The Wave of the Future
Yesterday I was given a copy of Jason Helopoulos's new book, The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry. It looks excellent, with short chapters on a whole collection of important themes, from the nature of a call to the difference between lectures and sermons. It seems like a great book to buy, to read, and to discuss. With this and the imminent arrival of Kent Hughes' The Pastor's Book, it is going to be a bumper fall for good books on pastoring. There are some easy Christmans presents out there.
While it does appear very good, I have not (thus far at least) been able to find one important topic in Helopoulos's new book: Bivocational pastoring. I have mentioned before that I believe this will become more of the norm for churches in the future, especially those in the USA with congregations of, say, less than 200, where health care etc., is often punitively expensive and thus greatly increases the amount of money a church needs in order to have a full-time pastor. My church averages about 160 on a Sunday morning. The people give generously. But we cannot fund a full-time pastor and keep the roof over our heads.
If this is the case, then we need more discussion on what bivocational minsitry might look like. I am fortunate: my 'day job' is something which pays a living wage, which I love doing, and which offers significant overlap with my pastoral work. Most other bivocational pastors I know do not enjoy such privilege. They drive buses or work office jobs or even (in one cae) run a ranch in order to put bread on the table. They have to fit pastoral life and sermon preparation into otherwise difficult schedules. I also have some solid elders who understand that their job description is somewhat expanded in practice from what it might be at other. wealthier churches.
With the rise of the bivocational pastor, numerous questions must be asked: What does ruling eldership look like in such a context? How do congregational expectations of pastoral care need to change? What form should pastoral education take? Should seminaries be starting to address the matter of bivocationalism in their curricula, both in terms of content and delivery? The end of Christendom does not simply change how the church will relate to the wider world. It is changing how the church relates to herself.
I first raised this matter some four years ago, when I took the call to Cornerstone. It seems that the discussion still isn't happening in any significant way. It really needs to start soon.