Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The call

Several years ago I attended a church conference led by a person who had a ministry to street children in New York City.  Having lived my entire life in a rural setting his story fascinated me as he told of some of the challenges he and his staff encountered trying to serve these children.  One comment he made has stayed with me for 30 years now.  He said that many Christians say they would do something if they felt called to do it, but his response to that was "The need is the call."  Rather than waiting for some thunderous voice from heaven or a burning bush we need to become more aware of ministry needs around us and respond to them.

I think of his comments when I think of the difficulty in finding people to serve as bivocational pastors.  When I work with the pastor search committee for a fully-funded church I can get 20-50 resumes from people who are interested in the position.  I'm lucky to have one or two names to give a search committee for a bivocational church.  Research in recent years have found that people are not interested in serving in smaller churches for a variety of reasons.  I understand the financial limitations of pastoring a smaller church and the sense a seminary graduate might have that such a church would not make the best use of his or her gifts, but what about the call?  When I felt called to the ministry these things didn't matter.  I only wanted a place to serve.  I heard about a church that needed a pastor, I sent them my resume, they called me, and I spent the next twenty years as their pastor.  Yes, it was a small struggling church when I went there, and most of their previous pastors had used it as a springboard to a "real" church, but these were people for whom Jesus Christ gave His life.  They deserved a pastor who would love them and lead them in the ministry God intended for them to have.

There are thousands of small, bivocational churches struggling to find pastors who would do the same thing.  One thing of which I am certain is that this has not caught God by surprise.  I am convinced that He is calling men and women to serve these churches, but too many of them are ignoring that call.  Bivocational ministry is very geographically based.  Few people are going to move from New York to be the bivocational pastor of a church in Wyoming.  That means that if you know of a bivocational church seeking a pastor in your area, and you are called to pastoral ministry, you need to prayerfully consider if this might be the need you are to meet.  There are wonderful opportunities to serve bivocational churches for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to them.  I pray you will be one who will hear.

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