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I know that none of us wants a "normal" job, because having a job is so rigid and unexciting. It’s unbecoming of a person who is called to the greatness of the pulpit. We think, "I can’t possibly be here, or there, every single day, doing the same exact things, with the same exact people, people who have never done anything important, people who are perfectly content to never do anything important! I was meant for more!"

Maybe you’ve heard people say these things.

Perhaps you’ve said these things.

Or at least thought them.

Having been a bivocational pastor my entire career, I've wrestled with these thoughts, and I have four observations:

1. "Work" and "calling" are not mortal enemies. They are the left and right hands of process and progress. Every meaningful endeavor in life contains a certain amount of grinding. There is an intestinal fortitude that comes from showing up, every day, holding course and not giving up. It is the very same resolve one will need to accomplish "greater things."

2. Being broke makes for great stories, but not much else. It’s pretty unreal how a steady paycheck and a few hundred bucks can change what’s possible in the immediate here and now. I’ve also noticed that people are willing to be more generous with an artist or pastor who is already working. How many times has an artist or missionary asked me for money, and in my head I’m thinking, “You could just get a job, right?”

3. There is a part of work, even really hard, physical labor that ennobles and dignifies human life. To wake in the morning and build something or complete a project has an illuminating effect on the human spirit. I know that lots of people are miserable in their jobs, but people without a job are even more miserable. One of the best ways to fight depression and malaise is to go to work.

4. Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds. Noah built a boat, Boaz was a farmer, Peter was a fisherman, Paul was a tentmaker and Jesus was a carpenter—they all had a common life before they had an extraordinary life. In fact, one is a foundation for the other.

Adam Russell is the lead pastor and one of the founders of Vineyard Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky. He and his wife Heather have three children (River, Seth and Magnolia) and also own a local health-food store and a couple acres of wine grapes. 

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Fr. Frank Gough

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Those are all great points about being a bi-vocational pastor, but have nothing to do with being a better preacher.

Douglas Webb

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Being bivocational, I become a better preacher when I also experience what people in the workforce are going through in real life. I get an education in real life situations of the workforce, and I become a better preacher when I can bring the Word of God and the love of God into their real life situation.

Marius Mazuru

commented on Nov 3, 2014

I was thinking the same thing, Fr. Frank. Good article, misleading title.

Richard Chambers

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Mark 6:7And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff?no bread, no bag, no money in their belt? 9but to wear sandals; and He added, ?Do not put on two tunics.? Jesus expected the people to supply the needs of the apostles, just as he does the church to supply the needs of the Pastor in order to free him up for ministry to the church. Nuff Said

Peter Saka

commented on Nov 3, 2014

To God be the glory.I love the way you've talked at length about hard work among those who are called by the worthy name.The world has a lot to learn from us and as Paul puts it we are the letters to the world.So if hard work begins from us then we can be sure the world will.

Henry C. Jaegers

commented on Nov 3, 2014

The wor kforce is where the rubber hits the road. I have had more ministry in the work force than I ever did working full time in the church. In the work force people can get to know the real ?Me"., Superficialty won't cut it there. Just think of the fgreat example I am by showing those whom I serve how to be a testimony in the work force. My secret for success everywhere in the pulpit or in the factiory is Be a friend, Be a Servant and Be faithful. If everyone would do that we would double size of our churches in a very short time.

Douglas Webb

commented on Nov 3, 2014

I appreciate this article. I am a bivocational pastor. My call from God is to preach the Word, care for the widows and orphans, and do all I can do to live a holy life. I do not see my other work as separate from my call. It is all ministry unto the Lord. My ministry just opened me up to more opportunities to love more people for Jesus' sake.

Paul Jordan

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Good comment Douglas. I find a connection with the Fellowship when they know I am out there working as well. I do believe we will stay on the small side as a Church but as the Lord leads, He will grow us. One other comment, I have asked and received key people who help me when visitation(s) and prayers are needed.

