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One Bivo to Another:

By Joe Young

What would we do without bivos?

Yesterday one of our Mexican families was missing. Who did I call? A bivo, of course. Kevin McKenzie is a bivocational pastor/detective for the Olive Branch Police Dept. And when later in the day I needed a counselor for a Hispanic man, Kevin could also be the counselor, because he is bilingual and serves Iglesia Los Faros at FBC Olive Branch. He is constantly in demand as a counselor.

A Choctaw pastor, bivocational to be sure, called yesterday and needed some electrical work done on a church building. It will probably be done by a pastor/electrician. As we talked he asked if I am still working, or pastoring “full-time”. I replied that I am still teaching and only preach four times each Sunday—three times in the mother church and once in a mission. I laughed and told him that I’m doing just what he’s doing, just with a different secular job. But he can be assured, we’re both “full-time”.

When I needed a website built for our ministry in Mexico, I called on Chris Carter, bivocational pastor at FBC Itta Bena. His communication systems are said to be about the only ones on the coast that didn’t “go down”. That gives him credibility when he shares his faith with men in the sheriff’s departments.

The first vice president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention is one of us. Joel Medina, like almost every Hispanic pastor, is bivocational, supplementing his income through an industrial chaplaincy.

I looked around my own county. When I came here 33 years ago there were 17 churches. At least six had fully-compensated pastors. Today perhaps one derives all his major income from the church. The others are either living off retirement incomes, or they are working as funeral directors, paint contractors, serving more than one congregation, teaching, or in some other line of secular work.

When North American Mission Board needs church planters, they seldom are able to fully-fund those planters, and many if not most of them are bivocational men who make great sacrifices to plant churches in unreached areas. NAMB has a rule of phasing-out its support for church planters over a three-year period, I believe. Yet many churches are not self-supporting in that time. What happens? A pastor becomes bivocational, if he is not already, and the Lord’s work goes on.

When our International Mission Board is ready to appoint “missionaries” to much of the world, they don’t look for pastors whose visa will read “missionary”. Rather they find “creative career” missionaries—church planters who can teach English, or work with agriculture, or do engineering. In other words, they are looking for bivocational Baptist preachers—short and simple. Few governments in the world today admit “missionaries”. But a bivo man can go anywhere, anytime. Every bivo is a creative career person on mission, whether in the pastorate, on a church staff, or on the mission field.

Men, hold your heads up and be proud. Jesus was not a fully compensated pastor, nor a denominational employee. Nor was Paul. We will always need a few men who are “fully compensated”, but they won’t have many openings. When Southern Baptists (or people in almost any denomination, for that matter) are looking for leadership, they are looking for bivos. Bivos walk in a proud tradition of men who love the Lord and get things done. Thank you for making things happen in the expansion of the Kingdom!



My life as a bivo pastor

By Joe Young

As a young man of 18, I walked down an aisle and told my pastor and the church that I sensed a call to special ministry. The pastor shared my decision with the church, and one by one people came to shake my hand, encourage me, congratulate me, and — more often than not — give me advice.

The main advice was, “Son, step out of faith and be sold out to the Lord. Quit your job, get an education, and be a full-time preacher.” (Emphasis mine.) I listened, and I did: college, seminary, and 12 years of full-time, fully-compensated pastorates and no other jobs.

Circumstances changed, and one night during a storm after a Brotherhood meeting I was asked to take a job finishing the school year for a teacher who had a stroke. I reluctantly agreed, feeling a good bit of guilt because I wondered if I could still be “sold out” to the Lord.

Soon I noticed that I was being a witness for Christ among people with whom I previously would never have had contact — teenagers, children, African-Americans, athletes, and others. I’m still a teacher 23 years later.

I remember my first teaching convert. A preteen African-American girl came to me after class and told me she had been to a revival. She has lots of questions and asked, “Aren’t you a priest or something?” I replied, “or something,” and made an appointment with her to meet later in the day, with her mother’s permission.

She accepted Christ and was soon baptized in her mother’s church.

There are many instances when God used me in ways I would have never known, had I just been a pastor with no other vocation. I’m glad now that God blessed me twice, with the call to be both a pastor and work in another vocation as well.

Everyone knows that the Apostle Paul was bivocational. He might never have known folks like Aquila and Priscilla, had he not been a tentmaker. God uses bivocational ministers.

I’ve been glad to have my teaching job, because it provided me with income and insurance for my family. It also allowed me to serve in churches that otherwise might not have been able to afford trained leadership. I’ve been blessed to be a planter of new churches and to lead in reopening some church doors that were once closed. As a Spanish teacher, I’ve had the privilege of seeing my students go on missions and even plant a few Hispanic churches.

