Friday, March 1, 2013

Bivocational ministry and ministry passion

There were many times in my twenty year bivocational pastorate that I felt exhausted.  There were so many demands on my time especially when I added school to my ministry and work.  As I explained in my book The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry, there were days when I felt like "Robo-Pastor."  Just push a button and out would pop a sermon.  Push another button and I would show up in a congregant's hospital room. During such times I was on autopilot.  There was little passion in my ministry.  I was also not very effective.

Passion in the ministry is an essential element for an effective ministry.  Such passion begins with one's call.  Peter Marshal once wrote, "The true minister is in his pulpit not because he has chosen that profession as an easy means of livelihood, but because he could not help it, because he has obeyed an imperious summons that will not be denied."  Not once during that twenty years did I ever doubt I was called to that place of service, and it was always helpful to return to that call when I began operating on autopilot.  When one relives the call of God on his or her life there springs up a renewed sense of passion for that ministry.

I found two primary obstacles to maintaining my passion for ministry.  The first was fatigue.  I often say that a bivocational minister can feel at times like a stray dog at a whistler's convention.  He or she doesn't know which way to go when there are so many people who need you.  One of the things I had to do was to learn how to build margin in my life so when emergencies did occur I had room in my life to address them.  One book I wish I had read early in my ministry was Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson.  As I began to implement the ideas found in that book I found it much easier to maintain balance in my life and reduce the times I felt fatigue.  Doing so also helped me maintain passion for what I was doing.

The other obstacle I often found that threatened to rob my of passion was pressure.  All ministers deal with various pressures in their ministries, and bivocational ministers have the added pressures associated with their other employment.  In my book mentioned above I discuss several ways to alleviate some of those pressures: developing friendships, meeting with other bivocational ministers, planning sermons in advance, knowing when to refer people to others when their problems are more than you are equipped to address, and developing a good self-image of yourself and your ministry.

One other thing we need to do when we feel the passion for our ministries is waning is to refocus on our relationship with God.  In the midst of ministry we can sometimes neglect our own personal walk with God.  We begin to neglect our Bible reading, our prayers, our times of meditation.  As the spiritual well becomes empty our passion for ministry decreases.  When we build ourselves up spiritually we often find that passion returns as well.

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