April 14, 2014

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How many Christians are there in Iznik?

CIMG5914 300x225 How many Christians are there in Iznik? nicaea mission evangelism Iznik is a small town in Turkey with a population of some 20,000 and situated by a lake. It’s a beautiful place. There are countless towns like it all over Turkey. So how many Christians do you think there are in such a place?

As it turns out the answer, to the best of our knowledge, is one. Just one and that believer knows of no other.

We asked some young people if there were any churches in their town. Lots of old ones we were told. ‘Any new ones?’  ‘No, there are no new churches here.’

The sad irony is that Iznik is ancient Nicaea. Two church councils were held here. Pictured you can see the site of the second council, the Hagia Sophia church (now a mosque). This church also has the grave of Arius, whose views were defeated at the more significant first council of Nicaea (that site is underwater).

It was here, in this town, that Athanasius battled for the truth (which the Council eventually affirmed) that Jesus was the true begotten Son of God and gave us one of the first creeds. Now, in this town there is just one person who believes that to be true.

It stirred me for a new missionary movement that would take the Gospel again to places where it has never been heard, even if those places, have the memory of the Gospel etched into its stones. This time however I don’t think it will be fuelled by brothers and sisters from western nations (although there will be some) but one where every nation sends and every nation receives with huge numbers the east and the south bringing with them the good news that Jesus is the begotten Son of God.

 

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April 11, 2014

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The two ends of the bi-vocational spectrum

 73528769 dsc 1110 The two ends of the bi vocational spectrum work bivocational

Last week I was given a vivid insight into the wide spectrum of possibilities when it comes to being bi-vocational. I was at a pastors conference and happened to be sharing a room with Jonathan LeTocq (the smiling man on the right in the picture). Jonathan is lead pastor of Church on the Rock, Guernsey. He also happens to be the island’s chief minister (or prime minister).

I stack shelves at a supermarket.

Jonathan is responsible for the islands politics and roughly £400 million budget, I’m responsible for taking out the trash. And so on and so forth. You get the idea.

What it illustrates is that a career job that carries significant responsibilities does not mean that one cannot also serve your local church at the same time.

What it should also indicate is that you cannot judge (and should not judge) a leader by the job that they do. Jonathan’s work easily displays his leadership ability, not so the work of a supermarket lackey.

I’ve grown up in western knowledge and education based systems and I think that means we value education and career achievement more highly than perhaps the Bible. Paul was a well trained rabbi and educated man (who was prepared to make tents for cash) and Peter was a largely uneducated fisherman. Both were apostles.

It was a real privilege to get to know Jonathan and some insights into both his island and his work, and to see that whatever you can do, you can also serve your church.

 

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April 9, 2014

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7 observations & 3 challenges for Newfrontiers

Nearly three years ago Newfrontiers formally transitioned from a first generation to a second generation movement. Newfrontiers had from its inception been led by Terry Virgo until 2011. Then a process, which had been under way for some time, was publicly acknowledged and around 20 teams all around the world began their own journey (you can read some reports from that night here and here).

Newfrontiers is now defined thus:

“We are a group of apostolic leaders, who, together with our teams and churches, are united on global mission by core values and genuine relationship.”

A year or so later Matthew Hosier, in a post called Creative Destruction, described the process:

“Terry releasing authority to a new team (and teams) and the creative destruction of one, central, organising hub around which the movement turns. This has caused a certain amount of pain and confusion for numbers of churches, as it is not yet clear where and to whom everyone is meant to relate. There is also the danger of some feeling that we have taken something of size and substance and broken it into smaller, weaker, parts.”

Summing it up rather dramatically, he ended with “Newfrontiers must die, in order that Newfrontiers might live.” Quite.

Matthew has recently returned from a gathering of these team leaders (and some of their teams), now nearly three years on, and has again reported on the process. Has Newfrontiers been broken up? Does it even exist? Is Newfrontiers, dead or alive?

The answer is very much alive but it has changed and is still changing.

I was privileged to be included in the gathering, Matthew reports on, so I thought I’d write down some of my reflections.

