My wife asked me a question a few weeks ago, “Should I tell people at work that I am a pastor?” and we ended up in a long discussion about the potential implications of my answer. She works second-shift in a data entry office. There are a good mix of various types of people working there, from the typical thirty-something soccer mom to a 20-year old Goth and several older people. There are some people who a church-goers and there are some who have never set foot in a church.
Why should we even ask this question? Shouldn’t we be open about who and what we are, as bivocational ministers? There are pros and cons to both responses. We have found over the years that when you mention you are a pastor that interactions with people will change. Some people become very reserved around you. Some will even avoid contact with you. They may do this in order not to offend you, or are in awe of you…as strange as that may seem. On the other hand, some people become so self-conscious and anxious to prove that your “other job” is as a minister doesn’t bother them that they become even more profane than usual. They suddenly make it a point to swear and curse, tell about their drunken escapades and their risk-taking activities. It’s not that they are seeking approval or trying to corrupt you in some way, they are just proving to themselves that you have not changed them (which, in a way, you have).
We are not, as bivocationals, really trying to hide who we are, nor are we trying to be ‘secret agents’ or become the poster child for ‘bivocationalism’. In all reality it really doesn’t matter what you decide to do. It will all come out sooner or later. The question is how long will it take? How many relationships can you establish before your status becomes public knowledge?
I have found in my case that it is better if I let my ‘pastor job’ become public knowledge slowly. I don’t make it a point to try and hide, nor did I make a big announcement to become the Christian-in-residence. I build relationships and gradually become known. Sooner or later people become aware of me; for instance people noticed immediately when I went out to a restaurant with them after work I did not drink alcohol. However, the real door-opening began when we had a fairly young teacher die unexpectedly. I offered my counseling services to our Vice-Principal, who quite understandably turned me down. Over the last couple of years this has built on itself, and people now know me for who and what I am. A few weeks ago I was privileged to marry one of the woman here and her longtime boyfriend, and there is another wedding in the works. Stories like this have been the rule, rather than the exception, over my secular career.
What is the best thing to do? I think ultimately you need to pray about it and see where the Lord is leading you. There is good and bad, either way. Your own situation and God’s leading will show you the way. Ultimately the light of God will shine through either way, and another dark corner of the world will see Him.