Bivocational pastors stage inaugural SBC get-together

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 (9 years ago)

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--A dinner of North Carolina barbecue chicken and pulled pork greeted 23 bivocational pastors June 13 as they met for their first-ever fellowship gathering during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The two-hour event was envisioned by Adolphus Cleveland, pastor of The White Stone Church in Lubbock, Texas. Cleveland is president of the Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association.

“Part of my dream is to break out of our ghetto and ... have a presence here at the SBC annual meeting,” Cleveland said. “As ‘bivos’ we understand what it is to do small things that make our associations great, our convention great and our nation great.”

The agenda for the first-ever event was simple: meet and eat. Each pastor stood in turn, gave his name and the multitude of sources from which he derived an income while also serving as a pastor of a Southern Baptist church. Each also took the opportunity of promoting the concept of bivocational ministry.

Three examples:

-- Robert Garbett is an instructor at the North Carolina Justice Academy, where police officers receive their training. He pastors at New Hope Baptist Church in Beulaville, N.C., and he’s president of the North Carolina Bivocational Pastors Association.

“That’s what I see God has led me to do,” Garbett said. “It’s very rewarding.” His challenges lie with prioritizing everyday responsibilities, he added.

-- Joe Young of Parchman, Miss., teaches high school and college Spanish, raises cows and serves as pastor of Calvary Baptist, the staff church of the state penitentiary.

“If we’re going to reach the world for Jesus Christ, it’s going to take bivocational pastors,” Young said.

-- Larry Orange of Mayfield, Ky., teaches at Mid-Continent University and pastors His House, a church Orange started three years ago. He also organized the western Kentucky regional bivocational pastors association.

“I wouldn’t have come to the SBC this year if I hadn’t heard about this event,” Orange said. “I just want to support this organization. Bivocational ministry is my passion.”

Denominational workers in state conventions and national agencies also attended the bivocational dinner.

Eugene Bryant, a church planter strategist in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area in California, calls himself a bivocational pastor’s coach. In the last five years, only one of the new churches in his area was started by a fully-funded pastor, and that was a daughter church to one that had been started by a bivocational pastor, he said.

“This is a wonderful event,” Bryant said. “I’m glad I came to it to fellowship with bivocational pastors across the nation.”

Statistics indicate that perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 Southern Baptist churches are pastored by men who receive at least part of their income from a non-church source, which might include their spouse’s employment. Cleveland said he hoped next year many more bivocational pastors would participate in the Bivocational Pastors Dinner Fellowship at the annual meeting in San Antonio.

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