In Praise of Bivocational Pastors

In eternity, when the full story is finally known, the significant work of bivocational preachers will finally be appreciated. Though it is common to think of pastoral ministry primarily or even exclusively in terms of “full time” (or “fully funded”) positions, much faithful service has been rendered to Christ’s Church by men who serve as pastors while also being employed in other vocations. Today it is estimated that 60-65% of Southern Baptist churches are served by bivocational pastors.

In his Lectures on the History of Preaching (50-51), John Broadus quotes a passage from John Chrysostom “in which he bestows generous and exuberant eulogy on the country preachers around Antioch” in the late 4th century. From his Homilies on the Statutes (XIX), Broadus quotes the following:

You might see each of them now yoking oxen to the plow, and cutting a deep furrow in the ground, at another time with their word cleaning out sins from men’s souls. They are not ashamed of work, but ashamed of idleness, knowing that idleness is a teacher of all wickedness. And while the philosophers walk about with conspicuous cloak and staff and beard, these plain men are far truer philosophers, for they teach immortality and judgment to come, and conform all their life to these hopes, being instructed by the divine writings.

Such “good and useful men,” Broadus notes, “have abounded…in every period, country and persuasion in which Christianity was making any real and rapid progress.”