What is a bivocational pastor? This is a term that we hear more and more in this particular time in the history of the church. It is a necessity in so many of our churches due to the areas in which these men serve. With the high cost of living and the decline in people to fill our churches, it is a fact of life that many pastors have two or more vocations.
I believe that over 50 percent of churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention fall into this category. The statistic is not something to be ashamed of, but rather it speaks to the determination of those congregations to keep up the good fight. These churches are, for the most part, very active in the work of the Lord.
Twenty-two out of the 25 churches in the Alpha Baptist Association have bivocational pastors. All of these churches are striving to meet the needs of their people and the community where they are located. These are not churches that have been forgotten, but are active fellowships that have a strong biblical presence. They teach and preach the Word of the Lord and give to most, if not all, of the TBC and Southern Baptist Convention causes.
When one of these congregations loses its pastor it is routinely very difficult for them to find another pastor. Oh, there will be several who want the position if the church will meet their requirements. But many times the requirements asked for are out of the churches reach due to limited finances, small community size and enough qualified men who will accept the challenges that face a bivocational ministry.
Bivocational ministry is difficult for someone who has a full-time mind set. Most of these situations are full-time ministry with part-time pay and benefits. They are still on call 24/7. They preach and teach two-three times per week, they visit the sick at home or in the hospital, they visit shut-ins and they serve in leadership roles on state and association committees and boards. Yet, they still have a full-time job outside of the church.
During my almost 30 years as a pastor and now director of missions, both full-time and bi-vocational, I have had many other professions as well. I have worked in a cotton gin. I have been a plant manager, a supervisor of assembly lines, a painter, a school bus driver and a substitute school teacher. I have done construction of houses. I did these jobs while raising my family and attending college and seminary.
My wife has also had to work outside the home to help provide for our needs as we raised our family. Without her love for the Lord and the ministry, I would have not been able to have the freedom to serve as I have. Most bivocational servants have traveled this same path.
Many times bivocational pastors feel that they are considered a little lower on the ministry ladder. Some have even been told they do not have the right stuff to serve a “full-time congregation.” How shameful is that? It is a high calling from the Lord to serve in a bivocational church. It takes a man who is dedicated to the Lord and to the work of the Lord to be able to finish well in bivocational ministry. Never allow those who see you as “not making the grade” dampen your zeal to serve in whatever place that you are led to do so. You serve at the pleasure of the Lord, not man.
Just because a man is serving in a bivocational ministry doesn’t have any bearing on his credentials or calling. I believe that every church deserves to have the very best servant possible regardless of its size. Some of the best and brightest preachers I know are serving in small rural churches. They serve there because God has placed them there.
I have no shortage of resumes at my office from pastors all over this nation seeking a new place of service. However, most do not seek a bivocational church. They want a church that can provide a wonderful salary, great housing allowance and exceptional benefits. When I share with them what is available they say they will pray about it and get back to me. They never call back.
Bivocational pastors are a special breed of men who will do whatever is required to serve the Lord wherever He leads them. They serve at the pleasure of the Lord.
We need more men who are willing and able to serve as a bivocational pastor, who can make their living outside the church if necessary and have that calling from God to be all that he can be in the church while serving Him.
I salute all bivocational min-isters across this great convention and encourage them to stick to the stuff. Do not let anyone confuse you as to your calling.
You are a blessing to the churches you serve. I believe that you are among the giants of the faith. The Apostle Paul was bivocational as were many others who have finished their courses well.
May God bless all our bi-vocational ministers wherever they are serving. B&R