Oklahoma is a state of small churches, and, for that matter, the Southern Baptist Convention is comprised mostly of small churches. Nearly 1,100 churches in our state convention run less than 100 in Sunday School and worship, and more than 550 pastors of those churches are bivocational. This represents more than 30 percent of our churches.
Recently, Polla and I spent a weekend with some of our bivocational leaders and their spouses. It was a wonderful experience for us. I found these people to be dedicated and gifted servants of the Lord. They are bivocational for one reason-God has called them to this special ministry. They are businessmen, educators and skilled tradesmen. Each has a passion to serve the church and reach people with the Gospel.
These men and their wives have big hearts and big faith, and their stories are inspiring. A favorite of mine centered on Falls Creek. One pastor rented a cabin and got food lined up for a week of youth camp. He then called another bivocational pastor to ask if his church wanted to join them. The second pastor said he would love to go, but there were no teenagers in his congregation. The first pastor replied, “We don’t have any either, but God will give us some.” They both stepped out on faith and God did provide a group of youth to go. The Sunday I preached at one of those churches there was a row of teenagers, and their ministry is growing.
I found a refreshing camaraderie among these pastors. In many of our churches we are competitive. These men work together. They hold an evangelistic tent revival and share expenses and work together to see people come to Christ.
As I sat and listened to them talk about their ministries, one issue surfaced continually. They need help. Some struggle to have music in their church. Others need teachers. All would be blessed by people who have a heart to serve and reach out to others.
I could not help but think of the number of gifted people sitting on the pew, soaking but never giving out. They are gifted to be teachers, lay preachers, youth leaders, children’s workers and musicians. Year after year, they sit and do not serve. They do so while many of our churches suffer with great unmet needs.
My mind also runs to a large group of older teens and college students who are gifted but not serving. I realize many want to be with their age groups-but think of the opportunities to grow and mature in the faith while serving.
We suffer from a “me first” mentality in the church. I recall Jesus said that to follow Him requires denying self and taking up a cross. “Others first” and “sacrifice” seem to be the path to walk if we follow Him. Beyond our obligation is the satisfaction and joy that come from serving.
Bivocational pastors and their wives pour out their lives. They need help. Just this week, I talked with a rancher who is a leader in his home church. He has been a lay preacher in the Panhandle for years. Now he has gone to a small community to try to re-start a church. In another small church, a couple who are school teachers lead the music. I could give multiple examples.
The point of this article is two-fold. First, I want to applaud the host of bivocational pastors, youth ministers, musicians and others who serve so faithfully and so well. Second, I challenge many of you to open your hearts to the call of God, and get up from the pew and serve. There is a small church near you that needs you.