  1. Newfrontiers has moved on: The room was full of leaders but the founder wasn’t one of them. He could have been and that would have been brilliant. In fact, he shared a message by video which was very warmly received. However, the fact is Newfrontiers has made the leap from 1st to 2nd generation. It’s a transition that is now in the rearview mirror.
  2. Newfrontiers has no centre: It was a clear devolution and decentralizing of authority. Often movements have gathered to a centre, but Newfrontiers has no Rome, no Constantinople, no Canterbury. There is no HQ and no one really knows even how many churches are represented. Multiple teams means multiple hubs and much more movement.
  3. Newfrontiers has the 3rd generation in view: The presence of the next generation of leaders was very encouraging, it gives Newfrontiers every chance of making it to a 100 which in this current age would be something of an achievement. Although I should add, no thinks that’s the point of the thing, but a movement that can keep moving and keep sustaining that movement has a genuine chance of accomplishing something significant if it can keep building on the ground gain by the previous generation.
  4. Newfrontiers is increasingly representing global Christianity: There was a notable shift south and east with significant numbers from Africa and a growing contingent from Asia. For some reason at this gathering we had no one from South America and China is noticeable by its absence but this increasing diversity is hugely encouraging. This also means that Newfrontiers is not a British movement. It started there, it’s still predominantly an English language movement and still leans on the UK – but without a centre and with the increasing diversity it would be wrong to describe or think of Newfrontiers as British. That’s good.
  5. Newfrontiers is still about relationships: Having met lots of leaders who feel isolated and unsupported, the atmosphere at this gathering could not have been more different. Mutual accountability, genuine vulnerability, openness and honesty and a desire to encourage one another. Collaboration, partnership and forging paths together were recurring themes. You join Newfrontiers (or more accurately one of its teams) by forging relationships around common values, vision and mission. It’s about being friends together on a mission.
  6. Newfrontiers is still about the mission: There were lots of stories of people continuing to move cities, nations and continents because God will have a family from every tribe and tongue. The determination to plant churches, reach the unreached, break into new nations and raise new leaders is what I signed up for. It’s great to see that back at the top of the agenda, after the necessary pause of breath in many places over the last few years.
  7. Newfrontiers is committed to learning: This is encouraging and necessary. There is a desire to keep learning about apostolic mission, growing and leading movements, engaging with culture, contextualisation and most importantly knowing Christ.

That’s not all of it, I’m sure, but there are also some challenges ahead. The ones I see include:

  1. Embracing cultural diversity while holding theological unity: It was encouraging to see how global we are becoming but there’s much more to do. Pastors & theologians from other continents need space to be heard, new voices with new perspectives provides its own challenges. You only have to look at Anglicanism to see how hard it is hold separate teams together from America and Africa. Constant work at relationships and renewed agreement about core values is vital work.
  2. Developing genuine partnership which releases not controls: The last few years have seen independent teams emerge, all rapidly developing their own identity, teams, training programmes and so on. If Newfrontiers is to keep advancing the kingdom of God, we will need a spirit of humility and generosity in large measures. It may mean someone decreasing so others increase. We kid ourselves if we think there is no ego in the room (certainly if I happen to be in the room anyway) but ego must be conquered. We can’t be secretly wondering ‘who is the greatest?’ even if we’re too nice to say it in public.
  3. Courage in the face of suffering and cultural shifts: It was humbling to hear stories of genuine challenges from eastern Europe to the far East and plenty of places in between. While one of our enemies best weapons in the west is comfort that is not true for so many. I am convicted to keep growing in prayer for the suffering church. Yet the other side to that coin is that the church in the West is on the frontlines of huge cultural shifts that like an earthquake haven’t fully hit the outlying regions yet but they will. It will take courage to identify where to change and where to challenge and over what to embrace the costs of remaining faithful to what you believe to be true.

Overall I’m surprisingly upbeat about the prospects – and remain glad to be a part of a movement that seeks to glorify God in all the nations, seeks to love Jesus, listen to His Spirit, be faithful to His word and do it all as friends.

 

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March 31, 2014

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Istanbul

1408001 25542964 Istanbul Turkey newfrontiers Istanbul Family I’m with the family for a few days in Turkey. I’m here for a gathering of leaders from across the Newfrontiers family of churches. It will be interesting to hear the stories of how things are developing in this new season of multiplication.

We’ve spent a few days (not enough) in Istanbul which really is the place where East meets West. Fascinating. However, a few short days are not nearly enough. As our two small children are not yet interested in historical sights, we’ve been to the aquarium and the parks instead of the Hagia Sofia or Blue Mosque.

We’re also visiting friends who have moved to Turkey to serve the church here – I’m sitting with the family as they struggle to learn Turkish. It’s a family struggle, it’s not easy, it’s painful and costly. It’s also worth it.

