One of the words we hear quite a bit in todays culture, and which I almost never heard growing up is the word ‘warrior’. A warrior is described as a person who excels in all aspects of combat. They are regarded as fierce and independent. This is kind of an old concept brought up to date and is used extensively in military recruiting. It appeals especially to our Americanized concepts of the self-sufficient and unbeatable individual. In contrast to this is the term ‘Soldier. Regarded as someone whose work is warfare, but at a lower level of individual ability than the warrior, the soldier is looked down upon by people today. But here is the rub…warriors are what is regarded as a sole contributor while the soldier is trained to work in teams with other soldiers. During the late middle ages the iconic western version of the warrior was the knight. Armored and trained, the knight could beat any soldier in individual combat. But with the advent of group tactics and new weapons the soldier supplanted the knight in importance. The fact is that, as good as the warrior was, a group of well trained soldiers working as a team could take on and beat them.

Churches today often like to allude to the image of the warrior, the self-sufficient individual. The truth is that New Testament scripture does not support this, but instead speaks of the ‘soldier of Christ’. We need more soldiers, people who can work together in teams. The body of Christ, of which Paul speaks, is composed of individual parts certainly, but all working in concert as a well-oiled machine.

To carry this concept into application for the bivocational pastor, any pastor who thinks they can carry it all on their shoulders (warrior) is going to burn out. A pastor must be as much a team player as any soldier would be. The warriors strength will eventually wane in the fight, where a group of soldiers will give each other rest and allow them to carry through to the objective successfully. The pastors teammates will include people in their own congregation, but will also likely include other pastors who can listen, encourage and support each other.

If you want to be in ministry over the long term, find people who can support and encourage you, pray for you, listen to you. Be a good soldier for Christ.

In the worldview of Christianity one of the primary themes of theology is the battle between good and evil. God’s sovereignty and goodness is challenged by a spiritual being of immense power opposed to Him who we know as Satan. Sometimes, though, that battle is made out to be more metaphorical than real. I have become convinced that this in itself is actually a tactic used by Satan. If he can get us to believe he doesn’t really exist then he has a foothold he can exploit. Based on my experiences over the last 7 months or so I can say with certainty that Satan does exist as an intelligent and powerful being.

Starting last June my wife and I have made some extraordinary strides in faith, and with each of those steps we have been challenged by our wiley enemy. In June we made a trip to Hawaii for some family business, during which my wife ended up in the hospital twice for pneumonia. Coming home, two weeks later she broke her ankle in three places. Surgery and a difficult recovery followed, while I had a more’than-full plate at my secular job. My 91 year old aunt, living in Hawaii and whom we had just visited, was admitted to the hospital and spent several weeks in Rehab. Shortly afterward I made the decision that I needed to leave my employment and sought another position. I accepted a position in November but before I was able to start things came to a head at my workplace and I was forced to leave before I was quite ready to do so.

I don’t want to sound like I am looking for sympathy here, the point is that during this time frame we were hit time and again by an Enemy who knew just how to strike.

The good news is this. Satan, though powerful, is a created being and is finite. Our God is infinite. He promises us in Romans 8:28 that He will bring good out of anything that happens to us. Anything. Satan stands defeated before he begins. So, although I had to suspend this blog, and we have a few more scars (literally in the case of my wife), our faith is stronger than it has ever been.

To God be the glory!

Planning for a sabbatical can be an intimidating process.  Bivocationals have numerous challenges which a fully-funded pastor will not have.  Primarily this is because the church may see fit to give their pastor a well-deserved break, but their secular job may cast a dim eye on such an enterprise.  Consequently, the plan must encompass the necessity for the bivocational to continue working in their secular job while being absent from their home church.  Here are a few thoughts for you to consider.

Absence from your local church does not mean absence from worship.  Be sure to include plans for worship somewhere.  You may want to connect with the pastor and let him know you are there for a limited time and on sabbatical, or maybe you’d just like to remain in the background.  Each of these has advantages, but going to worship is not an optional activity.

Rest and relaxation are an essential part of a sabbatical.  That is what is meant by ‘renewal’ and ‘recreation’.  A study worth doing would be to look into what those words mean in this context.  I have one friend, a long-time minister who has taken two sabbaticals, and each was based mostly on this thought.  In his case it was hunting, fishing and riding his motorcycle on a long trip.

