Ed Stetzer says that being bivocational is not a penalty, but an opportunity. I can now affirm this to be true. But I didn’t always see it this way.
Ten years ago, at the age of 20, I left Bible college early for two reasons: marriage and ministry. Our lead pastor and planter—a bivocational teacher at the time—had cast a compelling vision to start a church-planting movement in Saskatoon and the rest of the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.
I chose to become an electrician, but by the end of my first week, I was ready to quit. I questioned whether I’d made the wrong choice by not completing my theology degree and entering full-time ministry.
But over time, things began to change. As my wife and I prayed and sought counsel, God made it clear that being bivocational was the right decision. Construction would be my tent-making ministry as I interned with Grace Fellowship Church. And as my skills in my trade grew, so did the opportunities for the gospel.
As a church planter, my vocation has taken me places for Christ where my pastoral credentials could not.
God has used my work to bear fruit in our city, and in the wider province. I am now being sent to lead our third church plant in Saskatoon, and yet I have chosen to remain bivocational. Here are three reasons why.
In our local community, we strive to show that we can work hard among the people. This is not—and shouldn’t be—a distraction from the gospel. We want to show people what a life of obedience to Jesus looks like as we work, raise a family, and live as ordinary citizens. All of this is part of planting churches. Indeed, Paul taught and modeled this kind of work ethic:
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you. Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thess. 3:7–9)
This work ethic has led to a greater respect and credibility among our neighbors. As pastors and church planters, we seek to model how the gospel shapes every aspect of life. As we do this, we’re commending Christ to a broken world.
But bivocational ministry is about more than simply being an example. “For the sake of the gospel” was Paul’s motivation (1 Cor. 9:22–23). He ordered his life around reaching the lost. A construction job has been one of my “for the sake of the gospel” opportunities. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside all kinds of people. And as I’ve done so, I’ve been able to build intentional relationships with them. In the context of these relationships I’m able to speak about Christ.
Two years ago, I started working at a school. I was trained by Terry, an older man who quickly became a friend. He was 64 years old and set to retire soon. Incredibly successful in his career, he was well-known and respected around the province.
As our relationship developed, I began to share the gospel with him. Initially, Terry wanted nothing to do with Jesus, but he respected my views. But then tragedy struck in his life. Six weeks after we started working together, he discovered he had cancer. He had to stop working to receive treatment.
By God’s grace—months later and after many conversations—Terry came to faith in Jesus Christ. He joined our church for a short season, and the last time I saw him was at a prayer night. Terry died as a Christian at 65 years of age, only weeks after retiring. His life—and his eternity—were radically altered by the all-sufficient grace of God.
His family asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral. In front of his friends and family—and dozens of our co-workers—I was able to share the message that had transformed his life. As a result, another co-worker has come to faith in Jesus, and one more is seriously considering the hope of the gospel.
3. Open Doors
My current career is to set up skilled-trades programs that train First Nations people, like myself, for employment. I’m now a service provider for many businesses in my city and province. I travel around the province to network and build relationships with people from different backgrounds, particularly those from First Nations communities.
Recently, I was asked to go and represent my school in a remote fly-in community in northern Saskatchewan. The town had suffered from a high number of suicides in recent months, so we were commissioned to speak to the high-school students and offer hope through education. While I did speak about the benefits of good education, I was also able to share about true hope found only in Jesus Christ.
My job gives me countless opportunities to share the gospel—unique opportunities I wouldn’t have if I weren’t bivocational.
My job gives me countless opportunities to share the gospel—unique opportunities I wouldn’t have if I weren’t bivocational. God continues to grant opportunities to “give a reason for the hope that is in me” (1 Pet. 3:15).
As a church planter, my vocation has taken me places for Christ where my pastoral credentials could not. Bivocational ministry propels us in our mission to plant gospel-centered churches in every neighborhood, town, city and First Nations community in our province. It’s not easy, and there certainly are costs to being bivocational. But we press on—working hard, trusting God, and planting churches for his glory.
- The Dilemma of a Bivocational Pastor (Darryl Williamson)