Monday, April 20, 2009


This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching a revival meeting for a friend of mine who serves as a bivocational pastor in Kentucky. The services Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night were all well attended by members and visitors. Their hospitality was great. They made me feel they had known me all their lives even though it was the first time I had ever been at their church.

I was very impressed by a number of things about this congregation. Although it is a small, rural church it is very involved in their community. Lay leaders in the church lead worship services at a nearby campground in the summer. The church supports an effort to reach out to the growing Hispanic population in the county. It is involved in numerous denominational and associational activities, and approximately 50% of its income goes to denominational and local mission efforts! Their worship was uplifting with a good mix of contemporary and traditional music. It was also very obvious to me that the people were evangelistic minded and want to reach their community with the gospel.

At a time when so many churches, both bivocational and fully-funded, are satisfied with the status quo, it was exciting to see this bivocational church attempting to do new ministries in its community. Just because a church is bivocational does not mean that it can not have effective ministries that touch more people than just those who gather within the four walls of the church building each week. This is a church that understands it can't do everything, but it can do more than many people believe a small church can do. It is willing to stretch itself for the cause of Christ, and people's live are being changed because of it.

Your church can't do everything, and it shouldn't try. But, it can do far more than many people, including some within your congregation, believes it can. I am convinced that God can use churches that are willing to stretch themselves and move outside their comfort zones. I encourage you to look around your community and see where your congregation could make a difference. Just identify one or two things that could have an impact on your community and begin to challenge persons within your church to identify creative ways your church could meet those needs. Begin to put that creativity into operation and see what God does with it! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter in a small church

It's been nearly a week since Easter Sunday, and I've thought back several times at the services I attended. On Palm Sunday one association had their final Lenten service. Only one of the dozen or so churches in this association are led by fully-funded pastors; the rest are smaller bivocational churches. They had been meeting in different churches each Sunday evening during the Lenten season, and this was their final service. An association choir had been working on a Cantata for this evening. The service was going great until about half-way through the Cantata when the electricity went out. The entire sanctuary went dark, and the music stopped playing. The choir never stopped singing and completed their presentation although the lights never did come back on. It was comical watching the choir twist and turn trying to pick up whatever light they could find so they could read their music, but they finished the Cantata. Enough candles were brought into the sanctuary that we were able to share in Communion as well. I went home blessed by being there.

Easter morning my wife and I visited one of the churches in my Area that is also a small, rural congregation led by a bivocational pastor. He was a deacon in that church for many years, and a respected farmer in the community. When the church was looking for a new pastor a few years ago he asked my opinion about him stepping into that role. He did and has had a very good ministry there. Their choir performed a mini-Cantata and he preached a very clear message about the resurrection. My wife and talked all the way home how glad we were that we attended services in that church this year.

I have attended an Easter program in a mega-church that brought in donkeys, camels, and a cast of hundreds of people. It was an incredible experience, but I found these two simple services were just as meaningful. If you think about it, not much needs to be added to the resurrection story. It is a story of a God who loves us more than we often love ourselves. His Son was willing to die so that we might live, and He offers that life to each of us. It is a message that needs to be presented clearly and simply so that all who hear it can understand and respond.

Easter won't appear on our calendars now until next year, but that doesn't mean people won't need to hear that story until then. Every day you will encounter individuals who need the hope that the story of the resurrection brings. I encourage you to tell the story simply and clearly to all who need to hear it. May you pray each day for God to bring such people into your life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final paper completed

It's hard to believe I have not posted anything for nearly a month, but I have been swamped with papers for the two DMin classes I took earlier this year. The good news is that I finished the last paper for my last class yesterday! All I have left to do now is my thesis. While that is challenging enough, it doesn't have the deadlines all those papers had. I can relax a little and do some other things I enjoy doing.

So far this year I have led the "Healthy Small Church" workshop at three sites in Indiana for our region. Attendance has been much better than I anticipated, and the responses have been very positive. I'm scheduled to lead it one more time in the region, and then, hopefully, take it back on the road to other denominational and independent churches.

I am also scheduled to lead my "Transforming the Small Church" workshop later this summer for a gathering of the General Baptists in Evansville. I spoke at a couple of other events for them in 2000 and 2001, and I look forward to being with them again.

Bivocational ministry continues to be more accepted by many churches and denominational organizations, and I continue to believe we will see the number of bivocational churches grow in the future. Economics will drive a lot of that, but many smaller churches are also realizing that having a bivocational minister for a long-term is better than trying to find a student pastor who will only be with them for a year or two. The challenge will be in identifying sufficient numbers of persons whom God has called to this ministry and providing them with the training they will need to be effective. It is my prayer that the resources I have developed will help do that.