Some still say I’m not a “full-time preacher.” Maybe not, but I preach twice every Sunday in English and twice in Spanish.

I’m bivocational, hard-headed, and stubborn. One would expect me to think all ministers should be bivos. Not really, but I do have an idea that we have more than one spiritual gift that God can use. When we sharpen those skills, we will find new doors opening for the Gospel:

Maybe I really do believe every minister should have another career outside the church setting — where most of the lost people are — for more reasons than financial. It’s a point of entry for a new kind of witness. Try it and see. I believe you’ll be twice blessed. Let me know if I am right.

Young, a bivocational pastor to the staff at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for 20 years, teaches in East Tallahatchie Consolidated School District in Charleston and at Northwest Community College in Senatobia.

July 14, 2005

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Welch: bivos crucial to SBC’s future efforts

Bobby Welch talking with bivo pastors photo

MISSISSIPPI VISIT — Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch (left), pastor of First Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., is welcomed by Mark Anderson, pastor of Colonial Heights Church, Jackson, during a 2004 visit to the church’s new campus in Ridgeland. Welch, who was on a 50-state tour to promote his Everyone Can! Evangelistic outreach, recently told a conference of bivocational pastors that they are an important part of Southern Baptists’ evangelism process. (BR photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP and local reports) — “Since almost half our Southern Baptist churches are led by bivocational pastors, I believe it’s high time we recognize them and honor them,” Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bobby Welch told the East Tennessee Bivocational Evangelism Conference.

Welch, who was among the featured speakers during March 11-12 gathering, noted that a bivocational pastor will preach during the June 21-22 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville.

“[If] we are going to evangelize America,” Welch said, “it will not be without the crucial efforts of all our bivocational pastors.”

Welch currently is in the midst of numerous speaking engagements in Tennessee and neighboring states to promote the Everyone Can! Evangelistic thrust to be launched during the SBC meeting to reach one million baptisms by the time of the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

Also afoot for June: a push to involve 10,000 volunteers in the Crossover evangelistic efforts held each year in conjunction with the annual meeting.

The bivocational evangelism conference, held at Knoxville’s Grace Church, was sponsored by the Tennessee Baptist Convention and organized by bivocational pastor Ray Gilder, who also serves as bivocational ministries specialist for the state convention.

Video: SBC President Bobby Welch presents a special message to bivocational pastors.

The weekend conference offered a variety of breakout sessions on topics such as Getting Your Church to Pray, Keeping New Converts in the Flock, and Leading Your Church to be Evangelistic.

Some bivocational pastors “get a ‘Lone Ranger’ mentality, but they need the fellowship, they need encouragement, and they need to be around their peers,” Gilder told Baptist Press.

Many of those attending the conference gave up a day off from work. “These guys don’t come to our seminars and conferences just to coast. They come to get,” Gilder said. “They’ve made an investment of time to be here, and they’ll take what they learn and put it in practice in their pastorates.”

Time management is the number one issue for bivocational pastors, Gilder said, noting, “We juggle job, church and family.” In some cases, it’s “sad to say that the family gets the short end of the stick,” said Gilder, pastor of Farmington Church in Lewisburg, Tenn.

The bivocational pastor’s tendency is to be so eager to do a good job with the church that he will neglect his wife and children. “But probably the best message they’ll ever preach is their family and their home,” Gilder said. “So, I go heavy on telling our men to put their families before the church. Some Baptists think that’s unspiritual, but I believe the only person that comes before family is God.”

Gilder said he divides his waking hours evenly among home, church, and job, spending about 30 hours at each per week.

“You might come to my house on Tuesday afternoon and see me working in the garden with my wife,” he said, “but that’s the way bivocational work goes. We have to juggle everything in order to get anything done.”

Spending time with spousesis vitally important, Gilder said, explaining, “She needs fellowship, and she needs to know the feelings she may be having are pretty common — resentment, bitterness, frustration, and questions like, ‘Is this what God really wants us to do?’”

Retreats sponsored by the state convention help address these and other issues, said Gilder, who noted their growing popularity, saying he’s looking now for a larger facility for next year.

So many couples in ministry need some fresh wind; they need to be encouraged, refreshed and challenged, he said, calling the retreat sponsored by the Tennessee Baptist Convention “one of the best investments a church can make.”

One of the keys to successful bivocational ministry is to be sure it’s God’s will, he said.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is beginning a new, focused program in 2005 to reach out to the state’s bivocational pastors with support and resources.

For more information, contact Dale Holloway, bivocational specialist for the board, at 1758 Florence-Byram Road, Florence, MS 39073. Telephone: (601) 845-2107 or (601) 845-6496. E-mail:

March 24, 2005