Today we’re visiting Iznik (the old city of Nicea) although the site of the first council is apparently under water and it’s still a little cold to go swimming but hope to leave with a little of the spirit of Athanasius.

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March 19, 2014

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Crimean Crisis: An early response

As I read the news that Russia in all but name has annexed Crimea, I wondered about the lack of comment from Christians, so I’ve decided to air some thoughts.

According to everyone else, Crimea is officially a part of Ukraine but not in Moscow; there it is ‘ours’. For weeks thousands of Russian troops (no need to go along with the ‘local self-defence forces’ rubbish that President Putin has used) are stationed, operating and taken control of the surrounding area. We have a word for that in English; it’s called ‘an invasion’.

So just to be clear, in case you missed it: Russia invaded Ukraine and captured Crimea. The last time there was an invasion in Europe was 1968 when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. That occupation lasted until 1991.

While we’re on the subject of Czechoslovakia, it’s interesting to note that they were also invaded in 1938 and the pretext was, “the alleged privations suffered by the ethnic German population living in those regions.” We’re not there yet and I’m not comparing Putin to Hitler but the pretext is alarmingly similar. A point not lost on current Ukrainian President Olexander Turchynov.

The similarity won’t be any comfort to the Ukrainians, the western powers didn’t care enough about Czechoslovakia to go to war over it and it’s uncertain that anyone cares enough about Ukraine to go to war over them.

The problem is conveniently hidden by the lack of identification on the Russian soldiers who have been camped in Ukraine for the past fortnight. It allows Russia to say that it has no forces in Ukraine (even though it does) and has not invaded Ukraine (even though it has) which means the 1994 Budapest Memorandum was not broken (even though it was) and the US and UK are not obliged to front up to the defence of the Ukraine. The Memorandum will be worth less than the paper it was signed on if no signatory was ever inclined to stand up for it.

This matters because suddenly the world is a much more uncertain place and dangerous. War is, by no means, a certainty (and I think still unlikely) but it’s undeniable that Europe is closer to war than at any point since 1945. Yugoslavia was a civil war and NATO intervention made it very one-sided. Russia is the big league.

Much more likely is a return to a cold war and increasing levels of economic sanctions, which is fun when the world economy is best described as ‘fragile’. Any step-up in economic sanctions is going to bite, deepest in Russia but also in Europe and much less in the USA.

The wider geo-political situation also becomes increasingly precarious. I don’t think anyone suspects Russian intervention in the Baltic states for example, but Russian attitudes matter in Damascus, Tehran & Pyongyang. Chances are they’re about to get very uncooperative. The most interested spectator of all though, I suspect, is China. Strength matters and China will be watching the western nations to see how much objection there really is when a big nation takes a chunk out of a smaller, weaker nation. Taiwan’s leaders may be feeling a tad edgier just now.

You may well have noted that my tone suggests blame should be laid on the doorstep of Vladimir Putin, which is mostly true (for pro-russian view of events, start here). That’s not to say that everyone else is blameless.

So what, what to think of it all as Christians?

  1. I’ve visited eastern Ukraine on several occasions visiting with churches there. Life for many of their people is already very hard, Ukraine is poor. Life for the near future looks like it will just get harder. They are your brothers and sisters, they need your prayers and they will almost certainly need some of your money.
  2. It’s easier for us to look at the big picture but emotions are raw when you just see the borders of your nation unilaterally changed by a more powerful neighbour. What is a godly reaction to that? Do you know? I don’t.
  3. Much has been made of cultural renewal by evangelicals, so it would be odd to invest time and energy in film nights, apologetics and cultural analysis but shut up when it comes to complex situations like this. We need Christians to think hard about foreign policy.
  4. While borders have always been somewhat arbitrary, we now live in an ethnically diverse world that is learning to embrace multiculturalism. This Russian rush to the defence of russian speakers sets neighbour against neighbour. That’s not good.
  5. There is rarely a clear cut good v evil, right v wrong choice in matters of foreign policy. It’s not a marvel comics film. The reality is complex, there are arguments on both sides, wisdom and discernment are needed. Pray for your leaders.
  6. We live in a short-term 24 hour news cycle, Moscow will want a period of boredom so we all lose interest but history tells us that that small crises can build up to really, really big ones. Let’s not kid ourselves that humanity is fundamentally different than it was 60 years ago. Pray for peaceful resolution.
  7. Nations rise and nations fall. The Lord remains sovereign. That doesn’t mean He’s uninterested.