Val Turner

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Brilliant. As a Methodist Local Preacher (lay preacher) I have recently been worrying about whether I am wasting my life going to work and worrying about it and being committed to my job. I'd got as far as "well Paul was a tent maker". This is what I needed to hear right now! Thanks

Walter Swaim

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Good brief article. In my work I drive my vehicle a lot during the days of the week. I have found some of my best sermon ideas now come while meditating (in quietness or listening to audiobooks or sermons) between appointments - use to think it could only be done in an office. One footnote to correct here in the article though concerning missionaries: I served as a foreign and home missionary for 15 years....the majority of them cannot just go get a job. They are required not to, and are supported financially so as to not to work outside but focus only on the Gospel work. Otherwise, superb article.

Jerry Bennett

commented on Nov 3, 2014

I am wrestling with this issue right now. I work 2 hours away and the son of one of my members was murdered while I was out of town and unfortunately some folks dropped the ball. Now this member is off my radar screen and wont answer calls. He is very old and I am concerned for him. This prompted me to think that bi-vocational may not be the best way. I continue to pray about this, but I am seriously considering quitting my government job and going full time. I want to make sure I am following the Lord's will and not my own knee jerk reaction. Please pray for me brothers that I will know clearly the direction the Lord would have me follow.

Andrew Benedict

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Dear Jerry, I just prayed for you before writing this and I believe what you're going through is definitely a genuine issue ,just remember that someone from India is praying for you and I believe there are many others too. If you think your ministerial responsibilities are too many and that your vocation is hampering your effectiveness ,I believe you should either take up a less strenuous job that takes lesser time and one that is close to your church/home or as you said quit it completely and get in as a full time pastor as the Lord leads. I sense that you have a genuine concern towards your congregation and I believe God will lead in the right path.

Tony Bland

commented on Nov 3, 2014

it is a very encouraging ,but i believe i would be a better pastor if i could spend my day visiting, praying, reading and studying. but i must work and not tax the people.

Christopher Williams

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Good article, however, there is no indication that Paul, Peter and Jesus went back to what they were after being called into Ministry.

Paul Jordan

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Actually Christopher, I believe Paul worked and did some tentmaking while going on his missionary trips.

Mark Drinkwater

commented on Nov 3, 2014

Hey Adam, are you a bivocational pastor?

Andrew Benedict

commented on Nov 3, 2014

A very nice article! Bi-vocational or uni-vocational, what matters at the end is how genuinely concerned one is towards their congregation and what God called one to be . Two great examples from the Bible are Peter and Paul.Peter was a full time preacher and Paul was a Bi-vocational preacher ,both were equally effective and did wonders ,The heart and passion one has towards God's ministry matters the most.

Olawepo Adeniji

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Good and and great comments. First I like to join Fr. Frank by saying that neither uni- or bi-vocational makes one a better preacher or minister. I think one's calling, gift (or anointing), the love of God in one 's heart, one's walk with God in the place of worship, prayer and the word couple with one's love for the "flock of Christ" are some of the variables that make one a good preacher or minister. Jesus in John21 said to Peter "do you truly love me more than these?....Feed my lambs.." Paul said somewhere that the love of God compelled him. So, I don't believe one's disposition whether uni- or bi- vocational has anything to do with effectiveness as a minister. Let everyone be fully persuaded. However,many have turned pastoral ministry to merchandise because they want to live "big" and as a result are making mockery of the ministry. They have deviated from scripture. Some have ventured into ministry not because they were called but because they were jobless after going to college. So many people see "ministry" as a means for escapade, they don't want to bear some responsibilities. Some pastors who are working full time have found it difficult making ends meet for their families; mind you the Bible says "he that is unable to provide for his household is worse than an infidel". If your pay package in ministry can not take you home it is better to go bi-vocational rather than becoming "worse than an infidel".

Leslie Fabre

commented on Nov 4, 2014

Like Mr. Frank said there are all great points, (talking from personal experience) and I will like to add that, being bivocational is very enriching, but we can never comapre it to being a full time pastor. If you are good as bivoactional, imagine if that time you invested in your bible reading, praying and meditating. You will be an extraordinary preacher. But being a full time pastor is very challenging when it comes to personal discipline of the time you now have in your hands, to do Gods work. Blessing from above.

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Nov 5, 2014

I am a "Full-timer" but I have some Brothers' in faith who are outstanding Bi-vocational Pastors.They have chosen such businesses' where the shop can be shut whenever the Ministry opportunity beckons...rather than a paid job, where one cannot free himself from job responsibilities so easily when the Church member needs Pastoral care.

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