In the generation of our forefathers, Pastors were much more highly esteemed –meaning, culture spoke highly of them. Research shows it and my experience proves it.
This trend; however, has almost completely reversed and instead, an increased amount of hostility towards anyone holding a religious affiliation or religions title of ‘leadership’ has resulted in a noteworthy influx of ‘facebook deletes‘ and demand for the modern-day Pastor to be bi-vocational or at least a demand to at least question whether Pastors need to be thinking of becoming bi-vocational.
As the call becomes stronger and stronger for me to serve in the Pastorate, I struggle more and more with this dilemma and this question of whether I need to be careful to not close all doors of employment, to be careful what I share online or whether I need to keep up my previously studied skills, which are not in Pastoral work.
Culture and the nuance of Pastoral leadership and how churches are run both today and progressively are still shifting significantly. So much that it’s hard to diagnose this shift and give a clear-headed answer. But in an attempt to at least expose the wires around this complex electronic-wave shift, I have put together some thoughts on the moving pieces around this topic.
Breaking It Down: What Has Led To This Trend:
One of the notable difficulties for Pastors — although not the only — is influenced by the shift of culture to a post-modern world. Yet, sadly enough, the motor behind the shift is more influenced and driven by the church itself. And this is a sad reality.
Disappearing medium-sized churches and the call for radical church revitalization, transformation and re-modelling or reformation is creating a fracture-effect –a great divide between church and how church is done and this divide greatly effects the Pastor and his struggle with if he needs to become bi-vocational.
Evangelistically-Focused Vs. Discipleship-Focused:
Increasingly and universally tons of modern churches are becoming more focused on evangelism and being culturally relevant (seeker friendly), instead of being primarily discipleship-focused and shepherding-focused.
As result, seeker friendly churches are growing in large numbers and turning into large performance-based churches that are attracting people with rockstar-like concert attendance.
This effect has created a tsunami-effect against the the vitality of small traditional churches wiping many small churches out in the process, since small traditional churches can’t compete.
All too common is the response — even in the church — to claim small traditional churches look tired, old, boring, unwilling to change, culturally insensitive and even hostile towards an increasingly hostile culture that wants a watered-down message of Christ preached from the pulpit.
Small Churches Vs. Big Churches:
This means churches are becoming either very small and holding strong to their convictions, but decreasing in numbers or they are becoming culturally responsive rockstar mega-churches that are able to pay multiple rockstar Pastors $90,000/year and buy them escalades in the process.
As a result, medium size churches are becoming extinct and there is a great divide between small church Pastors who hold to their traditional convictions who are labelled as fundamentalists unwilling to change and the megachurch Pastors who advocates for total church reformation in a post-modern world.
The Implications For Small Church Pastors:
Small church Pastors who hold to their previous convictions and seminary training — mainly specializing in exegetical preaching, hebrew and greek and less in leadership, business, administration, world religions and psychology — are forced to work in a small underpaid traditional church where they can hardly afford to support the growing financial needs of their family.
The Implications For Large Church Pastors:
Large church Pastors on the other hand have hit the jackpot and are forced — if they want to make a good living in the church — to go to large seeker friendly seminaries where they their focus is on dynamic preaching, smoke, lights and mirrors while required to study a general core program of: psychology, leadership, marketing, church growth, business, management, philosophy, world religions, administration, sound, tech and worship arts in order to be successful.
Becoming Dexterous In Secular Careers:
For the large church Pastors, they is little need for them to be bi-vocational, yet most of them choose to be bi-vocational, since there is a huge trend of modern megachurch Pastors demonstrating dexterous in multi-vocational positions excelling in business management, blogging, international speaking and book sales while holding a job in the Pastorate or leading a not-for-profit organization on the side.
But, for the small church Pastor benched to the Pastoral sidelines of small church convictions and “small-time” leadership in the church, he is seen as unambitious, extreme, too godly, unwilling to change and less respected with a significantly small bank account.
For the small church Pastor who isn’t interested in marketing the gospel into attractive lights and smoke shows and simply wants to preach strong exegetical and discipleship-focused sermons to a small discipleship-focused congregation, he may need to consider more to be a minister who is bi-vocational, since this new reality and cultural shift will force many pastors to juggle two jobs and become dexterous in a secular career as well as Pastoral ministry.
Bringing It Together:
Although, this doesn’t answer every question and only brushes on the surface of the subject, it at least paints a very real picture and shows a snapshot of what trends are present both in culture and in the church. Both, which effect how the modern-day Pastor approaches the ultimatum of if he must become bi-vocational to survive Pastoral ministry, today.
Note: The above thoughts are not all my own original thoughts. Most are, but in order to write this article, I haven taken some information from online blogs, comment-sections, and had many personal conversations with many people regarding how to think about culture, church and becoming bi-vocational.