Plan on using some time for ministry projects you don’t have time for normally.  Some ‘starter’ thoughts might be attending various churches in the area to compare worship styles and ministry opportunities, finishing a manuscript or helping a friend with a project.  You could plan out the coming year in sermons. One of my avowed projects should I be able to have a sabbatical soon is to help write guidelines for my District for this very topic, Bivocational sabbaticals.

Plan at least one personal spiritual retreat.  Use the time to pray and seek the face of God.  You can do this solo, or take your spouse or a friend along, but make sure the purpose of the retreat is clear.

Combine your sabbatical time with your secular vacation time to plan something special.  For instance, my wife and I have long desired to make a trip to Europe.  By combining a sabbatical and my secular vacation time we could do this more easily.  We could also use the time as a way to explore the spiritual temperature and culture of wherever it is we go, coming back enriched and refreshed.

Write down the various ideas that you come up with and share them with a mentor, your church board or District/Denominational leadership.  Ask them for ideas.  And in the process, you might be able to give them a few ideas, too!


“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8)


Since starting my work as a Police Chaplain there has been a phrase that seems to recur frequently, and which sums up well what we do as chaplains. That phrase is, “A Ministry of Presence”.  Reflecting on this phrase, however, brings home the realization that a ‘ministry of presence’ applies to not only a police chaplain or any other chaplaincy, but the ministry of the bivopastor and to all believers, in general.  Every believer can have a ‘ministry of presence’, if they keep a few guidelines in mind.

  1. Make yourself available.  Unless you are actually available, people will not come to you.  Pure and simple.
  2. People need to know you are available.  Unless they know you are there and available they will not come to you. You don’t need to hang out a sign or a shingle, but simply be open.  Over time people will know that you care and are available.
  3. Be ready to listen, more than talk.  People often need someone to talk to, many times they don’t want anything more than this.  That is OK.
  4. Let God work in the background.  It is often said that God works in mysterious ways.  This is true, and He works effectively!  But we must let Him do His work and not try to change things by our own efforts. Your goal here is to bring God’s comfort to someone and perhaps be one of the persons in the chain to lead them to Christ.  But that is not your immediate goal.
  5. Don’t judge the person you are talking to.  Their life may be sinful, their habits dirty and their attitude terrible, but you need to let God do His work without judging the person based on appearances.  They are loved by God, and that is enough to know.
  6. Have resources ready.  Do I really need to say this? Have a Bible, a New Testament or at least a Gospel of John handy at all times. An index card in your wallet with names and phone numbers for resources you think might be needed may be enough beyond that.  Remember, it is alright to let people know where you are coming from theologically, and to know that no one is going to require you to practice outside your faith tradition.  It would be disingenuous to ask a Christian, for instance, to pray to the god of the Muslims or to Buddha. In my work as a Police Chaplain I am identified as not only a Chaplain by my uniform and name tag, but wear crosses as collar insignia, identifying me as a Christian, though I minister to everyone equally within those bounds.
  7. Cover it all in prayer.  This is the most important part.  Without prayer it will at the very least not be as effective as it could be.  At worst, your ministry will be dead in the water.  BE ready to pray with the person who comes to you, but ask their permission first.

These are all things any person can do.  They do not require extensive Bible knowledge or specialized evangelism training.  You don’t have to be a mental health counselor.  You just have to be there.


“For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'”  
Psalms 122:8 (NIV)




The bivopastor has a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the small church.  Now, that might not seem to be a controversial statement, but it is both true and somewhat in dispute.  It all depends on what you call a ‘small’ church!  In my neck of the woods (New England) a small church is any congregation with 50 people or under, while a large church is anything over 150 people.  The largest church on our District has about 450 people in AM worship. Now, in other places in the country those numbers are ridiculously small.  My daughter once went with someone to their church in Illinois whose Junior High Sunday School room could have literally fit 2 of my entire church buildings inside it!  The average church attendance at that particular congregation was about 4,000 on a Sunday. Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of that church was that in that region it is only regarded as a mid-size church!

The uncomfortable reality is that most bivopastors are ministering in a small church…usually anywhere from 10 to 125 people.  This is not a bad thing, but it needs to be recognized as one factor that colors the face of many smaller congregations.  Granted, there are exceptions, with some large church pastors actively and intentionally remaining bivocational, but it is a rarity.  This means that when we are talking about bivocational pastors we are probably talking about pastors serving in a church of under 100 people, many in a rural context.  Loneliness, isolation and frustration may be major factors in the shaping of the pastor’s personal life.

