Jim gets up every morning, grabs his cup of coffee and heads off to his job at Proctor and Gamble. He’s been working on the production line for years and makes just enough money to get by. But when Jim gets home from a long day at Proctor and Gamble his work is not done. Jim has a call to ministry and pastors a local church in a small town. He has people to visit in the hospital, a board meeting to attend and a sermon to prepare. He is a multi-vocational pastor.
The early Apostles and ministers give us great examples of multi-vocational ministry: carpenters, fishermen, tentmakers, and entrepreneurs in the dye and cloth industry, just to name a few. We can learn much from the limited insight we get of Paul as a tentmaker, Peter and a few other disciples as fishermen, Lydia as a local entrepreneur, and even with Jesus as a carpenter/stoneworker/handyman (Gr. tekton). I’m sure they had some of the same challenges we do regarding how to live in the joy of ministry responsibilities and provide for our families at the same time.
As the church in North America continues its steady decline it’s time to get strategic with the next generation who will lead the revival of change, including how to sustain it. The future of a sustainable church in North America needs to look differently than it does now. And it’s time to take a new look at multi-vocational ministry, seeing every sphere as an opportunity to proclaim the good news by bringing the character of Jesus into it, including the workplace. But how can we be strategic in the kind of work we do as bi-vocational people (or even tri-vocational) so that it works symbiotically with our ministry calling and responsibilities? Simultaneously, how can we look for ways to lessen the burden on the local church in order to multiply ministry?
I entered the ministry as a “starving” artist, having run as far away as I could from a call to ministry. Beginning as a domestic missionary, then overseas missionary, leading to teaching and chaplaincy in Christian Schools, which led to church planting, building networks and starting businesses that further the Kingdom mission. Currently, I’m a tri-vocational leader who gets to work on some amazing teams, including:
- Co-Lead Pastor at Christ Community Church in Buena Park, California,
- Mission Catalyst for Gospel Ventures (a Gospel-centered network that works to train planters and churches to plant more churches in North America and around the world)…
The third strand of my multi-vocational call is working with groups to think around Business as Mission (BAM) as a way to lessen the burden on the local church and multiply ministry. I’m currently learning much of this firsthand in two specific contexts:
- The first is as the Strategic Manager of two farming projects in Africa, raising various animals and crops on 25 acres in an effort to sustain an indigenous church planting movement with a goal to plant a church in every major city in Uganda in the next 3 years. I love giving this example because it was made possible through a generous donor who took a chance before this made sense to anyone else. Three years later this two-property farm is self-sustaining, employs 12-15 workers, feeds the community and gives money to advance church planting ministry.
The Global church has had to think creatively on how to be sustainable out of necessity. Most pastors work jobs during the week and shepherd congregations at the same time. Because the Holy Spirit is growing the global Church at such a rapid rate it makes sense to look globally to see how multi-vocational ministry plays a role in such growth.
- The second context is working domestically with B2 (Benefit Twice) Outlet Stores that has a growing presence in Michigan and is expanding nationally. This business began with the Kingdom in mind. They continue to press into the concept of doing business for the purpose of blessing the community, giving a significant portion of their profits to Kingdom endeavors. This is a radical shift in how we see business intersecting with ministry, having a clear intention to give sacrificially, not just with what is leftover. Duane Smith, co-founder of B2 Outlet Stores, attributes their rapid growth in the last 3 years to this radical model.
When we take the multiplication principle we find in Scripture and apply it to the business sphere, we’re seeing amazing things happen. What would it look like if more entrepreneurs would design businesses to bless people in tangible ways while making a profit that can sustain even more ministry?
Throughout my ministry, I’ve always been intrigued by what others would “count” as ministry and what was outside of that designation. A segmented, practical theology between the secular and sacred leads us to think and act within these lines we draw in the sand. And that can lead to limited imagination in how to live our ministry calling in a multi-vocational way. But what if we were more intentional in lessening the burden of the local church and multiplying ministry by blurring the sacred and secular lines as we step into bi/tri-vocational ministry? Perhaps by pursuing multi-vocational ministry for our livelihood like Paul and the other apostles did, it would become the starting point for deeper trust and more creativity in following the Holy Spirit, while sustaining the next generation of the Church.