I’m getting more convinced all the time this is something God is doing in our region. Why? Starting with the obvious, it has been strong on our hearts and has a lot to do with our well drilling project.
A bi-vocational Christian leader is someone who leads in a church, but supports his family financially by working another job.
Biblically, I see no problem with Christian leaders earning their income through the church. Practically, that hasn’t worked very well in this region. Churches are small and money is often very tight, so even churches that are good at giving often don’t contribute enough to support their leaders. This has too often resulted in key leaders moving away to another state or country to try and earn enough money to support their families. In churches that are very dependent on their leaders (pretty much all the ones I know around here), this leads to great struggle or even the church completely falling apart.
Tony was one of two key leaders in a good village church in our area. He survived an intense season of persecution in his village during the 1980s. I believe his brother was martyred during that time if I remember correctly. Tony faced attacks and serious death threats. He and a few other believers came through that time well, though. In recent years, the church was pretty strong and growing. Tony, however, struggling to support his family, moved away for a year to work. After returning to the village for a short time, he moved his family to another state for good. They have no plans to return, and their church has lost an important leader.
I’m talking to more and more pastors, missionaries, and church leaders around here who are thinking about if not already trying to start businesses to support themselves.
- Henry is a Mexican missionary pastoring a church plant who has thought about starting a photo shop. He feels that working a business would help remove a significant barrier between pastors and not-yet-believers.
- Hugh is a Mexican church planter and Bible translator who has started a well drilling business.
- Fred is an indigenous church planter who has started a construction business to support himself and eventually some of his disciples.
- Gary is a Mexican missionary who has supported himself for 16 years by raising rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and growing tomatoes. He has trained hundreds of other people to support themselves the same ways. He told me that one of the best ways he’s found to disciple people is doing it as they work alongside him.
Bi-vocational leadership came up again today as I had a drop-in visit from a Christian leader and his wife from a nearby village. It turns out Bernie has been thinking along the same lines, also. His idea would be to start a tortilla shop and use that as a way to work with people and disciple them.
Everywhere I turn around here, I hear people with the same thing on their hearts. I have to believe it’s something God is doing. I’m getting excited.