The following is from an article I published this evening on LinkedIn. I’m just now starting to take advantage of that social networking medium, so if you have any suggestions, let me know 🙂
Heads Up: I’m working on a new book, and this article is a hint of what’s to come.
Means to a Calling
How familiar is the term “bi-vocational” to you? If you are a member of a small church, or if you are a pastor of one, then you are very familiar with the term. However, judging by the uninformed comments on social media (those slamming ministers who ask for millions of dollars to buy new jets), it would seem that much of the public is unaware that the good majority of small-church pastors are bi-vocational – which means they have to work more than one job.
I am a bi-vocational pastor; I’ve been one my whole ministerial life. Even though I have a seminary degree, even receiving the Theology Award when I earned my Masters in Ministry, I still serve a church that cannot afford to compensate a full-time pastor. Unlike many assumptions, this is more of the norm these days, not the exception. Gone are the days when a young man entering ministry could expect to earn his primary living from the ministry. Now, even the most educated and qualified ministers leaving Bible schools and seminaries should also have a skill with which they can find a job to put food on the table and pay the rent.
In Acts 18:1-3 we read of the apostle Paul’s bi-vocational trade. Upon coming to the city of Corinth he met up with a husband-and-wife team named Priscilla and Aquila who “were of the same craft” and lived with them, for “they were tentmakers.” In a general sense, tentmaking was not what Paul was known for, nor was it his primary calling in life; he was an apostle to the Gentiles. However, even this great man chose (even though he could have expected otherwise) to keep up a skill which helped fund his personal ministry. After all, there weren’t many places where he could go preach where people took up large offerings to give him afterwards; in many cases all he got was a beating.
So, even though the ministerial climate in America is much different than what Paul endured, there is still a need for pastors and ministers to be able to support themselves when those they serve have little to offer in return. There is nothing wrong with a pastor earning his living from the ministry, and Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 9:13 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18. However, church attendance is on a decline across the board and overall giving is not what it used to be; therefore most ministers must supplement their calling with other income. That is why I am writing this article: my job, my own version of “tentmaking,” is not a means to an end; it’s a means to a calling.
Over the forty-five years I have literally had…don’t be shocked…forty-two different jobs! Never mind, you can be shocked – that’s a lot. Now, many of those were part-time jobs that overlapped, but since my first job as a young, teenage preacher, I’ve done around forty different things in order to facilitate what God has called me to do. Granted, even though much of what I have done in the “secular” world has, in some ways, been ministry, none of what I’ve done…no label I’ve ever worn…no title I’ve ever had…has been the main thing I’ve desired to do. All I want to do is preach the gospel and be an under shepherd to the Great Shepherd’s sheep.
Today, and hopefully until the day when I can no longer work – or don’t have to – I am an agent with a great company, Aflac. For the ten previous years I drove a school bus and trained new bus drivers. Driving the school bus allowed me to be a positive influence on children and affect future generations, but Aflac will now give me the opportunity to be a servant of Christ by example and deed in the grown-up world of business and insurance. I will be able to help people protect themselves against financial hardship in the event of accidents and/or illnesses, help businesses take care of their employees and keep good talent while decreasing their tax burden, and most importantly keep food on the table as I serve the Lord’s people and the community in which we have been placed.
If you can introduce me to a business owner or decision maker, I would surely appreciate it! In doing so you will not only help my business to grow, but you will be helping me help others in more ways than you can know. With your help we can “make more tents,” but that won’t be all; the job is just a means to the calling. In reality, bi-vocational ministry is more than having a second job, it’s part of the calling, too.
Email me at Anthony_Baker@us.aflac.com for more information on how Aflac can help you 🙂