I’ve been bi-vocational for some time and I wish I had something positive to say about it. The reality is, you’re going to be put into impossible situations where you can’t possibly see to the needs of the church, your other occupation, and your family at the same time.
There will be times when you just can’t be there for the church and some people will be upset about this. There are times when the demands of the church will put a strain on your other employment. There are times when your wife and children just aren’t going to see you much. While we shouldn’t sacrifice our families to our work, we have to provide for them and you’ll have seasons where your occupations DEMAND every waking moment.
For example, a couple weeks ago, one of our breaker boxes went out and to get it fixed has required days sitting in government offices for permits and inspections (long story how it came to that). This has lead to me working from 7:00AM to 11:00PM (16 hour work days!) every day for the last week and a half to take care of all the obligations that are on me. Sometimes these sorts of things happen and there just isn’t going to be anyone who can help and it’s going to all fall upon you. In the above example, everyone else has jobs and can’t be available or can’t legally represent us with the county.
Now…what does a building’s electrical system have to do with our calling to preach the gospel? It doesn’t, but practically, as the only member on staff in the church you’re probably going to have to oversee many things that other men with jobs can’t (even though you have another job too!).
There is also likely to be a challenge with finances. When expenses come up for the church, and people say, “let’s just trust God with the money”, what that really means is YOU are going to have to trust God with the money because any shortfall is going to come out of your support check. What’s worse, I’ve seen people who say, “let’s trust God with the money”, pull up into the church parking lot in a brand new SUV right after my having received a substantial pay-cut. Trusting the Lord with church finances often means that only the pastor’s family is eating beanie weenies.
You may think that a man embittered in the ministry is writing this but I actually happen to pastor a wonderful little church. While my situation could be greatly improved if everyone would faithfully tithe (I’ve never seen that in any church), the people at CRC are very supportive and encouraging. I think in many ways, my situation is fairly optimal as a bi-vocational pastor.
What I am saying is…it is going to be HARD, especially as the years roll by and the bi-vocational situation remains. My advice is, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTIN INTO! Discuss these matters with your wife. Lead her and pray that God grant her commitment to this as well as yourself. You are going to need her understanding and support and never forget that she is the most important congregant you need to shepherd. If the burdens become to great for her, it will likely cause you to need to step out of the ministry.
So…my number one bit of practical advice to the bi-vocational pastor, love your wife fervently, and lead her into the joys of Christ. I remain in the ministry today with all of the burdens it has placed upon my family in large part because my wife is supportive and on board with this calling. She is a wonderful, godly Christian woman and no doubt used by God in a powerful way to help me be much more the man than I could ever be without her. On my part, and more than ever as a bi-vocational pastor, I need to lead and encourage her in the faith.
Robert Truelove, Pastor
Christ Reformed Church
In the relatively short span of my lifetime the evangelical world has witnessed a resurgence of the doctrines of grace among Baptist in America and abroad. Among those who adhere to the five points of Calvinism has been a subset of churches who call themselves Particular Baptist, Confessional Baptists, or Reformed Baptist (I sometimes call them capital ‘R’ Reformed to showcase our confessionalism as opposed to “New Covenant Theology” Baptist who sometimes take the moniker reformed Baptist). When I speak of Reformed Baptist I am addressing those churches who hold in principal and in practice substantial agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Over the past 25 years I’ve been pastoring, I have seen the Lord bless our little ‘tribe’. There was a time when I think I knew the name of every Reformed Baptist Church in the US and at least one of their pastors. There have been so many churches planted and so many churches embracing not just Calvinism, but Confessionalism that I can no longer keep up. With these blessings have also come some concerns. I have not only witnessed churches birthed, but churches die. I have seen prominent men fall from their positions of esteem through gross sin. I have seen pockets of division (which I will address in part four of this series) erect walls of suspicion among brethren who ought to walk together. I’ve also seen some questioning the doctrines and practices they once proclaimed with power.
In part one I discussed the issue of leadership and the need to see young men not only raised up with gifts and graces for gospel ministry but also men with the Confessional convictions which have marked Particular Baptists for centuries. In this blog I want to address the issue of second and third generation fatigue. I mean this both doctrinally and practically. Reformed Baptist Churches have not only been marked by doctrinal convictions, but they have been marked, by and large, with a serious practical commitment of churchmanship that was expressed in ways that are increasingly out of step with our contemporary evangelical and even Reformed setting.
This tendency to fatigue over doctrine and practice among a second or third generation is something addressed repeatedly in the scriptures. One generation fights ‘for the land’ and a second generation is raised in the land. The new generation doesn’t remember the war. They don’t bear the scars. They didn’t feel the cost of church planting or even moving so that you could be in a setting where you could worship according to your convictions–it’s all simply been given to them. I see second and third generation Reformed Baptist who have embraced Christ and have, thankfully, been desirous to stay within the ecclesiastical framework of their youth. They want not only to be disciples, but Reformed Baptist. I bless the Lord for this. I also desire to see the fervent conquering, giving, self denying spirit that marked the previous generation grip them as well. Though the foundations may have been laid and the walls built up by their parents and grandparents, there is still land to conquer, enemies to defeat, and advances to seek after. Though I realize that the commitment to all the stated meetings (on the Lord’s Day and gatherings for prayer) and to giving can devolve into legalism, I saw firsthand these commitments embraced with love, zeal, and passion. Will the rising generation embrace both the faith and practices that marked their parents? The zeal that planted churches? The zeal that meant folks turned down promotions for the sake of the church? The zeal that birthed family conferences and various associations of churches?
I close with this question to all who read these words: If everyone in your church had your level of commitment would your church thrive or fold? Or to put it another way, if my folks had my commitment, would this church ever be here in the first place?Jim Savastio, Pastor Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville Whither Reformed Baptist (Part 1) .