Thoughts?

 

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March 13, 2014

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5 things to do before you give up being bi-vocational

This is the third post in a mini-series about bi-vocational leaders in churches (The bi-vocational leader & 5 reasons why I’m happy to be bi-vcoational).

There are many leaders in many churches who work two jobs and for many there comes a time when they wonder whether life wouldn’t really be better with just one job and go full-time for the church. There have been several times in my life where it’s not just felt like two full time jobs but has actually been two full-time jobs and I can do that for only so long before it breaks me.

  1. Don’t assume that it’s the ‘secular job’ you need to give up. For some your arena of calling, vocation, fruitfulness and gifting is not in the church but in the ‘secular’ (for lack of a better word) job. While it might be the church that is applying the pressure, it shouldn’t be a given that you should jump that way. Others (like me) know, that the job is just a job, a way of paying the bills so they can work for the church. You need to know which one you are, so you know which job you need to invest in and which job to let go.
  2. Ensure you’re working in a team. If you’re not working in a team, then every job whether you’re good at it or not is going to come your way and instead of being focussed on your calling, you’ll spend way too long doing things that you’re really not good at. You will quickly find yourself in the situation of feeling like all your time is full and you’re still not doing the things you feel called to. In other words, a team ensures you can get to the specifics and away from the general.
  3. Ensure you’ve delegated as much as possible. When you’ve delegated out to your team everything (or as near as) that is not your specific gifting and calling and you still need more time to do everything that’s opening up for you, that’s the time to consider making the switch.
  4. Ensure the need is related to the mission. Too often what ‘needs to be done’ and ‘the mission’ get tangled up and while they are sometimes the same, that’s not always the case. Keeping your focus on your mission helps to ensure then when you make the jump from bi-vocational to vocational you’re giving yourself (and your church) the best chance of reaping the fruits from the extra investment.
  5. Ensure you plan the transition to include rest. Usually by the time you make the switch the two jobs have become increasingly tiring and the danger is you move into one full time job (not necessarily less work than before) tired and exhausted. While you gain from increased focus and a simplified life, it helps to plan in some rest in the middle so that you make the switch ready, rested and refreshed. Take as long as you can afford/need.

What advice would you offer? What have I missed?

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March 7, 2014

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Joy and sorrow

Joy isn’t always an easy concept to grasp or differentiate from cousin happiness. A common struggle is the idea of finding joy in the midst of hardship as for many happiness is defined by the absence of hardship.

Contemporary western culture is so soft that even trivial things get elevated to the level of ‘hard’ (just listen this week to the different references to how ‘hard’ something is) and thus robbing the poor darlings of all semblance of joy.

Yet in scripture we see that hardship and suffering, far from being places where joy is killed, are places where joy is discovered. A bit like finding treasure in a field that doesn’t belong to you, in fact.

Here are the voices of David, Habakkuk, James and Paul

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
(James 1:2-4)

Or consider the example of Jesus:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
(Heb 12:1-3)

or Paul

“I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” (2 Cor 7:4)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” (1Th 1:6)

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Cor 8:1-2)

or from the OT

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab 3:17-18)

or how about Psalm 126

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
(Psa 126:1-6)

You can see the pairings right: Sow in tears, desolation & barrenness, severe affliction (literally being crushed by life), extreme poverty, trials of various kinds, imprisonment and shameful death on a cross.

But in all of them there was the mysterious presence of joy. It’s not joy in suffering or saying that their suffering was somehow good but that in their suffering they knew who God was, His promises, His goodness, His comfort, His ability to produce goodness even from evil. Their eyes weren’t fixed on their suffering (all of which was great) but fixed instead on something incomparably greater which they realised was somehow (by the mystery of faith) theirs and this caused them great joy.

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March 5, 2014

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Picking up sticks

6776318561 e5e5c14d5f b 300x200 Picking up sticks sin Jesus hermeneutics exegesis death bible I’ve just listened to an energetic debate between Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson (you can see it here) on whether the authors of the Bible misheard God.

The debate starts around Numbers 15:32-36 with a man being stoned to death for picking up sticks and concludes with a fiery to and fro about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11.

Steve argues, essentially, that God doesn’t strike people down and makes his case on his understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus didn’t strike the woman caught in adultery down and because God is unchanging, God can’t have done it before (man with sticks) or afterwards (Ananias & Sapphira). He also charges this God of a more literal view with being terribly inconsistent because, haven’t we all done things like that and neither I nor you know anyone who has been struck down lately.

