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Bivocational pastors’ work vital to Kingdom, Draper says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association gathered for a time of encouragement and renewal in Nashville, Tenn., April 22-24, celebrating the theme of “Beyond the Walls and Into the Marketplace,” based on the 2 Corinthians 10:16 mandate to “preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you.”

James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, spoke to the group about the work that really lasts, noting bivocational ministers share a perspective unlike those who work only in the Kingdom world. By working both in the secular world and the Kingdom world, bivocational ministers are better able to discern the work that really lasts, he said.

Acts 18 tells of Paul, Priscilla and Aquilla as bivocational ministers who worked as tentmakers by trade but were faithful to preach the Gospel to a society much like the one ministers face in America today, Draper said.

“We need to realize that the Gospel did conquer in the midst of a pluralistic society in the first century, and the Gospel can still conquer today,” he said during the evening session April 23.

Draper noted that Ephesus was a financial center, the ancient equivalent of the World Trade Center, yet in all the opulence Paul was able to make great advances with the Gospel. Similarly, Corinth was a boomtown, the Vanity Fair of the Roman Empire. Vast, vivid marketplaces abounded, and life was extraordinarily animated. Nobody noticed Paul when he came to town, yet what really lasted in Corinth? Today more people visit the city to see the remains of the house church where Paul preached than to see the ruins of the marketplaces or the institutions that once flourished in Corinth, Draper said.

And when people consider who they remember most from the city, the names of Claudius and Gallio are not on their minds but instead they think of Paul, Priscilla and Aquilla — those who labored intensely for the Gospel.

The method they used, and the one Draper encouraged bivocational ministers today to use, is the Acts 19 strategy of preaching with bold clarity where there is a response to the Gospel, changing the strategy decisively and creatively where there is a need until all who want to hear have heard.

“And we ought to expect to be very successful,” Draper said. “Scripture says to expect success.”

Pointing to verse 10 of chapter 19, which says, “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord,” Draper said Paul’s strategy was remarkably successful.

“That is one of the most remarkable statements you could hear in Scripture. Even allowing for hyperbole, this is an arresting, astonishing statement,” he said. “Everyone living in the Roman province of Asia heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ within 24 months! It doesn’t say they were all saved. It just says they all heard.

“Christians have been trying to tell the Gospel in America since 1611 at the founding of Jamestown. Why has it taken us 396 years to do what the early church did in two years?” Draper said, challenging the bivocational ministers to keep working hard for the Kingdom.

David Hankins, Cooperative Program vice president with the SBC Executive Committee, spoke about the importance of working together to reach the world for Christ.

“You are our partners,” he said.

Preaching from Matthew 9, Hankins said Christ emphasized the need of organization in taking the Gospel to a lost world. Southern Baptists must get “serious” about educating “a new generation of pastors about the Cooperative Program,” he said.

The Cooperative Program, founded in 1925, is Southern Baptists’ method for funding the various missions and ministry initiatives of state conventions and the SBC.

The SBBMA exists to provide ministry opportunities, resources and encouragement to the nearly 20,000 bivocational ministers serving throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Bivocational work is a huge part of our convention — probably larger than some might realize,” said David Keith, president of the association and pastor of Carlton Baptist Church in Texas.

Keith said more than 3,000 of the 5,700 Southern Baptist churches in Texas have bivocational pastors.

“We are trying to stress the validity of intentional bivocational ministry as a legitimate Christ-honoring model of Christian ministry, and not just something you do until you can find a full-time church,” Keith said.

During the annual meeting, LifeWay Church Resources debuted a new e-newsletter for bivocational ministers called “Today’s Bivocational Pastor.” To register for this free newsletter visit www.lifeway.com/newsletters.
With reporting by Erin Curry & Michael Foust.

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