Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Tentmaking Pastor

My first book, The Tentmaking Pastor: The Joy of Bivocational Ministry, was published in 2000.  It was my attempt to add a resource to the few that existed at that time for bivocational ministers.  It told the story of my bivocational pastorate at Hebron Baptist Church that eventually lasted twenty years and what I learned during that time.  I also wanted something that would encourage those who were serving as bivocational ministers and those who might have been contemplating entering such ministry.  My working title was The Joy of Bivocational Ministry, and when the publisher changed the title I resisted.  That's when I learned that the publisher always has the right to name a book they are publishing.  The publisher did finally agree to use my title as the subtitle of the book.  The book has been out of print for a few years but is still available on Kindle.  I received an e-mail just this week from one who had recently read it and wanted to tell me how much it helped them.

After the book was released a fully-funded pastor friend of mine told me he could not see how bivocational ministry could be a joy.  He felt that he would be overwhelmed by all the demands that would be on him if he was bivocational.  It can be overwhelming at times, but as I point out in my various books, bivocational ministers must be masters at controlling their time and ensuring that the important areas of their lives are kept in balance.  It requires that one is clear as to what his or her primary responsibilities are and that focus is kept on those responsibilities.

Let me give one example.  Growing up, every pastor I had would take the kids from the church to our summer youth camp.  Since we often copy what we are familiar with when I became a pastor I decided that I needed to take our kids to camp.  I spent an entire Sunday afternoon getting the kids and their stuff together, taking them to camp, and then returned home in time to preach that night.  I was exhausted.  The pastors I had as a child all had the luxury of resting on Monday after such a day; I had to be at my factory job at 7:00 the next morning.  Being a slow learner the next year I took the kids to camp again, but that was my last time.  That was not my primary responsibility as a pastor so the next year I told the parents they would have to make arrangements to take their kids to camp and pick them up at the end of the week.  Everybody got to camp just fine, I was not as tired when I preached the evening service, nor was I as tired when I went to the work the next morning.

Any ministry will have its rough times, but I continue to say that my pastorate at Hebron was one of the most joyous times of my life.  Day to day it often felt like I was taking two steps forward and one step back, but when I'm able to get up on the balcony and look down over everything that occurred during those two decades I can see so many positive things that happened in people's lives.  Today, I can laugh at some of the dumb things I did as their pastor, but I can also see the times God used me to make a difference in a person's life.  I also know that ministry enriched my own life in more ways than I can count.

If you are currently serving as a bivocational minister, let me say to you, "Thank you for your willingness to follow God's call on your life."  I hope you know how important you are to your congregation and to the work of God's Kingdom.  You are one of my heroes because I know how challenging it can get at times.

If you sense that God might be calling you to this ministry, continue to pray, remain open to the possibility, and see what doors God might open for you.  The need for bivocational ministers is growing throughout most denominations, and I am convinced that God is calling men and women to meet that need.  If you believe that He is calling you, rejoice that God sees in you the gifts and abilities it takes to be a bivocational minister.  My prayer for you is that you will experience the same joy I have as a bivocational minister.  I would encourage you to read any of my books on bivocational and small church ministry as a way to learn about this ministry, and if you have a Kindle you may want to pick up the book that started my writing ministry.

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