BIVO Series (3/4): You’re Bivocational, Now What?

From a human perspective, I’m an accidental bi-vocationalist. I say accidental because prior to following Jesus or seeking to disciple others to Him, I ran a business and had no intention of pursuing a job in ministry. But God.

As I got plugged into church life, I began to think I was “called” into ministry. My leaders affirmed it, my wife agreed, I desired it, so it must be legitimate. The only problem was, I didn’t exactly know what “it” was that I was called to.

Is the calling to ministry a calling away from my business? At the time (about 15 years ago), that’s what I assumed. So, I set out on the course of taking bible classes and leading a small group. Fortunately for me, my business afforded me some time and financial freedom to pursue this calling without needing to be put on the church payroll. So, everyone was happy!

About a year into this, one of my pastors told me something that gave me great clarity on what the “it” of this calling actually is. I remember him sharing vaguely the challenges of pastoral leadership in the church -- how he was spending most of his time preparing to teach or counseling people (which he loved and was gifted at) but he had little time to spend with people who don’t know Jesus.

“Gino,” he said, “don’t ever underestimate the value of your work. You encounter more people who don’t know Jesus in one day than I do in an entire month.”

He was right.

What he taught me in that moment has reverberated in my heart for over a decade. The “it” of ministry is to love and disciple people. Discipling them to Jesus and in Jesus. God hasn’t just called the educated elite to this, but “it” is for all who proclaim Christ as Lord.

His words, while maybe said in frustration with his own situation, breathed life into my heart. My calling wasn’t into something else, my calling was to see what was already there in a completely different light.

With this new insight, I realized that I really hadn’t been about the mission God had already called me too. I had been about working hard in my business and being somewhat successful. The Father invites us to so much more. The call to make disciples as you are going (Matt. 28) became real to me, and not in an oppressive sense, but as an invitation into the “it” I longed for.

So, I’m “bivocational” -- what does that mean? It means no longer did I need to settle for a calling of building a successful business alone. I have a calling into the adventure of loving and discipling others to Jesus. This didn’t necessarily require a change of career or a ton more education. It “merely” required confessing my death, accepting Jesus’ invitation into the missional life, and walking in faith.

For me, this was life giving! My life and faith became integrated in a way I hadn’t previously understood. Sure, it required a lot of dying to old patterns and ideas, but I was free to run a business while pursuing my calling.

My friend, Caesar Kalinowski, once told me: “Every Christian is in full-time ministry. God just chooses to route our paychecks differently.”

This is so true! Unfortunately, the norm in the Western Church is to move away from the avenue God has chosen to provide for you and insist on being funded by the Church.

Disclaimer: I recognize there is a need and calling for many to function and equip Jesus’ Bride. I’m not against that (in fact, I function more and more in that roll now myself). But consider this, if everyone who takes the call to love and disciple others seriously relies on the Church for funding, you can see a problem here, right?

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but here are a couple things that jump out at me:

1) The Church in the West isn’t growing enough to support everyone as missionaries, so the funding would collapse.

2) If everyone “works” for the Church, where would the gospel presence in the everyday jobs (and therefore the everyday lives of those who don’t yet believe!) go?

The family of God (the Church) was never intended to pull us out of our callings, but rather welcome us into our calling and send us out to love and disciple others in the environments and norms of our everyday life.

There is a lot more to discuss on this important topic. Believe me, with over 15-years of bivo experience, I have a lot more to say. But here’s the point I want to make: if you follow Jesus, your vocation (calling) is to love and disciple people to/in Jesus. When you start with that in mind, the bivo conversation gains clarity. Perhaps so much clarity that you can, like I’ve experienced, follow your calling without changing your job.