“We worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” I Thessalonians 2:9
I left a full time ministry position December 14, 2011. It was a difficult decision but I had full peace with walking away from a guaranteed weekly check.
Since then my wife Carla and I have driven a bus for Desoto County and I started my own mowing company. God has taught me so much through it all in the last 19 months. He has taught me that He is faithful to you when you obey Him. Every bill has been paid and we have never missed a meal!
I attended the BMAA National Meeting in Jackson, MS., It was there that Dr. John David Smith challenged the association to plant 100 new churches. In doing so, he stated we didn’t have the money to add any new men. Men would have to answer the call by funding it through other means. The lack of associational funds was no excuse to prevent us from planting new churches. It was clear to my heart at that moment! I could plant a new church while working my current jobs! I wouldn’t burden the association for one penny for a salary. When God showed me that I literally got up and left the meeting to focus and prayed about it on the way home to Memphis.
After seeking the Lord it became crystal clear that being a bi-vocational church planter is the will of God. God spoke time and time again through His word to my heart. Acts 18:3, Philippians 4:11,19, Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 6:7, I Thessalonians 2:9, 4:11,12… all those passages and others like the example of Gideon being hard at work when God called him, screamed at me! I couldn’t deny that it was the path to follow.
Being Bi-vocational in Church Planting has its advantages! Here are some to chew on:
- Maximize Ministry Funds! One of the big issues with new plants is the immediate burden of the infant church assuming financial responsibility for the staff. Different denominations have various structures regarding this issue. In the BMA, a lot of times the plant starts assuming 20% of the salary in the second year and it progresses in percentage annually, thus increasing the demand of distribution from the plant. If the Pastor and staff have their own income, the monetary investment of the plant can be maximized for evangelism and discipleship.
- Being in the Fabric of the Community! Working in the community exposes you to a different network of individuals. This does two things for the planter. First, you can see how people in your community actually live and learn the issues they face. They don’t put on a façade for you out there. Witnessing the life they live and facing it yourself will give insight that full time Pastors and staff do not enjoy. Second, many times Pastors and staff only interact with the membership base or those who end up at the church through invitation or advertising. This community interaction allows you to build relationships with unchurched people and of course the lost. A Bi-vocational planter has the unique opportunity to invite people that he works with to the church where he pastors.
- Work & Serve in the Church by Example! How many times have you heard that lame joke that pastors “drink coffee all week and preach on Sundays” … “Must be Nice!” Leading bi-vocationally enables the planter to challenge members in the pew to give 100% for the ministry of the plant. He is proving by example that serving Christ in the local church with great devotion can be done with proper priorities and planning! No one can criticize him for having it “easy”!
- Associational Benefit! The BMA can use funds that would cover an American church planter’s salary to go towards a missionary to a foreign field where it would be virtually impossible to be bi-vocational.
Although it is rare in the BMA right now, bi-vocational church planters are actually on the rise in various denominations. I pray that there will be many others who join us in this approach to planting. It is possible that down the line we become full time as the church becomes self-sustainable. For now we will walk in the path He has laid out for us and Central!
Time to Toil
Colossians 1: 28, 29