Bivocational Fellowship:
an idea come of age

One Southern Baptist Congregation in four, nearly 10,000, are served by a pastor who has another job. In recent years they have been called “bivocational.” Typically, the congregations served by bivocational pastors are smaller, limited-resource ones.
Many are difficult for denominational programs to penetrate. In general this is because a bivocational pastor has difficulty in finding time to participate in many training events. And, since the pastor is typically the link between the smaller church and the denomination, knowledge of programs and resources does not always pass to places where it is greatly needed.

The Bivocational
Multi-staffed Church

It has rained during the evening last spring when I was in Ft. Worth. Tornado warnings were issued. But Saturday dawned bright and inviting. I was excited about spending the morning with one of the sages of Southern Baptists, T. B. Maston. Our conversation ranged widely–poverty, the Farm Crisis, the peace movement, race relations in the South today, the break-down of clergy families, conflicts in the denomination.
At some point we came across the subject of Bold Mission Thrust. He declared it to be a grand idea; one that God had given to us. Then sorrowfully he shook his head and lamented, “It is not going to make it. It is not going to make it, if we continue business as usual.”

Bivocational Church Planters Get the Jobs Done

It’s happening. In Arlington, Texas, more than 125 congregations led primarily by laypersons and bivocationals worshiped last Sunday. In storefronts, apartments, union halls, community centers, and activity centers more than 2,000 persons sang, prayed, studied God’s Word, and worshiped. Five years ago most of these people were not in anyone’s church. Mission Arlington has seen the power of God change lives, strengthen families, and heal broken neighborhoods.

Consider Bivocationalism

God has called thousands of bright, attractive young men and women to ministry. He has done so because there are millions, actually billions, who need to be saved. The seminaries, colleges and Bible schools are full of people preparing for ministry.
The tragedy is that as many as 1,500 graduates of Southern Baptist seminaries do not connect with position of meaningful ministry in our churches, with our boards, or with our agencies, each year. God is doing is part. He has called out the people. He has provided opportunity for training. But we have failed in utilizing this great human resource effectively.

Get a Job! Guide a Church!

At least four very important facts must be addressed as the final decade of Bold Mission Thrust approaches.

1. To reach the goal of 50,00 churches and missions at least 1,500 new starts a year are needed in the 1990’s.
2. Directors of associational missions in the “old” Convention area indicate that they are covered up with resumes from graduates of colleges and seminaries seeking ministry opportunities. God has called out the laborers, but they have not connected with the “fields of harvest.”

Training Process for Local Church Missionaries and Indigenous Pastoral Leaders

American Christianity increasingly is sounding Baptist to our ears. Terms such as the “autonomy of the local congregation”, “soul competency”, “the freedom of God”, “gathering the church from the world”, and “the ministry of the laity” are appearing in the writings and the preachments of many denominations. Bivocationalism has become acceptable in the mainline denominations. A recent conference in the Midwest on “lay-pastor” training drew over 100 participants from 17 denominations.

Shared Ministry: a Plan to Aid Your Bivocational Pastor

If you are a typical deacon . . .

  • You want your church to be as effective in evangelizing, in discipling and in providing ministry as is possible.
  • You want to assist your pastor in ministry.
  • You want to exercise your own ministry.
  • You want to be a model for the rest of the congregation as a doer of ministry.

If you are a typical deacon, these are the primary reasons that you accepted the call of God and of your own church to become a deacon and to carry out the role of deaconship.

Dr. Gary Farley was the Director of Missions for the Pickens Baptist Association (1997-2017). From 1984 to 1997 he worked at the Home Mission Board in the Rural Church Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that role he published many articles pertaining to rural church and community life. Many of these articles have been collected here as a small library. We invite you to freely distribute these materials under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.