I recently asked a question of some fellow pastors on a Facebook group, “What is the most practical and useful book/resource on growing a small church that you have read?” and received some good feedback.  For me, at least, the best response was concerning a podcast that is run by and for pastors of small churches.  This is the ‘200Churches’ podcast by John Finkelde, Karl Vaters and Dave Jacobs. It can be found at ““.  This podcast is only partially about growth, but tackles many of the problems and issues facing the pastor of a small church.  I highly recommend it.

The  majority of us are not called to a megachurch.  The average size of a church in the USA is 75.  Our egos are unfortunately tied up in this…we SAY we do not measure our pastors by AM attendance, or growth percentages, but we do.  And we, quite unscripturally, hold those ‘successful’ pastors up on a pedestal.  In doing so we look at ourselves and somehow think that we are not  ‘real’ pastors.  Perhaps we need to confess this as our own failing and realize that being bivocational, or a small church pastor, is not a sin or a failing. We are shepherds who have been called.  Period.


“We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Numbers 13:33 (NIV)

mindfulLately we have had some interesting happenings around my secular job.  Yesterday I walked in to work and found we had a mandatory meeting across the parking lot at the Middle School library.  Upon arriving there I learned that our ‘Wellness’ coordinators had booked a meeting for our department to have a lecture on ‘Mindfulness’.  If you have not followed this trend then be assured it is coming to a venue near you!  Our presenter told us that mindfulness is being presented around our School District to all the employees as a way of reducing stress and therefore contributing to our overall health and happiness.  According to one source, mindfulness is defined as a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them’.  We went through three exercises in which we were encouraged to focus on certain thoughts.  Afterwards, in speaking with another participant who is also a Christian, we were both struck with the same thing; this was really prayer, but without God!

Now, that is kind of a strange thought, isn’t it?  How can you pray, without praying TO someone?  Frankly, twenty years ago this would have been immediately derided as a New Age indoctrination.  Parents and staff would have been complaining to the School Board.  Newspaper, TV and magazine articles would have been devoted to the subject.  Grated, this is Vermont, so even back then it might have been ignored or viewed as ‘progressive’. But now, we have a staff member who is paid to do this specific job.

So, what is to be our stance on this?  I will be the first to say that if we believe that this practice is dumbing down Christians into some Eastern religion technique, or even atheistic/agnostic psycho-babble, then we need to engage it directly.  But if we look at this as a way that NON-Christians are being given a first step into a relationship with God, and that God may use it to speak into their lives…then maybe we should think of this as an evangelistic tool.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”.  If being STILL is a first step, then the second step of ‘knowing God’ may very well be the next thing to happen.  God’s prevenient grace can work in ways that we may find to be…unusual!

Just to be clear, there is a distinct difference between Eastern meditative techniques and those of historic Christianity.  The Eastern techniques, especially those from Buddhism, are essentially an ’emptying’ of the mind, in order to connect with the ‘universe’, whereas Christian mediation focuses on taking the mind off ‘self’ and filling it with God’s presence.

Many of the best of the old time hymns were framed around the bawdy songs sung in the bars.  The early Holiness preachers used the familiar tunes to catch hold of the sinners there and provide an in-road resulting in their salvation.  Could it be that we need to use the ‘frame’ of the ‘Mindfulness’ movement to catch the attention of the sinners around us, to see them saved?

Thoughts to challenge us…


“Be still and know that I am God”.    Psalms 46:10


NOAA WP-3D Orion weather reconnaissance aircraft

NOAA WP-3D Orion weather reconnaissance aircraft

In 1943, during World War 2 an airborne unit was formed that still exists and whose mission is unique.  Today that mission encompasses several agencies in the US government including the US Air Force Reserve, NOAA and the US Navy.  The mission…to track and acquire data on tropical cyclones by flying into them.  They are known as Hurricane Hunters.

Watching the political rhetoric in the 2016 Presidential contest, and just having gone through both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it is easy to imagine the whole scenario as a figurative hurricane.  Lots of wind, rain and collateral damage.  How do we as ministers, especially as bivo pastors out in the secular workplace, address the current situation?  Do we visibly back a candidate?  Do we support them from the pulpit?  Can we post to our church website links to a candidate?  Ask for donations?  Can we do any of these as private citizens? Even if we CAN do these things, SHOULD we do them?  Folks, we are about to fly into the eye of the storm!

