ALPHARETTA, GA – Dear Potential or Present (Bivocational) Replanter, When we went to seminary or Bible college we hoped—or more likely, expected—upon graduation we’d embark on a ministry path that would lead us to full-time pay and benefits. Unless you were independently wealthy, academically brilliant or came from a family who was blessed to pay for your education, you likely took out school loans or worked hard supporting yourself through school. If that was the case, your mindset was likely something like this: ”I’m so committed to pursue God’s call on my life, I’m happy to do whatever it takes (financially, vocationally) to follow His lead.”
Remember those days when the math didn’t work out on paper, but you still had enough to pay rent, utilities, have groceries, with even a little le over? Remember the time when the car needed repairs and someone from far away sent you a letter with a check that covered your need? Remember the time someone graciously and generously blessed you, so you could take a vacation, go on a date, purchase that much needed computer? Remember how, in your heart and mind, you just knew God would take care of you because He promised to do so in His Word? What changed?
You’re perhaps decades older now; your kids need braces, shoes, contact lenses and school books. Your wife would like a new wardrobe. You have to buy a new set of tires, and then there’s the summer AC bill, which seems more like a mortgage payment than a utility bill. You may find yourself struggling to sleep at night, dreading to look at the offering report from Sunday and fantasizing about receiving a call from a bigger church that could pay you a living wage, allowing you to have some left over. What changed?
You’ve gotten a little older, and your expenses are a little larger. But God has always provided. Don’t fall for the illusion that pastors at larger churches with full-time salaries have it easier. Don’t succumb to the belief that you must not be important because you have to work another job to support your family. Don’t let the discouragement of not having enough time to do what you would do in ministry—because you can’t devote yourself to it full time—overwhelm you. Why?
You have automatic credibility in working a job outside the church.
You have a better understanding of what it’s really like to work, have a family and participate in the life of a church.
You are around more people who need to hear about Jesus every week than a pastor who works in a church building and has multiple meetings every week.
You are more free to risk being bold in leading your church to radically embrace God’s call to mission. As a full-time pastor, you might be tempted to “back off” and avoid rocking the boat and stepping on toes to keep your job.
You have the opportunity to serve a church that otherwise couldn’t afford to pay a pastor full time, and this allows the church to maintain a gospel witness in the community.
Things will break, kids will outgrow their clothes and offerings will rise and fall, but please remember: God always provide!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Bickford is a National Replanting Catalyst for the North American Mission Board Chair of Church Revitalization Team of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association