I’ve spent most of my ministry in Church Planting, which has required a bivocational approach. I’ve had side hustles as a fireman and a commercial janitor, and the part-time and now full-time rolls as denominational strategist. For the Bivocational Preacher, time is always a challenge. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from 20 years of Bivocational Preaching:
1. Read through the Bible systematically and make outlines
Your devotional time should be separate from your sermon preparation. However, your devotional time should FEED your sermon preparation. As you follow Jesus, by spending time in His word and prayer, journal your thoughts, outline the texts that jump out at you, and develop a system where you’ll remember where that outline and those thoughts were for when you come to that passage in your preaching.
I love the story of the old preacher that was asked by the young preacher, “How long did it take you to prepare that sermon?” The old preacher said, “About 35 years.”
The older I get, the more my preaching benefits from a systematic reading through the Bible every year.
2. Get a handle on a few solid and simple tools
Sermon prep tools are plentiful. Bible software, commentaries, websites, etc. Most preachers love study, so we can get bogged down with so many tools. As a bivocational pastor I’ve had to cut through my love for the bells and whistles and pull together fewer and simpler tools for each sermon and series. Usually two commentaries, a free online interlinear tool, a Bible Handbook and Dictionary, and my devotional feeds do the trick for me.
This also helps me with one of my goals in preaching. I don’t want anyone to walk away from a sermon I preach and say, “I could never do that.” Simple tools that you can pass along to others for a small costs keeps the preaching ministry of the church reproducible.
3. Have a system for recording quotes, illustrations, and ideas
The morning paper for most of us has moved online. Preachers need a system for collecting data, articles, and quotes that we come across throughout our online lives. D.L. Moody did this with newspapers and books, amassing a collection of quips and illustrations that fathoms the mind. There are numerous online clipping tools and places for storing ideas. I like the Evernote Webclipper. It allows you to create categories and tags for easy location by topic later. I also follow hundreds of blogs and feeds daily in Feedly. Feedly allows you to save articles by categories for easy location by topic later as well. I also subscribe to Preaching Today for $69 per year, which includes an archive of illustrations from the news and history. There are other subscription based services that can be utilized as well.
4. Start preparing early
Monday morning is key to a prepared sermon. If I don’t have at least a rough outline by the end of the day Monday, I’m behind on the sermon the rest of the week. Ideally you can get two – four weeks out. And I recommend preaching series of sermons, where a team can be utilized in planning and the big ideas for the series along with the major tools to be utilized are planned out months in advance.
Smoked meat is the best tasting of all. The key to delicious smoked meat is TIME. Like that, I like to get my sermon outlines done far enough in advance (2-4 weeks) to give them time to fill with flavor and soak in thoroughly. A great Sunday for me is actually, a sermon that soaked for at least two weeks and delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then heading home to pull some delicious beef, pork, or turkey out of the smoker. Yes!
5. Commit 30 minutes to 1 hour everyday
When you’re bivocational, often time does not allow for 4-6 hours of preparation at once. I try to budget 30 minutes to 1 hour each day for a “Sermon Look.” Take a look at your outlines, pray over them, consider any current events or news or quotes to include. For me, this mean getting up extra early or staying at the computer for an extra 30 minutes to an hour. I also like to include discussing the passage with my wife and kids, and maybe a few trusted friends, throughout the week to get their perspective and help me in thinking through communication of the truths to real people.
6. Depend on God’s Power
It’s usually when I’m least prepared and when I feel the delivery was the poorest, that someone comes up and says, “This message changed my life!” What?!?! This always reminds me, that it’s God’s work to use his messengers how he sees fit. All the preparation in the world can’t overcome the spiritual war we’re facing when we stand and proclaim God’s word. We need his power, his presence. To depend on ourselves is to fail in this task.
What other tips and tricks do you know that can help us Bivocational Preachers?
72,000 drug overdoses in 2017. So this happens almost 200 times per day in the United States. Every overdose is someone’s Charlie. Stop the spiral by taking initiative to love, speak up, pray, get involved, and help restore those being caught up in this horrible nightmare experienced by too many families.
Bivocational ministry is an approach to ministry that includes the pastor or ministry holding a full-time or part-time job, along with a ministry position in a church or ministry of some kind. This has become a big conversation in North America as less money for ministry is available due to less percentage giving by church members, higher maintenance and facility cost, and an emphasis on church planting, which at least 50% of the time requires a bivocational approach. I’ve been bivocational for most of my ministry, holding down side hustles as a fireman, janitor, teacher, and now a full-time denominational strategists. In Louisiana, where I serve, I know pastors and church planters who do everything from rocket science to handy man work. It’s getting to where, talking to a Pastor, the conversation is not IF he is bivocational, but WHAT does he do on the side to make ends meet.
