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Bivocational network to meet in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network (formerly the Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association) will hold its inaugural luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“We’re trying to connect to more bivocational pastors and let them know there is an organization directly responsible for encouraging and helping them in their ministries,” said Ray Gilder, the network’s national coordinator who also is the bivocational ministry leader for the Tennessee Baptist Convention as well as bivocational pastor of Gath Baptist Church in McMinnville, Tenn.

The North American Mission Board will sponsor the luncheon, slated for noon-2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, at Orlando’s Central Parkway Baptist Church, 5281 Central Florida Parkway.

Earlier this year, the group met in Albuquerque, N.M., and adopted its new name as part of its vision, as phrased by Gilder, to “champion the bivocational and small church pastors across the convention.”

Much of the SBC mindset is “geared toward the medium-sized church,” Gilder said. “Many bivocational and small church pastors don’t feel like they fit in. Our network understands where they’re coming from.” Gilder said 25 percent of all SBC churches run 25 or less in Sunday School attendance, according to LifeWay Christian Resources statistics,; 50 percent run 50 or less; and 75 percent run 100 or less in attendance.

“Most Baptists think a small church would be 200 or less. Bivocational pastors would consider that to be a large church,” said Gilder, whose own church runs about 150.

“We in the network identify with those guys who may have only 25-50 in Sunday School. We try to encourage them and make them realize that they are legitimate. After all, there is a biblical model for bivocational ministries –Paul also worked as a tentmaker to help fund his ministry.”

Gilder lists three categories of bivocational pastors: pastors who are bivocational because their church cannot offer to pay a full-time salary; those who are bivocational because their church is located in a sparsely populated area and has a small ministry; and those who are “bi-vo” because they just want to be — maybe they have another ministry or job on the side or are retired.

In addition to Gilder, speakers at the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network luncheon will be Jerry Pipes, NAMB’s team leader for spiritual awakening/mass evangelism in Alpharetta, Ga., and Lester Evans, team leader for bivocational ministry for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

“We are grateful to the Lord for our Kingdom-minded bivocational pastors,” said Ken Weathersby, NAMB vice president for church planting. “We are here to assist them in fulfilling the Great Commission. It is our desire to listen, learn and help our pastors with the vision of GPS [Southern Baptists’ national evangelism initiative God’s Plan for Sharing] — ‘every believer sharing, every person hearing’ the Gospel of the Lord Jesus by 2020. In order to achieve this vision, we need all hands on deck, including bivocational pastors, to push back darkness,” Weathersby said.

Gilder said there is no charge for the luncheon, and those wishing to attend can register at the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network’s exhibit booth (#900) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. More information on the luncheon and the network is available at www.bivosmallchurch.net.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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