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Serving God and Others


Serving God and Others

Away back in the 1970s I was talking with a friend in Ballygowan square, and he was telling me about the new minister in his church.  ‘He’s non-stipendary, you know!  He’s a working man, just like us, who has all the qualifications for ministry, but chooses to support himself!’. Forty odd years ago, that sounded quite revolutionary, but nowadays, it seems that trained, bi-vocational ministry is under serious consideration in some denominations, as congregations dwindle and funds are scarce.

For me, personally, serving in ministry while supporting myself by working as a freelance photographer has never just been about funding.  It has been a Biblically endorsed way of serving God, glorifying him in every area of life, serving God and neighbours in both church ministry and business.  We know of course that Paul, the apostle was a tent maker, who laboured with his own hands to support his ministry, and who placed no additional burdens upon the churches, and who told the Corinthians that although the labourer is worthy of his hire, he himself had not exercised this right, so  that the gospel would not be hindered.


And didn’t Jesus, who is God’s only begotten Son, and who created this world and everything in it, and who gave life and breath to mankind, spend the most of his earthly life labouring and toiling in a carpenter’s workshop in Nazareth, working with the rough materials, and the crude tools of his trade, to fashion beautiful things from the wood he himself had created.  And who knew that one day, it would be a wooden cross that would bear his physical weight, and he bore all of our sins, and paid the fine that was due for our rebellion against the God who created us, so that we could be forgiven, and restored to fellowship with God and have eternal life, in and through Him.


Admittedly, bi-vocational ministry is not easy, and not  always easy to explain.  It has its challenges, finding adequate time for both callings.  It sometimes raises an eyebrow or two from the public too, like when the person who turns up to conduct a funeral service is the same person who did their studio portrait, just a few weeks before.  But it certainly keeps your feet on the ground.  It brings with it an understanding of what it’s like to get up every day and have go to work.  To come into contact with people who are not believers in Christ, or people of other faiths altogether. The frustration of having to balance the books, and pay the bills and keep one’s head above the water.  And sometimes the joy, when a fellow worker comes and confides in you, knowing they’ll find a listening ear and a sympathetic prayer.


And  sometimes it just helps to remember the words of John Piper, who wrote a book called, ‘Brothers, we are NOT professionals!’

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