What do you do when you’re working full-time and receive a call into “full-time ministry?” I know, you’re probably questioning the validity of “full-time ministry” as is commonly understood where a person gets a salaried position in a local church. We can discuss that in the comment section if you’d like, but this post concerns another aspect.
It has become trendy to be bi-vocational. Here in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador, every “Church-Leader” that we work alongside of, is naturally bi-vocational. They all work a “day job,” AND do mission. The difference here, is that the language of “bi-vocation” is not about compensation for existing ministers, lack of compensation for existing ministers, or supplementing the compensation of existing ministers. It’s about sacrificing the potential of more income for the sake of mission, for Christ’s cause, and for the Kingdom. For most here, it’s not about answering a call to full-time ministry and then taking on additional more secular and more community integrated positions. It’s certainly not about being hip or trendy or even about being able to identify with the “common”person or “laity” while saying “Look at me! Even though I’m a Minister, I work just like you.” It’s about basic survival, hard work, sub-standard living conditions, AND wanting to do more mission. It’s rooted in a genuine desire to see God’s message and Messenger made known in all of creation. (Mark 16:15)
Let me give you a real life example;
There’s a young man here, we’ll call him “Marco.” Marco cuts the small trees from which hearts of palm are made. He gets 2 cents per cut tree. These trees have 2 inch long needles up and down the trunk and are laden with various molds and other contagions which can cause infection when poked by them. It’s steady work and he’s glad for it. A while back, over a period of time, we shared the gospel with Marco and he received Christ. Since then, he’s been growing in the strength of the Lord and has demonstrated a gift for preaching and mission. He sometimes works from 5 A.M. to 7 P.M. Likewise, he sometimes cuts his work short to join us on our mission outings. To put it another way, he sacrifices part of his income to answer his calling.
Marco came to me and expressed that he’s sensing God is calling him to do even more mission and become more active in local missions. I can clearly see that he and his call are genuine. The problem is that here in this region, it’s very difficult for the local communities to sustain gospel workers as described in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. For now, Marco accepts his situation and does what he can do as to mission while he attends to what he is doing in his vocation. He’s gracious and humble, but eager. Marco doesn’t have the privilege of choosing to be bi-vocational, he just is. He knows that his “work life” and “ministry life” are really just one life. He knows that while cutting trees or preaching the gospel, while harvesting palm hearts or working the harvest of human hearts, his “service of worship” (Romans 12:1) is to and for God.
Marco has an eager expectation and prays that God will “free up” some time of being a machete chopper to be more of a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of human hearts through God’s Word. It’s a noble aspiration. Marco has demonstrated the faithfulness in little things.
Marco is not frustrated. I am. We do what we can to make his hope a reality. We join with him in prayer for him and his family. We help financially where we can to free him up so that he can help set captives free.
So, you’ll have to excuse me if I think your radical
and cool bi-vocationality isn’t so cool after all.
Marco makes under 300 dollars a month. Here’s what I’d like to do:
I’d like to tell Marco to work part-time and do mission part-time. Specifically, I’d like get someone to sponsor Marco 51% of his current monthly income, or 153 dollars monthly, so that he could spend more than half of his time ministering the gospel in his own context.
Honestly, I have not convinced myself that this would be the right thing to do for Marco. I’ve thought about it much and it has weighed on my heart. So, for those of you who know a thing or two about working and ministering in developing countries, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you help Marco go on mission? Would you try to raise long-term committed support? Yes, God will provide a way. But I could be that way, you could be that way, and other congregations around the world could be that way. What would you do? What will you do?
I know of at least a dozen people in twice as many communities like Marco. I don’t just know “of” them, I know them. To see a passion for mission birthed in the heart of another stirs my soul. To know that so many could easily help make it happen but don’t, disheartens me. I can not let that stop me. I must pursue a solution. I want to free them all up and give them the gift of bi-vocatioanlity. Am I being unreasonable? Is there a better way? Would you like to sponsor someone like Marco?