The last year has caused me to reflect a great deal on bivocational ministry. In my own church, I serve as a part-time minister, but know that I must dedicate energy to the strategy for our church. Here are a few of the ideas that I’ve been dwelling on to help me lead better.
Drop the buzzwords. Modern leaders in the church are just like ancient leaders in the church – we love our buzzwords. For the first century, it was the Gnostics talking about their secret knowledge. Today, we have made words like postmodern, Gen X, mission, and missional into junk-drawer terms. They mean everything and nothing at the same time. Don’t use hollow terms. Learn the vocabulary of your church and use it wisely.
Know the context. You are likely the only leader in your church that has done self-training to think missiologically. It is the default of most people to simply address a small circle of needs around them. Become a cultural expert about your city, your state, and the world. I know that I’m asking you to know a lot. But no one else is going to do it. I suggest you to make it a regular part of your teaching. Help your church to think about the application of biblical truths not just to their lives but to the life of their community and city.
See farther. In order to tell a better story, see you have to develop the discipline of seeing farther than others. It does not mean that you have to be prophetic in an Old Testament kind of way. As a leader, you need to find time for prayer and then planning that helps the church to see what they will do next, how they will minister going forward.
Seeing farther is not a normal skill possessed by most people in leadership. For those of us in bivocational work, it will require – like so much else – extra time. There are plenty of books and resources out there to help you with the process of setting the vision, putting together the strategy, and seeing farther. Let me give you a few practical suggestions to get the work done.
Set the pace. Don’t ever just point in a direction for your church and say, “Go!” Go first and bring everyone with you. You simply cannot lead strategically without putting yourself into the strategy. The moment strategy degrades to just an assignment for others, you have lost your footing as a leader.
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Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. He earned a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a doctor of ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as teaching pastor for the The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, Tennessee.
His works include Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. He is also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, he has written the small-group studies Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.