So, I'm now a qualified Sports and Remedial Massage Therapist. Still not quite sure I believe it, but it's true. Over the course of the last year I've been asked quite a lot about how I came to be doing sports massage and what I did before and what Im doing now. Trying to explain all of that while you have someone's leg over your shoulder stretching their hamstrings can be quite entertaining let alone a challenge to do in the 10 second cycle of stretch, relax and rest! I try to share a bit of the journey and the context of exploring how to do church without all the buildings, people or resources that normally go along with church and how being a therapist allows me to be self supporting and yet still with enough free time to find ways to be part of the community. I'm not sure I fully understand what \i mean all the time.
Anyway, now I'm qualified, I really need to work out how to build my practice and integrate that with becoming more intentional about missional community in our setting. I read Luke's account of Jesus talking about prioritising the kingdom this morning and glanced across the page at the story of the rich fool too. Two sobering narratives! I began to reflect upon the temptation that being self-employed as a therapist can bring. The "going rate" for therapy seems to be around £40 an hour. Do the maths and see what that means annually for a typical working week. Yes, that's what I thought. It's very easy to get dragged into to thinking about a villa in Portugal and a nice new car on the drive.
But I've always said that this is a bivocational thing. It's not about a change of career, it's about seeking the kingdom of God, serving him and being self-supporting so that others can share the leadership and without there being a professional paid leader above the unpaid, otherwise employed others who can abdicate responsibility for ministry to the paid pastor because it's their job.
On the other hand, being a therapist is not just a means to an end. It's not just about earning enough money to be able to pay bills, or to make a contribution to the household income, or even to secure a state pension whenever that becomes payable. I want to be the best therapist I can be just to be the best therapist I can be. It is an end in itself in that sense.
I've read too many articles that view bivocational ministry as a way of securing ministry for a congregation that can't afford a full-time stipend. The secular job, as it often is, is simply a way to put food on the table while the real work is the work of ministry. That is so wrong. What was it that Paul said to the Colossians? "Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, as if serving the Lord," or something like that.
The truth is, I wouldn't be a very good therapist if it was only about the £40 the client hands over at the end of a session. And I wouldn't be a very good bivocational leader if half my life was just a way to support the other half. Somehow it has to be integrated. I'm not half therapist, half church leader.
Perhaps, if we took such an approach to ministry, we could release more people into ministry, better deploy their gifts and widen leadership. More importantly, I think we could move away from what seems like an inexorable drive towards an increasingly professionalised ministry.