Monday, August 06, 2007

Bi-vocational: what's your story?

Many of the early apostles were bi-vocational; they spent much of their time in ministry while also holding down another job or line of work in order to pay the bills and subsidize their work for the Lord as apostles, teachers, and pastors.

This is my story. In January I made the leap into full-time ministry. I have enjoyed a successful business career in both technology and most recently in real estate. However, I felt the call to be a minister and jumped at the opportunity.

The decision was an easy one. However, my wife and I had to figure out how to deal with the economic ramifications involved in making this significant career move. One thing we very quickly decided to do was to make several changes to our lifestyle and sell off assets. But, we have a relatively large family and even after making the changes we knew that we still needed additional income in order to pay the bills and feed all six of us (my older boys are 11 and 9 but eat like full-grown men).

God had been planning for this long before I had a clue. He had transitioned me 5 years earlier from a corporate America job into the self-employed business of real estate. He also blessed me with a great network of clients. This was such a God thing because I have been able to transition my real estate business from a full-time to a part-time occupation while at the same time going into the ministry as my primary job. I no longer focus on building my real estate business and it only requires a handful of hours each week, but God uses it to help me pay the bills. I firmly believe God is using it to fund his work as I am able to focus on kingdom activities. This bi-vocational thing also allowed my church to hire me and keep me employed without breaking the bank and feeling the entire responsibility for providing for my financial needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if God would someday provide such a huge commission from a real estate transaction or two that I could reduce my income from the church. That would be simply awesome.

Now listen, Paul stated very clearly that a minister is worth his wage. I am not advocating that ministers should not be paid for their work.

If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?- 1 Cor. 9:11

However, Paul also was very careful to not be a financial burden on anyone during his ministry. You see, Paul was bi-vocational and worked as a tent maker in order to fund his missionary work.
But I have not used any of these rights…If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. – 1 Cor. 9:15 & 17
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. – 1 Thes. 2:9
Some ministers subsidize their day jobs as writers and make a little extra money selling books. I sell a house here and there. What about you? If you are bi-vocational, in ministry and something else, please let me know. I would be curious to hear your story.


Gord said...

Eric, thanks for this post. It's nice to see God working in your life in a similar fashion to mine.
Want to hear my story? Well, here goes. I am not yet in full-time ministry but plan to be shortly. However, my story is not dissimilar to yours.

I came to Christ in October 2000 and haven't looked back. Since then, God has called me into full-time ministry and I have been working towards that ever since. This journey began in 2003 when I entered Bible College. At the time, my wife and I were worried about how we would keep up economically while I studied full-time. Well, God had arranged things well before I was aware of it. He made it possible for me to work from home designing homes for a local home design firm. This has enabled us to continue living well and to prepare me for full-time ministry. My wife has had opportunity also to pursue her own career as a screen-printer. God is so good and very faithful. I have one year of college left and we have not been overly burdened. I will be left with a small student loan to pay off and we have actually prospered through this whole process. Yes, God is amazing. I will enter full-time ministry with a deepened faith in God and a renewed confidence that he is in control and knows what he is doing in my life. To God be all the glory! Amen.

Anonymous said...

Great post Eric.
I am in the precess of looking for a part-time job to help my family out. I worked in the airline Business for over 12 years, and was planning on becoming a lifer!
I fought with God for over a year, because He wanted me in full-time Ministry and i thought He was crazy. After a year He won!
My salery was cut in half.
I have worked in our Children's Ministry for alost 10 years and almost 2 years full time. I love my job though there are many challenges to be worked out. God has taken care of my family so far, and i believe He will continue to do so. I have also started school again, online. unfortuantly i have to realy on loans for a couple of years until i can prove i can't afford it. Then i can qualify for some grants as well as scholarships. It is tough though, because most grants and schoalrships require you to be in school fulltime.
We have also made some bad decisions with our monsy and have to work on fixing them.
I have never complained about the pay. God is good! And i know ther eis a reason why i am doing what i am doing, though it may not be 100% clear to me yet.
God Bless