The Bivocational Pastor

Again, keep in mind that I apologized on Monday for a few of my posts this week:)That being said, what I have to say about being a bivocational pastor may cause some disagreement. I might get an e-mail or two and that’s O.K. as long as it makes you think. Of course this post is directed towards fellow pastors, but hopefully if you’re not a pastor you will get an insight into my warped mind.A Bivocational pastor is one who works a separate job outside of the church, either by choice (not usually the case) or by necessity to make ends meet. I have been on both sides of the fence, being a full-time church staff member for a number of years and being currently bivocational. Here are some of my thoughts…

  • Bivocational pastoring is difficult. I think just the word bivocational scares off many “pastors”. “It seems like we don’t have enough time to do what we need to do now”, I’ve heard. “I can’t imagine being bivocational. That would be too difficult.” Difficult isn’t a bad thing. No where in the Bible does God call us to comfort (except in Him). I think that many pastors (esp. the American church) are too comfortable. Conference this week, lunch meeting today, Study for 10 hours, blog for a bit, surf the internet….you know the drill. Bivocational pastoring doesn’t allow for this ease of scheduling.
  • Bivocational pastoring is more relational. So many pastors spend so much time in the office, or studying that they don’t spend time with people. Especially lost people. Most of their people time is spent with church people. I dare say many pastors don’t have any nonchristian friends, or any meaningful friendships outside of their church or other pastors. Do we need those relationships? Yes, but it isn’t enough. Bivocational pastoring opens those doors for relationships outside of those church walls.
  • Bivocational pastoring is misunderstood. It’s almost as if those who are in “full-time” ministry look at those who are bivocational as second class ministers (just a personal observation). It’s as if they feel that you aren’t good enough at what you do to be “full-time”. It’s as if being “full-time” means you’ve arrived.
  • Bivocational pastoring is Biblical. Find in the Bible where it says to pay the church leadership at all. It’s not in there. And don’t give me the whole, “worthy of double honor” business, because that passage is dealing with respect and honor not finances. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily think that being paid by the church is wrong…I get paid, but it’s just not something that is necessarily Biblical. On a side note, I really feel that the reason that many churches struggle or aren’t seeing God work is that the ministry can be a breeding ground for lazy people looking for an easy paycheck. If this is not you, no need to be offended!

I don’t want to come across as angry that pastors get paid full-time, and some are paid very well. I just want to get at the heart of the matter. It’s all about the heart. What I am about to say is pretty bold, but I believe it and I hope that it causes you as a pastor to examine yourself (believe me I’ve examined myself).

If you aren’t willing to do what you are doing without taking a dime from the church, you aren’t called to ministry.

That’s right, I said it. If you are not willing to not only lay down your life for the sheep but your paycheck I don’t feel your vision is from God and you aren’t called to ministry. When you are called to ministry, you are miserable doing anything but, and you would do it for free in a heartbeat…no questions asked. I’ve said it on this blog before and I’ll say it again, I’d do this thing for free (and I have for many years) and if our church can’t afford to support me full-time or part-time then I would gladly forgo my salary. What about you? Are you willing to do what you do for free? Are you willing to be bivocational our are you too comfortable in the “full-time” position you are in?

O.K., I’m off my soapbox now, but I’m passionate about this and I really don’t mean to upset anyone, just to make you think.


7 thoughts on “The Bivocational Pastor

  1. Wow, Mark. You hold nothing back. Actually, knowing you, you probably wanted to say a bit more but figured you’d made your point.

    As a “bi-vocational” pastor for the last 12 years I know what you’re talking about. As I am stepping in to a new position I know that I have to strive not to fall into the mindset that it’s a job. If I ever start to act like that please punch me in the face. Anyway, gotta go golfing now. 🙂

  2. I was a bi-vocational pastor for five and a half years (by choice, actually, just never felt called to be full-time as I work with kids in the justice system). I agree spot-on with everything you said.

