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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.”

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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