Mission / Witness

The Loaves and Fish Paradox: Planting a Church While Bi-Vocational

As a church planter navigating the dynamic interplay between the missional movement and the realities of a bi-vocational lifestyle, the tension can be palpable. This tension often revolves around the allocation of time and energy, presenting challenges and moments of overwhelming weight. Amidst these complexities, the question arises: How can bi-vocational church planters embrace God’s provision amidst limited resources while balancing the demands of missional church planting and bi-vocational realities?

Trusting in God’s Guidance and Protection

In this journey of planting a missional church, I have encountered numerous moments where I have had to rely on God’s hand in the midst of uncertainty and even doubt.  We are reminded in Psalm 121:7-8 that “The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” In the complex realities that pull your attention, focus, and time in different directions when juggling a missional call and bi-vocational obligations, this reassurance of God’s unwavering protection and guidance can provide an underlying resolve.

Embracing the Vision

I believe a significant aspect of missional church planting involves revisiting the vision embodied in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  This call to “Go and make disciples of all nations” moves us toward establishing communities that intentionally participate in God’s redemptive work in the world and challenges us to embody the transformative message of Christ as we engage with the needs of our communities. Being bi-vocational – in particular – can offer a unique platform to manifest Christ’s love in daily interactions, reflecting the transformative message of Christ beyond the traditional church setting.

Navigating the Tensions

In The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch reminds us that in a truly missional church, “Money follows mission and not the other way around.1 This underscores the significance of prioritizing the mission over financial concerns. Embracing the missional call leads us to align with God’s purpose and challenges us to trust in His provision. Doing so helps ensure that our decisions are driven by the mission and not the money.

This is not intended to ignore the realities of the need of financial resources.  Instead, it is to acknowledge – in the midst of it – that God’s provision is not limited by our circumstances.  The obstacles we experience can be opportunities for God to display His faithfulness, meeting all of our needs as we rely on him (Philippians 4:19). 

Bi-Vocational Realities and Time Management

One of my biggest challenges as a bi-vocational church planter is juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously. Whether it’s a full-time job, family commitments, the needs of church planting (and anything in between), managing my time effectively be a hurdle. I find myself needing to maintain a strategic time management approach that can help me navigate the reality of my limited time.

When it comes to my full-time job, there isn’t as much discernment to be had.  I have a job and a job description, and I am expected to complete my job within specific deadlines.

For the work of church planting, the greatest invitation I have felt is the one where God seeks to show me what He can do with my ‘loaves and fish.’  I might not have enough to feed the 5,000 on my own, but the beauty is that we were never meant to.  All God asks of us is to look at what we have in our hands and give it to him, whether it’s full availability if you are in vocational ministry or whether it’s the limited time of bi-vocational rhythms. God is not constrained by our time. He can multiply our efforts when we surrender your schedule to Him.

Dallas Willard wrote, “The goal of God’s kingdom is the production of saints, not just converts.”2 (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission) He reminds us of the importance of disciple-making. As bi-vocational church planters, we can view our limited time as an opportunity to invest deeply in the lives of a few.  Inevitably, the missional call is one that leans into intentional discipleship. The aim is not end with a large thriving church, but rather to equip individuals with the knowledge and practices that will enable them to grow in their faith and become agents of transformation in their communities.  Simply put; we’re showing people how to look a little more like Jesus.

Build a Supportive Network

When we’re experiencing limited time and possibly more limited resources, the reality of navigating the tensions of bi-vocational church planting can be challenging. One of the things I have had to fight to remember is that I am not alone in this journey. Unfortunately, ‘alone’ is what I often feel as I navigate the pull from my full-time job and everything else on my plate.  I have sought to be connected to a network of people that are available to me for the encouragement I will inevitably need, the accountability that is essential for this work, and the shared wisdom that can be beneficial for us all.

As much as possible, I have sought to connect with other church planters – particularly bi-vocational ones – who can understand and empathize with my unique challenges. I have sought mentorship from experienced leaders who have gone through this before. I am engaged in 3 different peer networks. If I am able (which is limited due to my contextual reality), I may attend a conference or participate in some online forum where I can both share experiences and gain new insights. It is sometimes these supportive communities that have most poignantly offered guidance, prayer support, and practical feedback.

This work is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard.  It is sometimes discouraging. Despite this, we are invited to view this – even this; the juggling of work and planting, soccer drop-off and cooking, and all the mundane stuff in between – as an act of worship.

As Tim Keller said, “Our work can be worship when it is infused with God’s presence and done with excellence for the common good.”3 (Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor).

Embracing God’s Provision

I remember years ago when my family and I had moved to a more challenging part of Brooklyn to help a friend and a team plant a new church.  One afternoon, we were walking down the street at 3:30pm when we saw police placing evidence tags on the corner we were passing by.  It was my wife, our 4-year-old daughter who was holding her hand, our 1 1/2-year-old son whom I was pushing in a stroller, and myself.

I came to find out that 5 or so minutes before we walked northbound on that street there was an individual chasing someone southbound and shooting at that person.  Had we been walking that street 5 minutes earlier, we would have been directly in the line of fire.  This shook me to the core.

After praying and processing through it, I felt the Lord ask me, “Do you trust me to take care of your kids better than you can?”  Ouch, God.  Way to lay it on thick.

The truth was that while my mouth uttered hymns of praise and prayers of faith, my life lacked the depth of dependance that God had desired to cultivate in me.  Ultimately, I wanted to hold on to the control that was never meant for me to have. In that moment, it was regarding the safety of my kids.  In others, it has been the journey toward believing that God would provide for all of our needs.  I believe that how we lead our personal lives in this regard can reveal how we’d lead our church plants – particularly when (not if) difficult times arrive.

The process of embracing God’s provision involves a continual surrendering of control in the different circumstances that befall us.  It requires us acknowledging that He is the ultimate provider.

Things will likely look different than we plan.  We may need to prayerfully consider creative solutions and partnerships that can maximize the impact we can have within the realities of limited time in a bi-vocational season of life and ministry.

There can exist a tension between our limited time and God’s unlimited provision.  There might be times where throwing in the towel will feel like the path of least resistance.  However, as we dedicate ourselves to the missional call, we are invited to trust that He will equip and provide. 

God has planted you strategically – in a time and a place – and is equipping and enabling you to impact the lives of those around you. God has placed you there to transform the community or city where you live.  God is inviting you to partner with Him to advance His kingdom.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

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Macho grew up as a Pastor’s Kid and has had a lifelong involvement with the church. His early experiences revolved around music and worship, but he always felt a calling beyond worship ministry. Pursuing his education at Nyack College, he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Pastoral Ministry and subsequent graduate degrees from Crown College and Alliance Theological Seminary. He has found joy in preaching, teaching worship courses, engaging in church plants, and mentoring others. Currently, he works bi-vocationally as a Technology Instructor at Year Up while planting a church called The Table NYC in Sunnyside, Queens, where he resides with his wife Erica and their two children, Elias and Eliana.


If we fail to submit to a faithful community of 'resident aliens' that reminds us that we’re not the center of the universe, then we will repeat the narcissistic religious experiences that have come to mark our present age. Click To Tweet


Footnotes    

1 Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements.

2 Willard, Dallas. The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship

3 Keller, Tim. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work To God’s Work.

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