Benefits of Career/Freelance Church Planting

Planting microchurches as a freelance pastor carries many strong benefits. There are the obvious financial strengths like medical benefits, paid vacations with bonuses and retirement accounts. These goodies come with a career but not necessarily with a bivocational fallback to make ends meet.

But one of the greatest benefits associated with having a career while planting a church is the opportunity to rub shoulders with those we hope to bring to Jesus.

I can remember hanging out in my friend’s small automotive repair shop which was attached to a motorcycle repair shop. I did it just to escape the tight culture that builds around a large congregation. I needed to breath the same air as people outside the family of Christ. Having a career as a doctor, engineer or plumber keeps a person close to the mission field on a daily basis.

A Missionary to Their Own Country

I just spent two days with a couple who carefully chose careers that could amplify that contact and super-integrate it into ministry. After a missionary stint in Ecuador, Mads and Fredskilde moved to the U.S. to obtain masters degrees in counseling. Upon return as missionaries to their home country of Denmark they opened a counseling service in order to meet the community. I asked if this is Christian counseling. Turns out they have a website for Christian counseling in parallel with another site offering couples counseling in a secular setting.

It’s the secular site that gets the action, which is very good as it leads to friendships, “freedom prayer” opportunities and workshops which all strengthen relationships. The goal is to plant microchurches only from people they disciple into a relationship with Jesus. And it’s working.”

“Jesus is the Son of God and I am His Follower”

I got to spend two days with the couple on a recent teaching trip in Europe. The second day we were there one man finished reading the gospel of Luke at Mads’ recommendation. He came into the friendship declaring Jesus a good man and religious teacher. After finishing the gospel he says, “Jesus is the Son of God and I am his follower.” Mads immediately challenged him to begin disciplemaking by bringing his friend into the relationship.

While the counseling business puts food on the table and meaningful contact with people who need to know Jesus, it offers three other benefits. A counselor sets their own schedule allowing for enough time in coffee shops and other places to make disciples. And, a busy career person has moral authority to limit church to what you read in Acts 2:42-47 rather than load up on attractional programs. A third benefit is an ability to say, “I put my time into ministry as well as career, I expect my disciples to do the same.”

Missionaries to Our Own Countries

So here’s the takeaway–while Denmark has about 45 years on us as a post-Christian culture, the United States has pretty much caught up. My friends moved away and then back home as missionaries to their own country. You and I needn’t live offshore to function as missionaries to our surrounding culture. We already are foreigners in the eyes of our countrymen as are believers in Asia and most of Europe. It’s time to look closer at those “citizens of a far country” who took the Greco/Roman world by storm. We can learn from their approach to ministry much as my friends Mads and Elisabeth did.

Can you identify benefits to freelance ministry that I’ve missed? Do you think I’m nuts? Let us know in the comments box below.



4 thoughts on “Benefits of Career/Freelance Church Planting”

  1. Ralph, I appreciate this insight. I have left a full-time ministry position to pursue being a Life Coach. In doing this, I have found myself in places I never expected, helping non-profit leaders get their ministries off the ground through coaching, and helping people with God dreams to become reality. I work with both believers and non-believers alike, because everyone is seeking direction and purpose in life. I find myself doing discipleship in ways I never dreamed of before and I love it. I pray that the business end takes off, to support the ministries God places before me. I want to walk alongside these brave leaders to thrive on the mission fields they’ve been sent to, right here in the US.

  2. As overseas missionaries now, it’s my goal to return to the U.S. one day and do exactly what your friends Mads and Fredskilde did. Thank you for sharing this and inspiring me! We strategically do business as missions so we’re in daily contact with unbelievers and connecting them to believers. I think it’s an excellent ministry model.

  3. Ralph, I attended one of your lectures at Exponential this week and left encouraged. I’m a freelance pastor and I plan to stay that way. When I started down this path, being paid for ministry was my goal. In fact, my first church planting network told me that I had no business planting a church until I had vocational ministry experience. That put me into a two year tailspin which was totally unnecessary.

    Thankfully, God pruned me and I am leading a church out of my house. We are praying for the ordinary folks in our church to plant other churches, too. We live in an suburban area with many more churches turning into condos than there are church plants. Yet, I’m not discouraged, because the kingdom of God loves to surprise! After all, it is the buried treasure in the field, not the field itself. There are several steps you have to take before you get to dig it up and find out what it is!

    Oh, and get this! I’m planning on eating lunch with a new co-worker today. I found out that he is a Christian who has been looking to live out his faith at work, but no one was equipping him or spurring him on so it slipped out of his priorities. The fields are ripe and ready and every hand is required, paid or not.

    Thanks for your encouragement!

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