There are all sorts of problems with this view of scripture, of God and even with Jesus. I think Steve minimises sin to the point of irrelevance, minimises God’s holiness, minimises God’s salvation and redemption through Christ and minimises the point of the cross but let’s take one – the view of sin.

Q: How many sins does it take to fall short of the glory of God?
A: Just one.

Q: How serious does this need to be?
A: All sins are serious.

Is picking up sticks on the sabbath any more or less serious than eating some fruit? It’s hard to see how it is, but if you were told not to, then it’s just as disobedient. Is it worse than a white lie, an angry outburst, a jealous thought, a lustful look, or self-righteous justification of all of the above? Probably not, but just as sinful because it is defiant.

I often ask  my kids not to do trivial things because they are irritating, disruptive, silly – the thing in itself is rarely of consequence but after I’ve spoken and it carries on it becomes defiance and disobedience. Of course as a parent it’s frustrating to end up disciplining your child that started out as something silly and pointless but you do it because the point is training your children to function not selfishly but with regard to the family and the rules that we live by.

You get my point. I’m sure God is less worried about the sticks than he is our hearts, hearts that listen and obey.

You should also then read Derek Rishmawy’s thoughts because he makes similar arguments but more cogently.

 

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February 20, 2014

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Five reasons why I’m happy to be a bi-vocational leader

trail sign 300x225 Five reasons why Im happy to be a bi vocational leader On Monday I outlined three different ways a leader could be bi-vocational. Today I want to outline five reasons why I’m positive about this and in no great rush to change.

  1. Bi-vocational is the norm for leaders. Note I didn’t say pastors or church staff, but the majority of leaders in the majority of churches have paid work outside the church. For the majority of leadership is served by people volunteering their time, gifts and skills to the church in addition to their job. Seeing life and leadership this way is much more helpful.
  2. Bi-vocational puts me in the world. I know that the work of a church leader is real work (most of the time) but it is also very different work from that of the majority of people who are a part of a church. Working bi-vocationally helps me understand their world because it is also my world. It also means that I am in an environment to meet, talk to and be alongside those who don’t know Christ. It breaks the leader out of the Christian bubble-world.
  3. Bi-vocational frees up resources for mission. I know that every pastor thinks they add to the furthering of the mission of the church but not necessarily in proportion to the amount of resources they consume. Bi-vocational leaders if they are paid, mean that less finances are directed to staff and are redirected to (I would hope) the areas that most reflect the vision and values of the church. It should also allow for greater corporate generosity on behalf of the church.
  4. Bi-vocational leadership forces you to prioritize. Often there comes a crunch point for the bi-vocational leader where they are effectively working two full time jobs. This will be unsustainable in the long-run. The most common outcome is to seek full-time employment, often by the church, but this usually means a crunch in financial resources for the church as they suddenly face a steep rise in expenditure. It also means that the leader is now probably over-employed so they end up picking up general tasks off the other very busy bi-vocational leaders in the church. A better way, is to use this crunch to push you into greater delegation, releasing of leadership, and a sharpening of focus on your priorities. Instead of taking on more time and more tasks becoming a greater generalist, become a greater specialist but remain bi-vocational.
  5. Bi-vocational keeps me in a position of faith. Because I work in a low-paid job (and I know many leaders working for churches who also know they work in low-paid jobs) I’m spared many of the problems that come with having too much. It’s very liberating. God is my provider, every month a sign of the faithfulness of God (it’s not quite ‘give us this day our daily bread’) and everything extra a blessing gratefully received. I’m not only in a position to be trusting for finances but also for people. Because growth brings resource pressures, I need people to share the load, share the heart for people and stand alongside me. I have to trust God for the growth of the team. If God doesn’t supply I may have a nervous breakdown, or maybe my wife will. God hasn’t let us down yet and my wife at least is still sane.

Those are my five reasons, what have I missed or what do you disagree with?

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February 17, 2014

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The bi-vocational leader

tent 300x162 The bi vocational leader In recent years, many new terms have entered the vocabulary of Christian leadership. Alongside the rise of the missional community has come the bi-vocational leader. It used to be called tentmaking, because that’s literally what the apostle Paul did to support himself (Acts 18:3). Maybe today, Paul would be a jobbing builder.

You can find eight reasons here for example.

