Bivocational Ministry: Option or Necessity?

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The following post was originally written in 2011 but still remains relevant for church planters and pastors in 2018.

Most of the time we who are in ministry look at ministry as a profession—our profession.  “I’m in ministry” means “That’s my job.” Upon graduation from seminary, we ponder who we are called to serve, and very often those are the people we naturally gravitate toward—people we are comfortable with, people who give back.  Our profession is a good fit for us when we are comfortable with those we serve.

Is it just me, or is this sounding a lot different from how ministry was described in the book of Acts?

There we see people in ministry being sent to people who not only didn’t fully appreciate them, but are actively trying to kill them much of the time.  Sometimes more established churches sent money to help out, but most of the time money was made through tentmaking.  Literal tentmaking.

We as the leaders of the present and future Christian church need to delve into our motives for being in ministry.

If we are in this to make a living, the ministry is not a good long-term investment.  If we are in this because we don’t know how to do anything else beyond church work, that’s also going to create long-term problems for us. Times are changing.

There isn’t enough money in the world to keep doing church the way we’ve been doing it.

If you calculate the unchurched population, then you figure out how many more churches are needed and what each church would cost, there is not enough money in the world to pull that off. That’s why we need to start doing church differently.  We need to think creatively about free ways to do ministry: free ways to reach people, to serve people, to show the love of Jesus to people. This is how it was in the early church—they didn’t have much of a budget to work with, and yet they were effective. Why not us? It’s time for a return to tentmaking… only this time it might be software design or coaching or working at Starbucks.

One other clarification I need to make:  bless the wealthy churches.  If you have resources to make exciting things happen, that’s indeed a blessing from God.  From those who have much, much will be required.  Consider hiring some bi-vocational church planters who work among the poor.  Such an investment always bears kingdom fruit.