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Originally posted:  03/17/2016


Bivocational ministers.  For the past 50-100 years, it has seemed to be the exception, not the rule.

If people are serious about becoming church leaders, missionaries, pastors, or whatever else, the expectation is that they figure out how to raise support so they could give all their working hours to the church.

Our training systems such as seminary and missions organizations’ programs are designed around the goal of full-time ministry.

But before this new age of evangelicalism and fundamentalism of the 20th century, most ministers were bivocational.

An Interview with a Contemporary Church Planting Strategist

bivocational church planter sean beneshI was able to interview a very impressive man, named Dr. Sean Benesh, out of Portland, OR.

He has a Doctorate of Ministry, through which he analyzed church plants in gentrifying neighborhoods and what he calls the “Geography of Church Planting.”  This is a snapshot of church planters who have planted in the last 10-30 years or so and how they have generally moved to the suburbs.

Interestingly, Sean notes that now they’re coming back to the cities, but this has not changed the demographic of church planting targets from when they were in the suburbs – white, affluent areas.

Dr. Benesh himself has been a part of numerous church planting networks, and urban renewal projects.  He currently works as Director of Urban Development and Training for The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM).

So yeah, he’s a Doctor, but you gotta understand, he’s also totally hip.  Take one look at his thick-rimmed glasses.  Think about his contributions to urban development in terms of walk-ability and bike-ability.  As a coffee-connoisseur in the Pacific Northwest, he’d make full-on hipsters nervous to test his knowledge.

And that mustache, right?

He’s cool.  Real cool.

He understands our culture and can make ministry relevant to the everyday person.

And more to the point, he understands church planting, and advocates for a bivocational approach in training and implementation.

While contribute in a #spiritual way is important, so is contributing in #economic, #civic, and… Click To Tweet

Bivocational Ministers Build a Natural Platform

bivocational church planter yarnSean’s most recent research and the subject of his upcoming book centers around the training of church planters today.

We’ve focused on what he calls “soft skills” (does not mean “less important”, mind you), which are the traditional skills taught in seminaries:  preaching, teaching, worship, running a church service, biblical interpretation, and the like.

But Dr. Benesh has taken a deep look at the training programs of the Christian past, and it actually used to be very different.

Sean has praised a man named Father Kino.  He was an Italian Jesuit Missionary to Tucson, AZ, a few centuries ago, who was also trained in cartography, farming/agriculture, and other economic skills while going to seminary.  Being able to do these things in that Southwestern community, he had built a platform for himself for reaching people for Christ.

But around this time, this kind of training was the norm.  They understood that reaching people through service was extremely important.  Father Kino and his contemporaries were able to make a living doing ministry, while naturally coming into contact with people through business.

Bivocational Ministers Contribute to the Community in Tangible Ways

Today, everyone in Tucson and the surround areas know the name of Father Kino.

And why not?  He greatly impacted the region through business and ministry.

You see, men like Father Kino knew a very important fact – their work in their community is a good in itself.  It is a way to love your neighbor.

And while contributing in a spiritual way is important, so is contributing in economic, civic, and cultural ways.

As #church planters looks to the future, #commerce has to be part of the skill set. Click To Tweet

Bivocational Ministry is the Direction of the Future

bivocational church planter entrepreneur drafting (1)And so we’ve really got to stop thinking in terms of spiritual and secular.  It’s all spiritual.

On top of that, the direction of our economy is no longer lending itself to full-time ministry.  The support is seeping away as the U.S. becomes a non-Christian nation and our older, historically established churches are dying.

Dr. Benesh has been developing a strategy for contemporary urban church planters.  As part of his tactics, not only should church planters be trained in the “soft skills” of ministry, but also in entrepreneurship.  As the church looks forward to the rest of the 21st century, commerce has to be part of the skill set.

We’ve got to be able to provide for ourselves, as well as develop a platform in our community, and serve the people.  Entrepreneurship is a natural way to do it all.  It allows for creativity and adaptability.

So consider what training you have had.  Consider what training you need for the future.  Be realistic about our American society and think about the benefits of bivocational ministry.

In doing so, you can better honor Christ as our culture changes from modern to post-modern, and post-modern to post-Christian.


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Also published on Medium.