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The “Bi-Vocational” Conversation

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There’s been a semi-spontaneous conversation happening online this week about the pros, cons, and in-betweens of bi-vocational ministry. Here are some excerpts from the posts so far:

Scott Emery with Romanticized: Pulling the Veil Back on Bi-Vocational Leadership:

Interestingly, the aspirations of many have turned from established church pastorates to church planting. Being a church planter is the en vogue sugar plum dancing in the heads of many. And this is where I wonder if we haven’t especially romanticized bi-vocational realities. For many, Bible college and seminary prepared them for one specific role with their one specific degree. After all, that is the goal of education in America: prepare people to be money-making, money-spending consumers. Falling back on a second job denotes weakness or inefficiency; within the Church it can often be twisted into being less faithful or even downright sinful. Notwithstanding, many church planters have rightfully pushed these assumptions to the side and have forged ahead.

Regardless, being bi-vocational is not necessarily the panacea to the church’s ills. Many go on without actually seeing it modeled for them. Many go on in manners either unneeded or in unhealthy ways. Others don’t put any intention to the communal, missional, and incarnational considerations at play in a bi-vocational move. In doing so, they often bring death where there could have been life.

Chris Morton with Three Straw-Man Arguments for Bi-Vocational Ministry:

The idea seems to be that if pastors had secular jobs, then they’d be in the community and become evangelization machines. This would inspire the church to do the same.

Maybe.

The fact is that when you’re busy working at a computer or a cash register, you’re not going to have a lot of time to discuss life, the universe and everything. The best moments for sharing about Jesus don’t come at work. They happen at the lunches, parties, and happy hours where people are relaxed and able to share about their lives. They happen because those hours at work have created a relationship of trust.

The key then, isn’t where you collect a pay check, it’s whether or not you have relationships with people outside your church. Yes, this can happen in a secular job, but at the expense of 40 hours a week. It can also happen when you get a hobby, meet your neighbors, or become a regular at a neighborhood bar.

Zach Hoag with Rooted: (How Not To) Rage Against the Machine:

In assessing the bivocational vs. professional ministry dilemma, the real question is, How can a rooted, missional, redemptive kingdom presence emerge in this cultural space that is also connected, ordered, accountable, and sustainable? How can a shalom-filled ministry take root in a parish that is also experiencing unity within a larger body in a healthy way? Truly missional ministry will certainly mean a departure from corrupt, self-obsessed, and bloated economies. And it may mean bivocational ministry in part-time and volunteer capacities.

Fred Liggin with Throwing Out the (Poor) Baby with the Bathwater: Bi-vocational Ministry:

I’ve noticed a surging trend of leaders who think little (and often belittle) “paid” vocational pastors while “pastoring” (certainly ministering) vocationally (or bi-vocationally) in a “paid” way via the platforms of writer, consultant, coach, speaker, or something else. Is it the belief that the paid vocation of pastor at best diminishes, and at worst robs, the people of God of ministry as they live on mission together?

Perhaps it should not be assumed that all paid vocational pastors seek to diminish or create an ecclesial caste system within God’s people or perpetuate Constantinian christianity any more than the writers, consultants, coaches, conference speakers, network facilitator, thought-leaders seek to do. Actually, many pastors, writers, consultants, coaches, conference speakers, network facilitators, thought-leaders I know seek to do the opposite: to empower and equip God’s people to make disciples who make disciples as they live on mission in a mutually edifying and communal way.

Feel free to add your voice in the comments. And if you write a post on your blog, comment here with the link!

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