Revisiting “Bi-vocational” Ministry

I recently read the book, BiVo, by Hugh Halter. Halter shares what he’s learned through creating a church community lead by bi-vocational pastors whose role is to train and equip Christian disciples for mission.

bivo-machup

To be honest, the book got me thinking about Bi-vocational pastors and ministry, especially since I identify myself as one.  While I don’t share most of Halter’s theological commitments, the book is worth a read when considering declining resources available to churches today, and the continued desire to be church in the world.  Halter’s church is an interesting one.

I do have one problem with Halter and most writers on the subject of bi-vocational ministry, and that is the insistence that the basis of this model of ministry boils down to a lesson in economics – money. To borrow Halter’s phrase, “church should be cheap.” It shouldn’t cost that much to do ministry and share God’s love and grace with the world.  Halter’s negative bias towards full-time pastors and ministry isn’t hidden in his book.  While he tries to come across as sympathetic, he takes his shots at those who choose full-time ministry and asserts that what he does is inherently better….on the basis of biblical authority. (Which then becomes another boring discussion about scriptural authority) Halter’s basis for bi-vocational as “cheap church” that “builds better disciples for the Kingdom” is one echoed by most who identify as and advocate for bi-vocational pastors.

I think such a narrow view is problematic. When we constrict bi-vocational ministry to economy, we make vocation and our discernment of it primarily about management of work (what we do) rather than identity (who we are).  God’s calling is not based on doing the right thing, but rather identification of spirit-given gifts that can be used in a variety of ways in the world. Bi-vocational ministry is about who we are (people who use their whole selves in a variety of stations in life) vice what we do (fitting ourselves to a correct type of work that is divinely-inspired).

I share that to give you a working thesis in the weeks ahead as I write more about bi-vocational ministry, just so you have a basis of understanding for where I’m coming from. (Note: Because it’s a whole lot better than me posting my 22-page seminary thesis, currently collecting dust in a box I didn’t unpack two years ago) I began an intentional interim ministry course last week, and it’s got me thinking more about the need for varied and diverse models of pastoral leadership for the church in a rapidly-changing world.  So I’ll be sharing my thoughts about that, both ideas and practical points.  Just a preview of what I’ll be sharing the next couple weeks:

– The church is NOT your vocation.
– Bi-Vocational ministry for full-time pastors: Changing the model of leadership & church.
– The Top 4 Positions you need on your church staff – and it’ll attract Millennials (because everyone wants to these days.)
– The Diversity you need…and Bi-Vocational staff can help.

– The people you serve: honoring their multi-vocational life through modeling.

– Bi-vocational ministry & economics: it does play a part, but not as “cheap church.”

I hope you’ll take the time to read and interact in the weeks ahead.  Thanks for reading!

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