I planted The City Church in 2010, a year after the stock market crashed. We started with 20 people in a living room, and even with the generous support of friends, families, and organizations, there was no way I could pull a full-time salary. When I got the chance to teach part-time public speaking courses at Texas Christian University, I jumped at it—primarily as a means of support but also because I had already spent four years ministering to that campus. Today our church has seen significant growth, is financially "stable," and we have multiple elders and deacons. Some are financially supported; others are not. Three years in, the church could pay me a full-time salary, but I'm still bi-vocational and—don't fall out of your chair—I hope that's always the case.
Generally seen as a last-ditch option, bi-vocationality is a necessity for many in today's economic climate. Especially in new churches or smaller ministries, pastors hesitantly turn to a second source of income for as little time as humanly possible. But I'm here to tell you it's one of the best things I've ever experienced. Here are five ways God can use bi-vocationality to serve his kingdom.
1. Stewarding God's money
Between my two jobs, God provides adequately for my family. One of the organizations for which I work even defines the hours I give them as enough to warrant health benefits. That's not true of every part-time job, but at least some workplaces (most famously, Starbucks) extend benefits without requiring 40 hours.
Consider the benefit to God's church. By working at TCU for the past three years, our church has been able to put money toward things that we couldn't otherwise. We send more to missions, we help hurting couples who can't afford professional counseling, we financially support other folks to use their gifts for the good of the body. Traditionally, a healthy, established church budget should put 50 percent toward staff and 30 percent toward a building, leaving 20 percent (or less in some cases) for ministry and mission. A small ministry is often skewed even further.
First Timothy 5:18 says, "'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves his wages.'" But most of us have only heard—and used—it to justify a pay increase. Have we considered the other side of the coin? For some ministers, 40 hours of work are not needed each week. Is it possible we aren't always worth the wage we want? I found myself creating things to take up 40 or 50 hours of work in the church building. But those hours weren't necessary. I had to ask myself, Are these extra hours worth my people's support? I knew the difference; the hard part was being honest about how I spent God's money.
2. Making disciples
I love the local church, but I know that there are always more people outside the church walls than inside. Before I'm a pastor, I'm a follower of Jesus, and he calls his followers to live out the Great Commission: "Go and make disciples …" (Matthew 28:19). Before I started City Church, I worked for decade in "normal, full-time" church ministry. I was even "successful" by most standards. But over that decade, I became really good at managing Christians and really bad at making disciples.
Through my second job, I'm prayerfully pursuing the Great Commission on the campus that Playboy ranked 2012's number nine party school in the nation. My officemate is a great Jewish man. My department is made up of professors across the spectrum of intellectual humanity. Three times a week, I talk to Azim, president of an Islamic campus organization, and Michael, whose brother is a pastor but who hates God because of what he experienced during military deployment. I open my office to them and 48 other students like them, and I invite them to lunch in groups. And once in a while, I get a note from a student who finds him or herself in crisis that says—as one young man wrote—"I don't have anyone to turn to for advice, but I think you told us you were a priest or something." By God's grace, bi-vocationality opens doors to disciple-making.