There are three main ways in which one can be a bi-vocational leader. They are:

  1. Self-employed. Here you manage your own business, time and taxes and weave into this mix the work of the church.
  2. Part-time employment. This is fairly self explanatory. You work however much you need to live and then gift the remaining time to your church.
  3. Full-time employment. Again, it’s not hard to figure this one out. You do a double shift.

Over the last ten years, I’ve done all three and been employed full-time as a church leader. I know which I prefer. Here are my thoughts on the respective pros and cons.

Self-employed. There can be a tendency to think that because church planters in particular are the entrepreneurial sort then they naturally should fit this option. Starting up a business requires similar skill to pioneering a new church so just go start a coffee-shop somewhere. This option is especially fashionable for the urban hipster planter. What’s not to like about being a barista and talking to people over coffee all day?

The reality is, is that while starting up a business and starting up a church do in fact require similar skills, they also require similar levels of commitment, dedication and hard work. You have to love your business as much as you love your church. You have to be just as willing to do the dog-work for the business as you are for the church, it requires the same first-in, last out attitude and dogged perseverance.

There are various challenges to running your own business; when it succeeds and when it fails it requires considerable levels of energy and time to keep it running or to stop it from failing. Most leaders I’ve talked to about this have a) not been bi-vocational for decades and b) assume that a business will quickly hit this sweet-spot where the planter has loads of money to live on, employ new team members, fund church ministries and give the leader lots of time to evangelise and c) live in cloud-cuckoo land.

Where I’ve seen this work, is where the leader already is self-employed and running their business or sufficient experience and client base to establish themselves quickly.

My own personal experience was with a business that struggled. (I ran an independent bookshop just as Amazon found it’s stride). I never loved it or dreamed about it, like I did the church and it never got first call on my gifts, time and energy. As a result it became a drain, a heavy burden and it was a relief to be finally cut free.

Full-time employment. This was far more preferable for me; your pay cheque is taken care of and the balancing act was in time and energy. It does depend a little on whether the job in question is also a career job or just a job. This is the common pressure point for most people but I found there to be one or two unique situations that only a pastor or leader would find themselves in.

I had a career job as editor of business-to-business industry magazine that had monthly deadlines, targets and required limited amounts of travel. The challenge came that deadlines were fixed and it’s impossible to schedule your people’s pastoral crises post deadline. Pioneering ministry is a battle, it is hard, it is graft, it deals with messy lives and broken people and if it’s not then what are you doing? There is a loneliness that comes with carrying burdens that are not easily shared, and in the early days the weight of responsibility is definitely not evenly spread. Work pressures and church pressures coincide. You have to know how to rest, recover and regroup. It’s running recovery. Eventually, if your new church grows the feeling of doing two-full time jobs becomes less of a feeling and more and more reality.

Part-time employment. This is my favourite so far. The main requirement for this is having either a sufficiently high-paying part time job or sufficiently low standards of living so that your ordinary part time job is enough. The disciplines of simplicity, financial stewardship and a commitment to debt-free (mortgage excluded) living has proven to be invaluable here.

I currently work at a supermarket about 50%, I stack shelves and man the checkout. I’ve also been a part time teacher and various other roles. You work only what you need to live and the rest of your time is your own, this gives you plenty of time to pastor & pioneer. There is enough emotional room to manage when someone else can’t.

Working at a supermarket, I also have no responsibilities beyond my job. I carry no pressures from work home, the job does not follow me, when I’m done, I’m done. It also gives me plenty of opportunity to observe everyday life and pray.

The challenge is your own needs and costs, there is a certain fragility that comes when you are a low-income worker – you are the furthest possible from indispensable, and you’re only one broken appliance from financial stress or meltdown.

Yet this is the most sustainable long-term option I think and the one that conveys the most advantages (although the lowest financial reward).

What have been your experiences of bi-vocational leaders? What has worked and what hasn’t?

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January 24, 2014

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Learning to live with faith

We meet as a church in the middle of the week to worship and prayer. It’s our custom, our habit, our rhythm. The challenge is not to see it as simply a meeting but as part of what sustains us. Eating is an activity, it takes up time in my schedule but not doing it […]

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January 23, 2014

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Book Review: No Perfect People Allowed

What kind of church is your church? Who is welcome at your church? I mean really welcome. Would the gay activist, the muslim, the local thief or drunk? What behaviours do they have to conform to before they’re welcome? John Burke sets out to help churches create genuinely welcoming church cultures that takes broken people […]

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