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, his work is not done. Jim has a call to ministry, and he 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: tentmakers, fishermen, entrepreneurs in the dye and cloth industry, and carpenters, 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 Jesus as a carpenter.
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. Church members have long shown how to bring faith to the workplace; now it’s time for pastors to consider that, too. The future of a sustainable church in North America needs to look different; this can lessen the burden on the local church in order to multiply ministry.
Church members have long shown how to bring faith to the workplace; now it’s time for pastors to consider that, too.
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 an 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 as co-lead pastor at Christ Community Church in Buena Park, California, and as leader of missions abroad for Gospel Ventures (a gospel-centered network that trains people and churches to plant churches).
The third strand of my multi-vocational call is working with groups to think around business as mission. 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, which raise various animals and crops on 25 acres in an effort to sustain an indigenous church planting movement. The underlying goal is a big one—to plant a church in every major city in Uganda in the next three 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 to 15 workers, feeds the community, and gives money to advance church planting ministry. Out of necessity, the global church has had to think creatively on how to be sustainable. Most pastors work jobs during the week and shepherd congregations at the same time.
A segmented, practical theology between the secular and sacred leads us to think and act within these lines we draw in the sand.
The second context is working domestically with B2 (Benefit Twice) Outlet Stores, which has a growing presence in Michigan and is expanding nationally. This business began with the kingdom in mind, doing business for the purpose of blessing the community and giving a significant portion of their profits to kingdom endeavors.
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. But what if we blur the lines between sacred and secular? Perhaps when pastors pursue multi-vocational ministry for their 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.