Is Bivocational Ministry a Sin?

bivo ministryToday, I am going to give you a “behind the scenes” look at the life and thought process of a bivocational pastor. This category of minister is becoming more common, because we are seeing a fundamental change in the landscape of pastoral ministry. The economy is changing in a way so that many churches are not able to pay their pastor a full-time wage so they must seek employment outside of the church to support their family. It is nothing new, of course, because we know that missionaries have been doing this very thing for hundreds of years. Traditionally, we see this type of ministry done in a church with a smaller membership. The reason for this is obvious; a lack of funding. I am a bivocational pastor, and I know many of them. I don’t often hear complaints about living this lifestyle from the clergy themselves. It is necessary and most are happy to do it (albeit tired) if it means being able to give more to the church, and support their family.

Bivocational ministry can be a great blessing to the Kingdom of God. Through this method, pastors can directly interact with people in the workplace that they may not normally get to minister to. Clergy then can be immersed missionaries in all environments, and embed themselves in just about any context. These are positive aspects to this lifestyle.

Are there any negatives to living this way? Well…unfortunately there are downfalls. Pastors get tired, and as much as we can say that they need to be solely sustained by their calling, it does not negate the fact that our physical bodies and emotional capacities wear down over time. Members will sometimes become frustrated with their leader because the church may not be growing by a massive amount. Meanwhile, the minister is giving every ounce of energy they possess to two (or more) vocations and it can feel like running on a never-ending treadmill. While the pastor is at their day job, there may even be a person who needs them laying in a hospital bed, and their family is becoming frustrated because they have not yet had a visit. Often the answer is to demand more and more from the leader instead of stepping up to the plate.

Clergy that choose to live this life accept the fact that they must adapt to the needs of their position. Sometimes they drop the ball, or forget an important detail. There are times they want to say “no” because they just want one free night to themselves. At the same time, love and the desire for the broken to be healed compels them. It animates their dry bones. Changed lives ignite energy.

I have spoken with pastors who become very frustrated, because people have told them that they need to be more focused on the church and that they should quit their job and “trust God more” for finances. I would argue that this pastor should ask that wonderful parishioner to quit their job so they can volunteer at the church full-time, and see what they say. I digress. The fact is, there are many Christians who would never admit it, but by their actions, would consider bivocational ministry a sin. “Sin” of course being that which inconveniences them. What we forget is that every Christian is called to be a minister. Every believer is a missionary in their context.

Now, before I get angry emails and comments, I want to make it very clear, that I am very blessed to have a congregation that understands the costs and rewards of a pastor that is bivocational. I appreciate the fact that I can live this life with their support and encouragement.

Scripture tells us that even the Apostle Paul was a minister who worked a second job. He had an incredible passion for the Gospel. He did what God called Him to do. He looked forward and didn’t dwell in the past.

Is bivocational ministry a sin? Of course not. Let’s stop treating it that way.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Advertisements

Sometimes the Journey IS the point…

Hey folks!

Can you help me grow my new channel by subscribing to it through YouTube? I will post regular videos related to spiritual growth. I would love to have your help and support! Thank you!

Catching My Attention Part 4

In earlier blog posts, I have written about different organizations that have caught my attention in some way. These organizations have proved to be ones that exists for a purpose other than simply than the increase of revenue. On this list there are both nonprofit and for-profit businesses, and God is using them to bring about change in their local communities and even on a global scale. In fact, I now have a new page on this blog called “Honorable Mention” that is a running list of the companies that I have honored in this blog.

The two businesses I want to highlight today have been ones that I have done some kind of work for in the past…

1. Grace at Home– This company delivers primary care house calls to the homebound and the home-limited. From routine checkups to lab work, x-rays, EKGs and ultrasounds, Patients receive expert care, all from the comfort and safety of their home. You may have seen companies like this, but what makes this one unique is the Godly compassion that is shown regularly to their patients. (Okay….I may be bias about this one because it is actually the company I work for in my day job). Trust me….I would not feature this company on this blog if I truly did not believe in what they stand for.

2. Technology Recyclers– This company recycles electronics for residential and commercial clients all over Indiana. In most cases, they collect these objects for free (exception being the older TV’s that need special disposal). This company is guided by Christian principles and is known for hiring people who may find it difficult to get jobs in other places.

I hope you take some time to look at these websites. God is doing amazing things through these people…..not because they are making money, but they are honoring Him through their work.

The Real World

theaterMost pastors, at some point in their careers, seek jobs that simply pay the bills. Perhaps they have not found a church yet, or perhaps the church they are in is a volunteer situation. Either way…it is a common occurrence and these pastors know that this is what they must do at least for a season.

Years ago, I was hired to work in a hardware store. This is not my area of knowledge, so some of the products and their uses confused me. It was obvious that I was not going to be employee of the month any time soon. Tools, lumber, doors, windows, shutters, and locks were not things that really interested me. I was pretty good at making a sale though…I knew enough to talk about what I was selling to get them to the cash register.

On one occasion, there was an older woman who came into the store in the midst of a bad mood. She said words that made my eyebrows raise and she needed a particular product…and she needed it NOW. I told her I would be right with her and I searched for her product. With each key I stuck on the keyboard, this woman became more enraged. She was obviously in a hurry and told me that the previous hardware store did not treat her well. You guessed it….the product she was looking for was on back order. Fast forward through the raised voice and stomping out.

My supervisor knew that I was a pastor by trade. After each tense moment in our job (which simply came with the territory in retail) he would say the same phrase. “Landon, this isn’t your church work….this is the real world…get used to it.” The first time I heard him say this, I nodded my head and moved on, but after a few times, I realized that he was more inaccurate than I once thought.

The real world? This is the real world?