The first question is CAN we do these things suggested?  The answer is two-fold.  On the public level, from a pulpit or from a church website or other official forum we reference the Johnson Amendment put forward by Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1954, which refers to a change in the U.S. tax code prohibiting tax-exempt organizations (including churches) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. 501(c)3 organizations are also specifically addressed in the US Tax Code and have strict limits or prohibitions imposed on them.  So very simply…the answer is no, unless you want to endanger your tax-exempt status.

On the private level, yes we can endorse or work for any candidate we wish as long as our official capacity is not used or referenced.  Be warned, this is sometimes a thin line.

Should we endorse a political candidate?  That is an ethical question which should be approached on a case by case basis.  In some contexts it may merely serve to push people away from the church on account of their knowledge your choice of candidate.  In other contexts it may be perfectly fine.

In practicality I have found that simply reminding people that the Bible has specific things to say, urging them to read the Bible and then getting out to vote is sufficient.  I specifically tell them I don’t care who they vote for as long as they have chosen a candidate that lines up with their view of what is best and what God is telling them.  I leave the rest in God’s hands.

One final note.  I remind our congregation that we are Christians first, and citizens of an earthly nation second.  The words of John Wesley in his journal still ring true today…

“October 6, 1774
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Go and do likewise. Amen.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Romans 12:17-18 (NIV)

prayerWhen I was growing up as a kid in church we always went to Sunday School and the Holiness Meeting (Sunday AM Worship).  The more devout among us went to the Salvation Meeting (PM Praise service).  The really, really devout went to the Wednesday prayer meeting, too.  As I got older and a little wiser I began to  go to the evening Salvation Meeting and realized that it did indeed add to my spiritual well-being and life in the fellowship.  Even later, when I was called into the ministry I went to the Officer (pastor) and asked when the mid-week prayer meeting was, so I could attend.  To my utter shock and surprise he told me that it had been discontinued due to lack of interest!

Fast forward to today.  In my own church there are only two indispensable ministries.  The first is the Sunday morning Worship Service.  The second is our mid-week Prayer Meeting.  we can dispense with any ministry we have, but not those two.  And of the two…the prayer meeting is, in my opinion, more important.   So why should you have a prayer meeting?

  • Prayer is the engine that drives the church.  Prayer, communion and communication with God is what undergirds everything we do.  Without that we are just a fancy social club.
  • Prayer focuses the church.  The church is brought to the point where they begin to intercede in a very specific fashion.  It is easy to pray for ‘world peace’ in a general way, but you are more likely to be able to see answers when praying for a sick person, a conflicted relationship, or someone who needs a job.  Focus and intentionality increase as the prayer life expands.
  • Prayer forces us to look outside the church.  In a word, outreach and missions are brought to the front of the church.  Praying for someone at work or at the store can be a very powerful thing.   When people outside see the Hand of God in their lives when they know a church has been praying for them…lives are changed.  When people in the prayer meeting see God’s Hand in response to their prayers their faith is increased.
  • Prayer bonds the church together.  People who are praying for each other become connected.  Those connections are the ligaments of the Body.
  • Prayer makes spiritual matters, and especially spiritual warfare, become as tangible as brick and mortar.  Most people sitting in a pew who do not pray with a group of other people regard spirituality and spiritual warfare as euphemisms.  They are not solid and real.  Group prayer makes it real.

So, how do you start?  “Where two or three are gathered…”.  It is as simple as that.  Find someone and invite them to join you, even if it is only one person.  Set a time and a date to get together on a regular basis.  Mondays at 7am at McDonalds is as good as 7pm on Wednesdays at the pastors office.  Set an agenda and stick to it so you don’t waste most of your time simply talking about random things, or worse…gossiping in the name of prayer.

Then just do it.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20


Writing a noteThere is an old story about a pastor who was standing in the doorway greeting people after a worship service.  As one of the men came by and shook his hand he said, “Great sermon pastor. But when are you going to get a REAL job?”

Being a pastor on any level is hard work.  Most people don’t know how difficult it can be.  It is often done at odd hours and inopportune times.  You know, those 2AM emergency room visits, the funerals on a weekday, weddings taking up a whole weekend from rehearsal through reception, the panicked calls at all hours of the day and night.  ‘Saturday Night Specials’…very likely all of us have had them…those sermons we didn’t quite get done and are still working on them the night before we are going to deliver them.  Having to leave a family event or even vacation to tend to an urgent ministry situation.  Yes, it is hard work, sometimes exhausting work.  Work that can leave us feeling drained and emotionally vulnerable.  Add to this the usual schedule of events and discouragement can be the result.

