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Physical therapist doubles as bivocational pastor

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) — Francis Calimbahin’s schedule reflects the numerous responsibilities of life, ministry and a career as a licensed physical therapist. Managing his schedule is often complicated but his calling is simple: serve the Lord and make disciples.

Calimbahin embraces life as a bivocational pastor of Caprock Church in Arlington, Texas. Like many pastors, his non-ministry job is a second source of income and it relieves a financial burden for a small church. However, Calimbahin says being bivocational is a choice rather than a last resort and affords him numerous opportunities to model a “missional” life in a job he loves.

Originally from the Philippines, Calimbahin moved to the United States and began work as a physical therapist in 1991. Contract work took him to Colorado, Texas and Iowa before he settled back in Texas with his wife Aireen in 1992.

His line of work stems from a passion for helping people. “I get to see people go from not being able to get out of bed to being able to walk,” he says.

Calimbahin accepted Christ in 1984 as a high school junior but later became rebellious against God, which continued until he heard a life-changing sermon at a Promise Keepers men’s conference in 1997. He rededicated his life to the Lord and in the following year began to study Scripture more and devoted Sunday afternoons to evangelism, often driving to the outermost parts of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex to share his faith among his friends.

“For the next several months, I was just enamored by the Word,” Calimbahin says. “But I was also convicted that I needed to tell my friends about my faith.”

Taking notice of Calimbahin’s evangelistic fervor, his pastor suggested that God might be calling him to ministry. After consideration and prayer, Calimbahin enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary in 1998 and later transferred to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he completed his master of divinity degree in 2003.

When he started classes, Calimbahin did not know what God had in store for him, but he knew he needed to be ready. He was eventually introduced to the concept of church planting by a Seattle pastor who visited one of his classes. The pastor recommended that Calimbahin consider church planting in the Northwest, so he signed up for a “vision trip” to Washington state. While he did not discern a call to Washington during the trip, he was certain God was leading him to plant a church somewhere.

From that moment on, the remainder of his seminary training at Southwestern was devoted to taking advantage of as many church planting classes as he could, talking with professors and attending church planting conferences. Calimbahin eventually partnered with the North American Mission Board in a program that connected church planters with academic preparation and practical experience on Southern Baptist seminary campuses.

In planting Caprock Church in 2005, he was already familiar with the area, and Arlington’s diverse population was a perfect context for starting a church. Through already-established relationships in his physical therapy career, many of Caprock’s members have been members of the medical field.

Since its inception, Caprock’s vision has been one of diversity, disciple-making and church planting. Calimbahin says his goal is to make all ethnicities and cultures feel welcome at Caprock because it is difficult to reach people and make disciples if they feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Through intentional execution of their vision, Caprock has come to reflect the diverse area in which they live and has gone on to assist five new church plants. “Even though we are small, we are committed to making disciples of all nations and starting churches,” Calimbahin says.

With the amount of time he spends with patients in physical therapy, he has opportunities to talk about various topics including culture, politics, family and sports. As he develops relationships and trust, spiritual conversations often arise and lead to Gospel presentations and even salvations. However, he realized last December that there was one overlooked opportunity to share with a colleague whom he knew needed Christ.

“As we are doing this discipleship training in my church, I am also getting convicted,” Calimbahin recalls. “I am the pastor. I need to set the example here.”

Extending an invitation for lunch, Calimbahin used the time to share his testimony with his colleague. His story prompted further discussion and a Gospel presentation. Before their lunchtime ended, the colleague prayed to receive Christ.

Seizing every opportunity, Calimbahin says, is one of the primary lessons he has learned as a bivocational pastor. With the demands of church, work, family and now his pursuit of a doctor of ministry degree at Southwestern, time is a commodity he must steward well.

Structure and organization are vital to success in bivocational ministry, particularly with his sermon preparations. One of the most significant lessons he learned about one’s use of time was from a preaching professor at Southwestern who warned him about the dangers of waiting until the last minute or not giving sermon preparation the time and attention it deserves.

“He told us to not waste our time or the people’s time,” Calimbahin says. “Pastors must go into Sunday mornings prepared. People are hungry for the Word.”

Calimbahin has learned to “steal time” wherever he can, whether that be through a conversation with a patient, an opportunity to minister to the needs of church members or just using any extra time for study.

“The truth is that when you are a pastor, there is no such thing as part-time,” Calimbahin says. “You are a full-time pastor even though you are bivocational.”