While I hope that I have made a case for the need of bivocational replanting, I do want to urge caution. This is not easy! This is not for everyone! Bivocational pastoring will spread you thin. In order to do it, you must trust God deeper than you have probably done in the past. While this is a good thing, it is hard because you can easily feel that everything is out of your control. You will be tired, stressed, and overworked. This can lead to an attitude of despair, desperation, and spiritual drought. You can find yourself resenting the ministry that God has given you. These feelings are the beginnings of spiritual warfare. A lot of the guys that I serve with in replanting have all experienced some of the worst spiritual warfare that they have ever experienced in ministry. Prepare for this, or it will punch you in the soul.
Depending on specific outside vocations, a pastor can easily find himself overwhelmed because he feels that he cannot truly serve his church well. I have suffered from this in an incredible way as of late. I feel that I cannot do enough…say enough…plan enough…study enough…pray enough…to be a good pastor. Like a lot of pastors, I think that if I could just do more my church would be better. After a lot of self-reflection, and repentance, I have seen the horrible error of seeing myself higher than I ought. We are not talented enough or good enough to be the reason that our churches are “better.” That is up to Jesus! We have a part to play in replanting and revitalizing a church, but we must not see ourselves as the main catalyst in this. This is pride clothed in false humility. By thinking that our church’s health is dependent on ourselves is think that we are competent enough in our own power to serve our churches.
John Piper warns us well:
“A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit—which is the only kind that matters—knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights only on what man can achieve. But brothers, the proper goals of the life of a pastor are unquestionably beyond our reach. The changes we long for in the hearts of our people can happen only by a sovereign work of grace.”—John Piper, from Brothers We are Not Professionals.
Replanting a church is extremely difficult. Doing it as a bivocational pastor is even harder. Despite these challenges, it can be one of the most rewarding things you can do within your ministry. Understand your limits. Understand that you cannot do this without the Holy Spirit. Understand that you will suffer. Understand that you will encounter spiritual warfare.
Understand, that in spite of all of these challenges…it is worth it: this can be the difference between faithfulness in your ministry and tapping out.
Published March 10, 2016