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Majority of state’s churches can only afford bivocational pastorscomment (0)

December 19, 2002

By Johnie Sentell

I have two groups of heroes: missionaries and bivocational pastors.”

Those words were recently spoken by Bro. Jim Warren, director of missions (DOM) for Colbert Lauderdale Baptist Association and newly elected president of Alabama’s conference of DOMs.

On Nov. 18, the group focused on the need for more pastors to consider a bivocational position.

During a panel discussion, Bro. Jim Swedenburg of the State Board of Missions (SBOM) said 52 percent of the 3,181 churches in the state convention can only afford to call pastors who have a secular job, and the number is increasing.

He said half of the 416 currently vacant pastoral positions in Alabama are bivocational. But of some 5,000 whose resumes are on hand at the SBOM building, none are seeking bivocational positions.

Formerly, many ministerial students and recent seminary graduates became pastors of smaller churches. That is no longer the case.

Brother Warren noted that in his association, five or six head for seminary each year, but non plan to be bivocational.

SBOM staffer Ron Madison said many who feel called as pastor come from large churches and can’t seem to relate to small churches. Bessemer DOM Ed Cruce said many are becoming “interns” at medium- or large-size churches.

Franklin DOM Larry Dover said some pastors resist having active young men in their churches to surrender to the ministry and go away.

Brother John Long, Madison DOM, said a mentoring network might be a good way to improve the situation: “Help a few in your association,” he said. “Intentionalize this, calling out the called.”

SBOM staffer Gary Swafford noted that volunteer speakers from the Gideons organization could be encouraged to consider bivocational ministry. And Bro. Madison said Baptist deacons who show a strong pastoral outlook might be encouraged to pray about the possibility. He said they might be asked, “Are you sure God isn’t calling you as a bivocational pastor?”

Brother Jimmy Allen, a bivocational pastor for 28 years now, serving the past 17 as pastor of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Tallapoosa Association, pointed out to the DOMs that the apostle Paul took care of his own financial needs.

“I feel that God is calling preachers into bivocational work,” he said.

Brother Warren suggested that, at least one Sunday per year, pastors should preach about accepting God’s call into the ministry.
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