    Would add one other point. I have found in my experience, as I currently am searching for God to lead me to my next pastorate, many churches will not consider bi-vocational pastors, even if their numbers and finances no longer justify the need/feasibility. Hearing from an insider on this once, many churches don’t want a pastor that can just up and quit.

    While I don’t advocate any pastor just walking away from a church because the church picks red carpet, I do think pastors need to have freedom to preach conviction. I fear churches are leary of a preacher that has total freedom to preach conviction, or leave if the church won’t follow that conviction.

    I left my last church because certain ‘old-timers’ wanted to usurp my authority on issues. I had the freedom to say, “It either stops or I walk.” I walked. Many churches appear to want to make a pastor a slave of finance to the church, even at the risk of sacrificing Biblical truth or overburdening the church’s resources.

    Keep preachin’ bro.

  3. I agree with a shepherd giving his life for his sheep. I am a bivocational pastor who has sacrificed my salary for most of my ten years. I wanted to know how can I biblically stand on this. Issue I don’t want the church to struggle to give a salary that could be used to bring others to. Some people are saying I am not being obedient to God. ???

  4. I agree with many statements in your blog…I do however disagree with your assessment of whether a church should financially support a pastor or not. I’ve been a bivocational pastor for 10-1/2 yrs now. I’ve taught our church over the years to continually grow in the area of supplying the provision for the pastor…I would like to share some scripture as to what has shaped my thinking in this area…
    1st Corinthians 9:1-14
    Philippians 4:14-19
    Luke 10:7
    Galatians 6:6
    these are just a few…of course one could use the OT example of Preist’s and Levites being supported from the fruits of the harvest both in cattle and what was grown from the ground…these were all part of God’s plan to sustain the ministry at that time and to be an example of His provision for His people…

    • I think Richard has a point. I also have been willing to work for whatever a church could afford. However, I always encouraged them to grasp the vision of paying what a full time pastor was worthy of earning.

      Some day, if that church was to grow, they would want to call someone with specialized gifts and, unfortunately most pastoral candidates are NOT like us who have responded to the bivocational minsitry call. Most won’t take a second look– especially if they have a family to support.

      So the church must work toward that goal. I encourage them to project what it would take to afford the reasonable full pastoral package. In 2010 in California I recommend that to be at minimum of $60K (including housing) per year for a beginner and more for a seasoned and more highly educated ministry worker.

      It may be true that someone who is willing to minister for free will not be as much valued by a congregation as someone who would require $100K per year. Sometimes people might be tempted to think that we are ‘good for nothing.’

  5. I am glad you said it! “If you aren’t willing to lay down your life and AND your paycheck for the sheep. . . then you aren’t called.” Most of us who have served as bivocational pastors and ministry workers understand this. Many fully paid sr pastors do not! I have served as a BVP for 19 years. I work full time in an academic university job. But that does not mean my work in the churches I have served was merely part time. My day would start at 7 am leaving for the universty then at 4 pm leaving there for the church, then getting home by 9 or 10 pm and often later. I did not have those luxurious hours in the study, that Mark mentioned. However I did have something that I consider ESSENTIAL for the BVP.

    I had a calling from God and an annointing. I believe that when we obey the Lord’s call and are willing to do “whatever it takes” then we can rely upon the Lord to provide what is needed to make it all happen. People have always asked me how did I do it? How did I find the energy to just keep on going. For years I couldn’t come up with a good answer. I didn’t know how I did it, I just did it! Then I realized, in preparing a message that God was inspiring me and God was providing what I needed– energy! I could rely on God to have the energy I needed whenever I stepped up to a task in ministry, regardless of how much energy I had expended on my previous day-job task.

    Now I believe that to be true for any pastor, regardless of their vocational job status. I have also come to believe this to be true for ANY BELIEVER who is willing to obey God’s Call to ‘do whatever it takes’ to make disciples and teach them to obey all that Christ has taught us.
    Keep on keeping’ on!

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