How to handle this culture of discouragement is a question we must answer.  My first response is…we must become the Church as God intended.

It is a truism that the Church often tends to stratify.  Lay people versus ordained, lay leaders versus lay followers and local church pastors versus denominational leadership.  The church is supposed to be one unified Body, but in reality we separate ourselves one from the other by expectations being set too high or unrealistic views of one another.  When we get into this mode of existence the parts of the body become a bit disconnected, and it can be a blind spot for many of us.  We need to open our eyes and see it.

Second, we need to take our new-found insight and work to circumvent man’s artificial church culture with God’s grace to become what He intended.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.  It reads, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”  The experiences we go through are intended to make us able to comfort those who are going through similar trials.  

We use the experiences we have had to comfort others.  In other words, in the voice of Paul, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” and in Hebrews, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” 

I think we are good at praying for our people in the church, but this is something at another level, Look around you today at the other ministers you may know and see how they are doing.  Ask them how they are, physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally.  Send someone a random note of encouragement, tell them that you prayed for them (and actually DO pray for them!)  Find something specific to encourage them. (“Thanks for your testimony at the last ministerium, it really impacted me!”)

Listen for the ‘still, small voice’ of the Holy Spirit telling you someone needs prayer and encouragement and follow His direction.  Do the same for your denominational leadership, if you are in that kind of ministerial relationship.  Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them.

The side effect of this is that you will be lifted up yourself by what you are doing. The  ministry of encouragement works both ways…it is a ‘win-win’.  But also, by doing this you may actually change the entire culture of your surroundings and find that others are dropping YOU a note of encouragement.  God is funny that way…He works in ways we cannot see on hearts and lives.

Ready? Set? Go!

(Cource:’s admonition for us to be ready to give a reason for our faith in 1 Peter 3:15 also shows us an inherent limitation of the use of apologetics. In a previous post it was mentioned that ‘apologetics’ is basically a courtroom style defense of the faith, giving logical and consistent arguments from solid premises.  In a criminal or civil courtroom trial the judge and sometimes a jury would then take those arguments, compare them to the standards of the law and make a decision.  As one of those presenting arguments before the court sometimes the decision is in our favor, sometimes not.  That decision is not in our hands, it is in the hands of the judge and jury.

Often we go into a debate with a person about some theological matter, present our premises and arguments, answering every objection in what seems to us to be a winning way.  We assume at the end of the day the person we are talking with will see those arguments the same way we see them and will be persuaded to our point of view.  Sometimes we are sorely disappointed.  It is even possible that our debate partner will concede the arguments, but then will still not change their mind.  This is the limitation implicit in 1 Peter 3:15.

Peter wants us to give a reason for our faith, but those reasons are the BASIS for our faith, they are not the substance of our faith.  Simply put, we can give cohesive and logical arguments for why we believe, but our faith is a leap beyond those arguments.  No matter how good our points are, no matter how logical, God always leaves room between what we can prove and what we believe…and going from one to the other means we have to make a leap of faith, and our hearts must change.  God is the only person who can change someone’s heart.

Why am I bringing this up at the beginning of our discussion about apologetics?  Is the study of apologetics useless in the end?  No; apologetics can provide the base from which a person starts.  It gives credence and credibility to Christianity.  From that point it is possible to make the leap from intellectual assent to a changed heart through faith in Christ.  Without a logical platform, we could believe in anything and still be on equal footing.  Believing in tree spirits saving our souls for reincarnation into woodland fauna would make just as much sense (or as little sense) as believing in Jesus Christ.  Apologetics is very necessary to the life of faith.

With this knowledge of the limitations of apologetics comes consequential actions.  First, we live a life of prayer…every apologetic debate must be bathed in prayer.  We ask that not only is our debate partner persuaded by our arguments in an intellectual manner, but that the arguments might lead through the Holy Spirit’s action to a change of heart and a leap of faith.

Second, we live a life of surrender.  The outcome of our apologetics is not up to us.  We need feel no pressure or guilt in the outcome of the debate.  The outcome is in the hands of God.  It is even possible the person with whom we are speaking is not the person whose heart and life is changed, but perhaps a bystander who is listening in on the conversation.  God knows, and it is in His hands.

Third, we live a life of reflection and study.  We need to be prepared for an apologetic discussion at any time and any place.  read your Bible.  Study the Word.  Speak to God in prayer.  Live a life worthy of your calling.

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  

1 Cor 1:22-25 (NIV)