As a pastor I feel a special burden and opportunity to share my faith with other people. The question is how?
On Sunday mornings I wear an academic robe and a stole to remind me who I am and whose I am, that I speak not for myself but for the whole church, and that the whole church is present with me.
But what about Monday through Saturday? How should I show my faith then?
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them;
for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:1 (NRSV)
When people find out I am a pastor for the first time conversations tend shift to either deep theological questions should my new acquaintance have a relationship with a church or, when they don’t go to church, our conversation shuts down as if I had announced that I had a communicable disease. Hence I do not usually wear a cross pendant or lapel pin. I want people to get to know me before they find out I am a pastor. Especially people who do not attend church.
Wearing one’s faith where everyone can see it —bumper sticker, pin, pendants, earrings— has other burdens as well as opportunities. To some extent I wear the stain of pastors who have been caught in various scandals. When a car bearing a special license plate or bumper sticker speeds around me then cuts me off, they send a message about all of Christianity. On one hand by wearing such external emblems I hope I would show the best of what the church has taught me. On the other hand I wonder how my actions will tell my faith story on my worst day; when I am caught up in some urgent crisis or distracted by unrelated issues. I fear that person who does not go to church thinking: “l don’t want to associate with people like that.”
I wonder about using the cross as an ornament. Does that cheapen God’s sacrificial love? Use it in vain? What does this say about my faith? Would I seem overly pious or mocking of those who sincerely believe?
Should I pray aloud in public, or quietly pause and listen for God in silence?
Instead I hope my faith shows through my actions, taking time to know those with whom I speak and present myself.