The Beauty of Bi-Vocational Ministry

black and white stock photo of a person opening a bible

The Beauty of Bi-Vocational Ministry

Written By Dr. Tony Chute

The Beauty of Bi-Vocational Ministry

I don’t often think of myself as a bi-vocational pastor, but I suppose I am, given the fact that I am a Professor of Church History at California Baptist University and Lead Pastor at Northpoint Church in Corona. I don’t often think of myself this way in part because my roles overlap, and my heart is in both. My roles overlap such that I spend the better part of each day sharing what God has done through the church and what God is still doing in the church. I have the privilege of spending most of my week with Christians, some of whom are preparing for ministry (CBU) and many of whom are being ministered unto (Northpoint), and all of whom are making me a better follower of Jesus as I seek to serve them. I realize that most bi-vocational pastors do not have the privilege of overlapping occupations, and I suspect many wish they could be full-time pastors, so I can only speak for myself when it comes to the beauty of bi-vocational ministry.

Bi-Vocation Opens Opportunities to Teach and Learn.

First, I love the fact that I can bring real-life and real-time pastoral experience to the classroom. Having served in pastoral ministry for nearly 30 years, it would be easy to share my experience with students in the classroom using the past tense. But my teaching is enhanced when I can tell future pastors what I myself have learned most recently. Like many pastors reading this article, I had no category for how to pastor during a pandemic. If I had not served as pastor during that time, I would have little understanding of how difficult it was to make decisions that sounded right to some but inevitably displeased others. Bi-vocational ministry helps me to learn and to teach at the same time.

Bi-Vocation Can Help Steward Church Resources Well.

Second, I thank God that my primary employer (CBU) provides sufficient financial compensation so that I am not a financial burden to my church. To be sure, Northpoint is financially situated to afford several full-time pastors and staff. That said, it is a joy for me to be able to serve at a discount, as it were, in order to enable the church to use additional finances for meeting more ministry needs. Some bi-vocational pastors serve as such because the church cannot afford a full-time pastor, but they give of themselves in the very same way – to lift the financial burden from the church. The fact that most of my week is spent at CBU means that most of the work of ministry must be shared by the body, which seems more biblical to me.

Bi-Vocation Allows for Focused Shepherding.

Third, and somewhat related to the first two, bi-vocational ministry frees me to be a shepherd to my church and not a hireling. There is a great temptation to “go-along-to-get-along” for pastors who feel they must not offend certain families in the church or certain factions within the church for fear or losing their income. The need to be faithful in proclaiming God’s Word can sometimes compete with providing for one’s family. Pastors who serve full-time can experience burnout by overwork, or can be bullied by those who are unhappy with the quality of their work. Bi-vocational ministry enables me to find my identity as a minister of the Gospel first and foremost without tying me into a specific position in which that identity is applied. In other words, I can be true to my calling without everything collapsing if a student or church member is unhappy.

Bi-Vocation Deepens My Faith and Reliance on Him.

Finally, bi-vocational ministry enables me to grow as a Christian in ways that my single vocation as a professor does not provide. Being a university professor is, in my opinion, the best job in the world (especially at CBU). I get to study church history and then tell people what I have learned. Better yet, students have to follow my course requirements in order to pass, which makes for quite the captive audience. Serving as pastor, however, is more difficult. People don’t have to come to my church; they don’t have to listen to me preach; they don’t have to do what I say. Church membership is a voluntary enterprise from beginning to end (I speak as a Baptist!). As Lead Pastor at Northpoint, I have to earn trust week in and week out; I need to hear complaints, whether I am right or wrong, and I need to bear the burden of hurting members each and every day. Giving a midterm to a couple facing a potential divorce will not resolve their problems, nor will assigning a term paper bring relief to a mother who is anxious about her wayward son. So, as a bi-vocational pastor, I am forced to pray and to be patient as the Lord does His work among His people in His time through His Word and by His Spirit.

Given the choice between the two vocations, I would gladly choose both! May the Lord continue to raise up more bi-vocational pastors.

About the Author

Dr. Tony Chute
Associate Dean, School of Christian Ministries, California Baptist University

Tony Chute is Professor of Church History and Associate Dean of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. Dr. Chute also serves as Lead Pastor of Northpoint Church in Corona, California. He is the husband of Connie and the father of Amos and Joelle, and has authored several books, including The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (B&H, 2015).

Home » Resources » The Beauty of Bi-Vocational Ministry
CSBC Logo

Mailing Address

678 East Shaw Ave Fresno, CA 93710

Phone Number

(559) 229-9533

Email Address

Info@csbc.com

Connect With Us

Subscribe to TW@CSBC

Enter your email and every Tuesday we'll send the latest news, interviews, and resources directly to your inbox.

Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Subscribe to TW@CSBC

Enter your email and every Tuesday we'll send the latest news, interviews, and resources directly to your inbox.

Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
© 2024 California Southern Baptist Convention | All Rights Reserved