Acts 18:1-4 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.
A Renewal of the Tent Maker Tradition - What is your image of an ordained minister? No doubt you picture someone employed full time by the church as a leader of a congregation, with pastoral and pulpit responsibilities. But was this always the case and is it the only mode of ordained ministry?
As a former Salvation Army officer working in the Special Educational Field, I struggled for many years to redefine the seat of my ordination outside officership until I realised that ordination was far greater than the constraints of denominational imposed boundaries.
Currently I am an ordained non-stipendiary minister within the British Methodist Church with pastoral care of a congregations as well as a lead chaplain of Exeter City Centre Chaplaincy and until 5 years ago, the Principal of an Independent Specialist College for young people with leaning difficulties. If you like, I am a minister of the tent maker variety.
Dual Vocation Tent Maker ministry is a relatively renewed ‘order’ within the church, although the term itself comes from Paul's insistence on supporting himself whilst conducting his mission of proclaiming the gospel to the gentiles. The idea of a professional elder-ship, wholly supported by the church, took some time to become a regular feature of the emerging Christian community of the first century. Although the subject of much discussion, I am concerned that this renewed mode of ministry is often seen as financial expediency rather rediscovering a particular mode of ministry. Whilst much of the official rhetoric gives ascent to non-stipendiary ministries as equal importance within the church, in reality. it is often seen as second best by both ordained and lay members.
An example of this surrounds my own circumstance where people have asked, "so you are a part-time minister", or “ will you ever see yourself going on to be a proper minister?” I want to challenge the popular view that Non-stipendiary Ministers are only ordained for the time spent in 'church' work as this seems to point to a suspect theology of ordination and an impoverished view of the ministry for the whole people of God. The use of the term secular work in respect of a Christian's day to day employment would seem to indicate that there are ‘no go areas’ in which the faith and ministry play a secondary role. In fact the origin of the word Secular meant "of a generation, belonging to an age" and in the ancient world, saeculum was not defined in contrast to any sacred concerns
Ruth Ethchells, former principal of St John's College Durham, described a true layperson as one 'whose centre is outside the Church, in the world'. If we further expand this idea to include the strongly held concept within the Methodist Church of the priesthood of all believers, there would appear to be ‘no place where pastoral ministry cannot be exercised’. Placing this concept within the context of non-stipendiary pastoral ministry exercised through day-to-day employment gives a renewed emphasis to ordination.
We can also apply this principle to all followers of Jesus, in that their vocation, although centred in the body of Christ, is lived out beyond the boundaries of what many see as Church. That every activity and facet of life, how ever mundane, is a platform for mission and ministry.
Dear Lord, help me to continuously be aware of all people around me every single day. Where there are people, there are needs. Give me Your eyes to see some of those needs and the wisdom to know how to help as well. Help me to be your hands and feet as I serve others right where I’m at. And allow them to see Your light in my life as I do work in your name. Amen.
Tomorrow - 7 days a week vocation.