I believe Bivocational ministry will continue to grow as churches decline and new churches are planted. Here’s a few Pros and Cons for Bivocational ministry:
1. It’s Biblical. At least for apostolic, church planting type leaders; a bivocational ministry approach puts you on firm Biblical grounds. The foundation is the Apostle Paul who served as a tent maker, and while he sought and taught the churches the necessity of paying the pastor, did not demand salary for his ministry of church planting and leading the movement that became Christianity in the 1st century.
2. It’s a Reproducible Model. If reproduction is the goal, then accepting a bivocational approach as normative will be necessary. It’s reproducible because there are so many people that already have jobs they love, while wanting to engage in fruitful ministry. So equipping those with the gifts of teaching, leadership, apostleship to plant churches along side their day jobs is something we must aim for.
3. Ministers can serve the church without being dependent on the church for income. Pastors can feel hand tied by the need to make tough decisions and the need to keep people attending and giving. A bivocational minister with a full-time income is freed completely from this arrangement. The minister is also able to be an example of Biblical stewardship from the same perspective as those he leads.
4. The church can have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. The cost of personnel and facilities is often 65% to 80% of a churches budget. This leaves small amounts for the work of the church and the needs of the world. Take out the personnel line and it can drastically reduce that percentage and free up money for fruitful ministry.
5. Every member ministry is affirmed. When the pastor and staff are bivocational, every member is needed to make ministry happen. The gifts of the people are not something we consider once per year when the nominating committee is meeting. The gifts of the people are desperately needed for every week. The pastor needs to be freed up to use his limited time (due to being employed 25-40 hours per week) to prepare sermons, seek God’s will for the vision of the church, and reaching the lost. To work, churches with bivocational approaches must mobilize every one for ministry.
What about the Cons? If your pastor is bivocational here is what to expect:
- Things may move slower than churches down the road. Idea implementation may take a little longer because there isn’t people working on implementation for 40 hours each week. Bivocational / Every Member Ministry churches move at the speed of the team, not the speed of the pastor.
- The pastor WILL feel inadequate and struggle with his time. Most bivocational pastors would love to have more time for the ministry and may be working toward that. And they feel the pressure of comparison to larger churches with staff. He must take up the task of mobilization and the people must take up the task of affirmation and servanthood.
- The church must manage expectations of the role of the Bivocational Pastor and the work of the church. The pastor may not be the first one there when something happens. The church may not move as fast as the churches with full-time staff. But if everyone uses their gifts and the expectations are right for the situation, bivocational churches can grow and thrive in any community.
When talking about new churches, I prefer the term church multiplication. Why? Most churches lack margin and without margin they can’t afford financially or people wise to believe that they can help plant another church. It’s an option for one day IF we are able. But multiplication is a must for every church and a path to every church getting involved in planting new churches. Every church, to be healthy, MUST multiply. We must multiply ON-CAMPUS through new disciples, servant-leaders, groups, and ministries. Then multiplication in a healthy church WILL move OFF-CAMPUS through multiplication of ministries, outreach events, missions partnerships, AND new congregations in some form.
Start multiplying and you will be a church planting church.
How do we start?
- Multiply New Disciples by sharing the gospel and bringing new people into the kingdom. Train your church in personal evangelism and lead them to see their community as a mission field.
- Multiply New Servant-leaders by having a monthly leadership development round table for existing and potential leaders. Begin a mentoring relationship with teachable and hungry disciples.
- Multiply New Ministries by looking at the needs in the body that are currently not being met and commission a leader or team to tackle the need.
- Multiply Off-Campus Ministries and Outreaches by asking the question “Where is the church not?” Look for opportunities like local multi-housing communities, local nursing homes, local compassion oriented agencies, etc.
- Multiply Mission Partnerships by planning an annual mission trip, a vision tour to an underserved part of your state or region, co-sponsoring a new church in your area or state, etc.
Multiplying at these levels will lead to growth, health, and the hunger to keep the multiplication going at every level, including new communities where a church or campus may be needed.
