Bi-Vocational Ministry

Bi-Vocational Ministry

Why does our church choose to compensate their pastoral staff full-time?

Well, it is Biblical.  In fact, even in the Old Testament days at the temple, the sacrifices and offerings were brought in to give to God were used in this way.  Even though they were brought in to offer to God, practically speaking, they were consumed by those who served at the temple including the priests, worship leaders, and other staff members who worked at the temple.

1 Corinthians 9:13

Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?

1 Timothy 5:17-18

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Though this is a new issue that our church is facing, the subject of a bi-vocational pastor is nothing new.  In fact, Paul spends a great deal of time speaking about that very issue throughout his letters to the churches.  To clarify, Paul was an apostle and not a pastor, but the issue applies to anyone responsible for directing the affairs of the church or teaching and preaching.  Paul even had to defend himself on the matter.

1 Corinthians 9:3-18

3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?


  • What are the benefits of having full-time staff members at the church?


11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?  But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.


  • How can receiving material provision from the church hinder the gospel?


13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.


Now, we’re going to have a bit of a flashback.  We’re going to skip back to a scene where the church in Corinth first began to gain some insight on why this was such a heated issue for that church.


Acts 18:1-11

1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.


So from the very beginning of this church being planted, Paul was working bi-vocationally.  He was both a tentmaker working beside Aquila and Priscilla (also a working woman by the way) and also taught and reasoned in the synagogues on the Sabbath.  Jesus encouraged Paul to continue doing exactly this as well, which began the Corinthian church.  Aquila and Priscilla not only put their faith in Jesus and helped Paul with this church plant, but they also taught Apollos and started a church out of their own home (1 Corinthians 16:19).


  • How can working outside of the church be an asset to God’s Kingdom?


Not only did Paul work bi-vocationally at times, but he also would serve churches full time by receiving financial support from other churches.  This model is how most missionaries operate from today.


2 Corinthians 11:7-9

7 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.


Paul’s motive for forfeiting his right to being compensated by the church and working bi-vocationally or receiving support from other churches was to not be a burden to the church.


2 Corinthians 12:12-16a

12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16a Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. …

Again, Paul emphasized to the church in Thessalonica as well his desire to work bi-vocationally as to free the church from that burden.  He did so intentionally to set the example for a model to imitate on how they ought to also live.  He worked day and night to encourage them to live lives worthy of God.


1 Thessalonians 2:7b-12

7b … Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.


2 Thessalonians 3:7-13

7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.


  • How does working bi-vocationally set a good model to imitate for how to live?


  • What are some of the potential drawbacks of this model of living?


* Discuss the church as the body of Christ – each one fulfilling their role and the ministry opportunities that will open up as a result of this change. *