may be in the wrong job. I believe God places His people in situations, including work, where we can be a light to a people who are trapped in darkness. Our ministries must not be limited to the church facility but must occur in the workplace, the market place, and anywhere else we may be.

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