We have traditionally thought of a bivocational pastor as one serving in a church, usually a smaller church, that could not afford to pay the salary and benefits required of a fully-funded pastor. This typically continues to be the case, but there are some interesting changes taking place in bivocational ministry.
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, recently wrote a very interesting article on what he calls marketplace pastors. You can read his article and the various comments he received here. Marketplace pastors are bivocational ministers with one important difference. They are often found in churches that can, and sometimes do, pay a fully-funded salary. These pastors are bivocational by choice because they find opportunities to share the gospel in their other careers.
Rainer lists eight characteristics of these marketplace pastors. Some of them are very similar to those of the traditional bivocational pastor such as their ability to enjoy a long tenure in their church, the freedom they feel to deal with critics, and their capacity to assume numerous responsibilities.
However, there are some significant differences. Perhaps the most noticeable difference will be the size of church these pastors will serve. Rainer says that the greatest concentration of these pastors will be in churches with worship attendance ranging from 1,000 to 1,999. Obviously, they will not be serving as solo pastors!
My wife's doctor pastors a church in our community, and Rainer sees this becoming more common. Doctors, lawyers, business leaders, and other professionals will be serving as marketplace pastors. This means that their level of education will be greater than found in many who serve in a bivocational setting, but they will still need theological training which they likely will receive online.
Like Rainer, I see this as a healthy trend in our churches. It brings a new energy and perspective to pastoral leadership in the church. Even in a large church setting the pastor is more engaged with the public, and this can be a very positive thing for the health and growth of the church.
We are living in a time where the church is undergoing tremendous change. This trend towards marketplace pastors could be one of those changes that God is introducing to the church. While many churches would not find this appealing, it might be wise for those churches seeking new pastoral leadership to consider if calling a marketplace pastor might be God's plan for them.