Our churches have powerful music, powerful equipment, powerful social media reach, powerful preaching, powerful history, etc., etc. All of this is nothing with the power of God. It’s God’s power that turns hearts and opens the eyes of unbelievers. It’s God’s power that opens doors into our communities. It’s God’s power that multiplies the gifts of people for radical service and generosity. This weekend our church prayed through five areas in church life where we need God’s power and that make us powerful together. Pray these for your church:
1. UNITY OF MISSION AND PURPOSE – “that they all be one…” This was Jesus’ prayer for the church in John 17:21. And he tied it to the mission and power of the church when he said “so that the world may believe.” Powerful churches are united in purpose and mission. Pray for Unity among believers and unity of mind and purpose in your local body.
2. MATURITY AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH – “I pray that… he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” In this prayer in Ephesians 3:16-18, Paul linked power and spiritual growth as he prayed for the church. A church is known by God and will be known by the community by the lives of its growing disciples. Pray for maturity and spiritual growth among believers in your church.
3. PASSION FOR THE LOST – A powerful church will have a passion for the lost. Paul makes this statement regarding the lost in his community – “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation” Romans 10:1. He went on to say that he would be willing to forfeit his own salvation if they may be saved. This is the kind of passion that lit the fire of evangelism that changed the world. Pray that your church will have a passion, burden for the lost.
4. LEADERS AND LABORERS – Jesus asked us to join him in praying for laborers in Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2. In many of our churches, the 80-20 principle (20% of the people, do 80% of the work) has given way to the 90-10 or 95-5 principle. And with still millions of people without access to the gospel, we desperately need to pray with Jesus for laborers for the harvest.
5. ONE ANOTHER – One of the 44 commands that include the phrase “one another” in the New Testament is the command to “pray for one another” James 5:16. A powerful church is a praying church. Our prayer list and our prayer meetings should be filled with prayer for those around us. As we pray for each other we feel invested in the growth and health of each others lives. This helps us grow deeper in our love and concern for each other. And as we see God work in answer to our prayers, we grow more convinced of God’s power and that others need to experience what we’ve found in Christ and in the fellowship of believers.
A powerful church is a praying church that is unified, maturing, passionate for the lost, developing leaders, and putting the needs of others first.
Added a couple of things to my devotional time this year that has made an impact. Along with the One Year Bible Plan on Youversion.com in the mornings…
1. Scripture Memory with the Scripture Typer App –https://scripturetyper.com/. Love this app! Check it out. Redeeming some of my time spent reading social media with this!
2. A little bit of Church History every day. Church History fills our lives with stories of courage and conviction from those who have gone before us. Places to start:
- Book: On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes by Robert J. Morgan
- Book: 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Spiritual Giants of the Faith by Warren Wiesbe. Listening to one of these each morning while exercising.
- Email: Subscribe to Daily Emails from the Christian History Institute – https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/today
What is helping you GREAUX in your Life in Christ this year?
I experienced a first this week. I ran out of gas in my vehicle while driving on the Interstate. Having never ran out of gas, I was thankful for a few things:
- I had a friend with me. Carlos Schmidt was with me to experience the emotions of the moment (laughter) and help me brainstorm next steps. My friend walked with me and told me about similar experiences he and others had along the way.
- I wasn’t far from a Gas station. I was a short 1/2 mile walk from the nearest gas station, so I didn’t have to call and wait for my insurances road side assistance or some other service to get some help. Replenishment was in sight.
- There were people that offered help, even though I didn’t need it. Those along the way did see my need and offered help, which gave the valuable feeling of other options being available, should I need them. It was great to experience caring individuals that were kind enough to show concern.
- It only took a little bit to get my truck back rolling again. I bought a small jug, filled it with two gallons of gas and my truck was back on the road. I just needed a little fuel to get going again.
I thought of times in life when I was spiritually and emotionally out of gas as well. What I needed was a friend, a nearby place to replenish, to know others care, and just a little bit of fuel (encouragement, correction, admonishment, compassion, resources, etc.). I also thought of those around me that are spiritually and emotionally out of gas. I hope I can be and that I can equip others to be:
- A friend to walk along with them.
- A place of replenishment and fresh air.
- A caring, concerned neighbor.
- A source of fuel to get them back on the road again.
Grateful for these people in my life. May their tribe increase.
I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about church buildings. From older churches trying to rethink their 1960’s built classrooms to new churches trying to fit the nursery into a school hallway. Buildings are important to churches. I wish it weren’t so sometimes. Because they are SO EXPENSIVE! And a church building eats money 7 days per week, when most churches use it 2-3 days per week. Being Portable is a good option to cut cost, but even portable church doesn’t guarantee effective contextualized ministry in a community or the multiplication of disciples. Often times pastors express to me the limitations of the building to ministry and multiplication.
