ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — If the North American Mission Board’s Send North America evangelistic church planting initiative is to succeed, it must include thousands of bivocational pastors who are willing to plant churches.
“We must leverage the laity to plant churches,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president of mobilization, “and we need to do it through a bivocational church movement.
“There are thousands of men sitting in church pews listening to their pastors each week who more than meet the qualifications for being pastors and church planters. We need to mobilize them to be involved in church planting if we’re serious about the Great Commission,” Coe said.
NAMB church planting leaders and members of the SBC-wide Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network (BSCLN) have begun to explore ways for bivocational pastors to become involved.
Ray Gilder, the BSCLN’s national coordinator from McMinnville, Tenn., and a retired bivocational pastor himself, describes a bivocational as a pastor who has another source of income over and above his church. Gilder says an SBC church running a weekly attendance of 100 or less probably has a bivocational pastor — and 75 percent of SBC churches run 75 or less. Most of them are in rural areas.
“Until Send North America, bivocational pastors have not had church planting on their radar,” Gilder said regarding the NAMB/BSCLN meeting this fall. “They haven’t thought of starting another church because they’ve worried more about the struggles of surviving as a small church and part-time pastor.”
William L. Gray, director of missions for Judson, Stewart and Truett Baptist associations in Tennessee for 25 years, says Southern Baptists must kindle a passion for rural church planting.
“In rural America, only 10-20 percent of the population goes to church regularly,” Gray noted. “In the counties I serve, an estimated 85 percent are unchurched.
“I’ve discovered in a rural community, laypeople make great church planters,” Gray said. “They have the passion and burden for their neighbors and they already have contact with, and knowledge of, their communities.”
Bivocational church planting expert George Garner, a NAMB retiree who now lives in Colorado, added, “From an expedient and economic viewpoint, bivocational pastors are critical to NAMB’s new Send North America church planting strategy — especially in rural areas.”
“The birth of new life can do wonderful things for us,” Gilder said of the need for more bivocational pastors in church planting. “If we can cast the vision of bivocational pastors leaving their churches to plant other churches, it could bring life to the mother church and to the new church plant — expanding the Kingdom and fulfilling the Great Commission. We have to get beyond ourselves.”
Send North America is NAMB’s evangelistic church planting strategy to involve more churches and individuals in direct church planting activity. For more information or to become involved, visit www.namb.net and click “Mobilize Me.”
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.