I realized that what I did all day was meet customers who I never saw again, and sold them a product that I knew little about. Sometimes they would be happy with my recommendation, sometimes they would not be, and other times they came in angry to begin with (such as the lady above).

My supervisor thought that I was out of my element and he was absolutely right. I was actually used to the real world….not the fake one I was standing in.

In the “real world” he was describing; how many times did he sit down with a freshly divorced lady and comfort her as she talks about the deeper issue. How many times, selling doors, will I talk to a young teen who will admit she has been cutting herself to get attention. The adulterer? The alcoholic? The couple that needs counseling? The man who has it all together and is contemplating suicide? I usually just met with customers for about 5 minutes and never got to know them, or sit with them in their home after the loss of their grandparent as they weep uncontrollably.

When you say the phrase “real world” what do you mean? Often we never actually get to see this side.

The fact is God wants us to be in the real world, and bind the wounds of those who are deeply hurting. Wake up from the theatrical production you may be in, and develop deep relationships.

-Landon DeCrastos

A Forest in a Tree

12_The_old_swingset

If you have ever noticed as you are talking to me, I wear a silver necklace. I have worn this same necklace for many years and some people have made the remark that they notice I never take it off. There is a reason for that… it is a reason that has actually evolved over time, but now I understand its full weight. This necklace, given to me by my girlfriend (now wife) so many years ago was actually a replacement to a necklace I wore nonstop that started to fall apart. To tell you what it symbolizes will require a story…

Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched? 16 years ago, as I walked through a children’s neighborhood park, I had this feeling. I felt as if I were being followed or watched or stalked. My curiosity was overwhelming so I started to look high and low for the culprit. It was only me and a friend walking in this area so it was an odd feeling to have. As I tried to get my mind off of the concept, I looked up and I found the source. A little boy had climbed a tall tree and was watching every move we made.

We were in this park as a result of being on a mission trip with our youth group to North Dakota. The youth group had split into 3 groups

and our smaller group mission was to clean up this park and to teach object lessons (and play with) kids that we found there. The problem was…there were no kids at this park….well, except this small boy hiding in the tree.

Later, we found this woman who had walked to the park and told us she was this boy’s aunt. We found out the boy’s name was Forest and he was 4 years old. The aunt was somewhat nervous because this particular park had a reputation as a drug dealing hub. Forest was in danger simply by playing at this park.

After a few days of our mission, we saw more and more children come to play at this park. We cleaned it up and made it usable. Parents came to greet us, bring lemonade, and thanked us for making this park a safe play area once again. These children came as a result of Forest and his family spreading the word that the park is now a place of fun… drug dealers, for some reason had moved on to another spot to do business.

At the end of the week, I bought a necklace because I wanted something to remind me of this event. Now, this necklace reminds me of two important truths.

  1. Anything that seems hopeless or lacking worth can be redeemed for good.
  2. Sometimes that which seems weak (4 year old boy) is just what God uses to penetrate the darkness.

-Landon DeCrastos

What am I really doing?

I am a pastor. This means that I have accepted an occupation that has certain demands and responsibilities. I love what I do because I feel that it gives me purpose. This career gives me the opportunity to meet people I would never meet otherwise and also I have learned so much about the way humans think, behave, and interact with one another.

Ultimately, my job as a pastor is to encourage people to become better versions of themselves (looking at it from a foundational perspective) and to equip them with the tools to be able to accomplish this task. It is so fulfilling….and each week I get the opportunity to energize people from the “pulpit” and persuade them to adjust their thought process or look at a subject in a new way.

There is one problem with my job, however, that is fundamentally different than any other occupation. It is all based off of volunteer attendance and support. This is true in other nonprofit situations, but sometimes in the church setting it is hard to sell giving and volunteering when there is no immediate reward or result for the individual.

For a pastor, it can be a tough task to convey the mission and get people excited to act. There is an interesting dynamic that exists with many in a congregation. In larger churches, of let’s say 1000, it is possible that around half of the people look at church as a weekend hobby (or somewhere to be seen). So the difficulty for the pastor (who gives their life to this profession) is to convince these people that what he/she is teaching is something that is important for everyday…and not simply an inspiring word to reflect on.

Pastors must look at the people as missionaries to their school, workplace, and home. The people that support and attend a local church must also look at themselves as commissioned employees to God’s kingdom. This mentality will infuse energy, passion, and efficiency into the church body.

-Landon DeCrastos

Spiritual Obesity (Repost)

It happens ever year at Thanksgiving time…I spend time with family and we gather around the feeding trough to prepare for a day of grazing. I may start with the perfectly carved turkey, and move on to the sides that will fit on my plate at the time. By the end of the day, I am making turkey sandwiches that have to be warmed up.

Throughout this exhausting day, I also tend to take the time for a nap on a nearby padded accommodation. At the time, this seems like a good idea. The next day, however, I immerge from my coma lethargic and feeling as if I need to be carried whereever I go. I also find myself getting cranky, and not feeling right. I think this story is true for many people.

Many churches today have this same ailment when dealing with the spiritual condition of their people. Some will sit in the seats each Sunday, and desire to be spiritually fed. They would rather sit in these seats and keep “eating” until they feel lethargic and unwilling to move. A few symptoms of this sickness is apathy regarding the work of the church, and constant criticism. These will both lead to burnout of the Christian. The fact is if believers do nothing to exercise their gifts and what they are being fed, then preaching at a group of stoic Christians that have lost their joy will do no one any good.

When churches become spiritually obese, then you hear phrases like “we need to start worrying about the people here before we start reaching out.” Or, “why do we need this new ministry…we tried it 10 years ago and it failed…” Church…..it is time to get off our rumps and start doing what God has called us to do. We will get more nourishment out of feeding others than we will just sitting in the seats every Sunday.

-Landon DeCrastos