What guidance can we find in the New Testament for the use of buildings for church? Not much. The idea of building a church for worship, etc. had not come into its own yet. We see homes, parties, synagogues (Jewish teaching centers), mountainsides, the Jewish Temple, and lake shores utilized for the ministry of Jesus and the local church. And then one of my favorite spaces mentioned in the Bible is “the Hall of Tyrannus” in Acts 19:8-10:
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, arguing and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
We don’t know a lot about this lecture hall, but what we do know can give us some principles of thinking Biblically about buildings.
- It was a Public Place – I’ve written about the need for churches to be located in familiar, visible locations HERE. This Hall was evidently in the city center and a well-known place.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Gather – Paul took the disciples from the synagogue, where they were unwelcomed, to this hall where he could train them further in evangelism and life on mission. It was a place for gathering disciples.
- It was a Place to Interact with Unbelievers – Non-believers were invited in and comfortable with this space. Discussions were held that no doubt served to evangelize the lost and equip the saved.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Be Sent Out – All of Asia heard the word of the Lord! Wow! That’s serious multiplication. Who was spreading this word? And without radio, podcast, live streaming? No doubt, those who were being equipped and train by Paul and others at the Hall.
The Hall of Tyrannus was a building that made possible the exponential multiplication of disciples. That should be the goal for every church and the hope of every church building project or meeting space.
What challenges does your current gathering space offer for the multiplication of disciples? Number 1 and 3 are most likely challenges for many churches today.
How can you make your church building more of a public space that is useful to the whole community? A few ideas:
- Starting a Daycare, MOPS, or Mother’s Day Out Program
- Starting a coffee shop or diner
- Opening the building for after school programs
- Holding public forums, training events for the community
- Moving into a public space like a gym or a movie theater or school for worship
How can you make your church building a place to interact with today’s unbelievers? Stained glass and steeples are not the answer that they used to be for people experiencing life. A few ideas:
- Think through service times and styles. Later services are easier for young and unchurched families to attend.
- Offer discussion forums for people with questions about life and God. Check out Life Tree Cafe for starter ideas on how to do this.
- Start compassion ministry that deals with real life issues for unchurched people in your community like addiction, teen addiction, poverty, divorce care, grief care, etc. Get started on exploring needs and resources for compassion ministry here.
What ideas do you have for making church buildings more effective in multiplying disciples? What other takeaways from Paul’s use of the Hall of Tyrannus can you share?
New Orleans is extremely important to Louisiana & our efforts to reach & resource churches there should be of highest priority.
- 21% of the Population of Louisiana live in the New Orleans Baptist Association’s five parishes. (991,000 is the latest estimate)
- Includes Louisiana’s second largest & most diverse Parish – Jefferson
- Louisiana’s largest metro area, with over 1.2 Million living in the Governments statistical area.
- One of the United States’ most influential ports & tourism industries.
- And an often quoted fact: the North American Mission Board’s original charter mentions the necessity of reaching New Orleans.
How are we doing at reaching the Big Easy?
- Church to Population Ratio: 1/7,929. Our state goal is to see every association at 1/2,850.
- % of the Population attending Worship in an SBC Church: Only 2.1%. (Hard to estimate as only about 60% of the church fill out an ACP – Annual Church Profile)
- % Evangelical Population: 11% (according to thearda.com).
- Unaffiliated Population (Nones): 432,270 (according to thearda.com)
The churches of New Orleans have endured much & are a strong lot that do great work reaching its population. And the story God has began writing through church planting over the last few years, in my opinion, is historic & amazing.
- In 2012, New Orleans became a Send City in the North American Mission Board’s Send City Strategy & George Ross became the Send City Coordinator.
- In May 2013, we held the first Send City Strategy meeting at Celebration Church to coordinate strategy & try to open a door for church planting to make a difference in the area.
- Since that time, 43 new churches have been planted. 57 since 2010 when our current state strategy began.
- Louisiana Baptists have now gone over $2 million of cooperative funding invested in New Orleans for Church Planting since the beginning of Send New Orleans in 2012. Not including NAMB or Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering grants for startup & building renovation cost.
- A wide door of opportunity has indeed opened for the next generation of churches to be planted in New Orleans.
New Orleans is a tough place to minister & we have some incredible young families laboring to plant literally in some of Louisiana’s toughest neighborhoods. I’m inspired by their courage & hard work & pray for them by name on a weekly basis.
Follow much of what is happening in church planting in New Orleans on the Send New Orleans Facebook page. And you can get info on our planters in New Orleans by checking out the Planter profiles at NAMB.net.