Planting Churches Bivocationally–On Purpose!


My wife and I just returned from vacation throughout the British Isles (along with 52 friends from Hawaii). She and I arrived a few days early to teach a seminar with a small but growing group of church planters.

Most of these folks are immigrants from Sri Lanka and several nations from the north of Africa. All are bivocational.

A New Missionary Perspective

They break the American paradigm regarding bivocational pastors. These people are well educated and enjoy success in everything from IT to real estate development. The most obvious thing about them is that they bring the gospel from what many see as “the mission field” to the white heathen of post-Christian Europe. Their churches are NOT monoethnic, but multiracial, reflecting the reality of our world. They are a harbinger of a brighter future for the church in the UK, perhaps in the United States.

Please note that every person seated in the photo above was born in the UK. The majority are standing—they are missionaries from other lands.

Bivocational and Proud of It!

At one point I asked, “How many are bivocational?” Every hand shot up. Then I asked, “How many plan to quit your secular job.” No response! One hundred percent of these people would rather delegate well while receiving a better salary than their brethren who choose to work “full-time” for a church. My observation is that these folks are more than full-time in their service to the kingdom.

These folks operate under the assumption that the secular world should support pastors freeing church funds for mission.

One pastor lamented that a pastor from different group had recently burdened his congregation with a mortgage. The people I met with sees leased and rented property as normal. They operate more like small businesses than the cathedral builders of days ago. Everything seems geared to mission. That mission is the Great Commission. We have much to learn from these people.

Interesting Regrets

One of the few Brits in the group drove us from the retreat center to join our friends for the tour beginning in London

He plants churches while employed by the British government in Whitehall. As he drove, he mentioned that he was misunderstood by his peers as a young pastor. The reason—he chose bivocational ministry as a way of life. Seems that his friends didn’t understand the tremendous capital a bivocational pastor brings to the table. I asked if he ever regretted his decision. He expressed no regrets other than a wish that he was better at delegating and discipling. He wishes he had multiplied churches rather than just plant them.

With the Christian population falling far behind population growth in the U.S. along with the Millennial scream for close relationships we must change away from planting big churches (just 6 percent of American Christians attend a church of 1,000 or more people). We need more small churches. Financial issues weigh upon us. The folks in the UK are making progress in post-Christian Europe. We live in post-Christian America. We could learn from them.

The future is upon us and I believe I just saw what it looks like!

So what do you think?

Sound off in the comments box below…



14 thoughts on “Planting Churches Bivocationally–On Purpose!”

  1. I’m planting bivocationaly in Montana. The original plan was to receive a salary after launching, but God is continuing to press into my heart the urge to continue this model. I work with a nonprofit combating homelessness a few days a week and then I get to equip leaders for the rest of the week. I love it. Would love to know what material is out there for bivo pastors.

    1. Not much out there. You might try Bivo by Hugh Halter. If you look at it on Amazon they will refer you to others. Also Planting Organic Churches by Neil Cole is a good tool.

  2. Great to hear about this. Will you be doing any seminars in the U.K. anytime in the future again? I am based in Northern Ireland, but had the opportunity to attend one of your sessions at Exponential 2017 earlier this year in Orlando, and really enjoyed it. I’d love the opportunity to connect with others again over on this side of the Atlantic sometime in the near future.

  3. “Also, to build a million-member church, the pastor must have the evangelistic power of Billy Graham, the expositional ability of Charles Spurgeon, the apologetic answers of Josh McDowell, the teaching focus of John MacArthur, the organizing skills of Bill Bright, and the persuasive ability of Ronald Reagan.”
    ? Elmer L. Towns

    I met Bill Bright twice. The first time I was introduced to him by a friend at a Campus Crusade event. We did not talk much. It was more like nice to meet you.

    The second time I was with a different friend some two years later. We ran into Bill Bright at “again” at campus crusade event. This friend knew Bill. Bill looked at me before I could say anything and said, “Hi Bobby!”

    This guy remembered me. The guy who I was with said “isn’t that amazing!”

    We need more Bills and not money.

  4. Bivocational ministry makes so much sense to me. That certainly would not be received well when I was a young adult preparing for ministry.

    1. So true! When we ran out of money my only option was to quit pastoring (the perception of the day). God supplied miraculously, which is a story for another day. But, if I were starting out today I would get an engineering degree and plant a hundred house churches (just 2 a year). My hope would be that each would reproduce others…

  5. Stephen Elliott

    I would love to read some feedback on the following observation/question.
    Bivocational ministry is often necessary for church plants and for smaller churches for financial reasons, and some pastors choose to use bivocational ministry as an intentional means of outreach/evangelism … but some research indicates a church can not and will not grow to a substantial size IF the pastor is working bivocationally. Gary McIntosh and others have noted a church needs the attention of a full time pastor, in order to grow past a small church size.
    My question … do we know of any North American congregations which have grown to a substantive size (i.e. over 200), being led by a bivocational pastor?

    1. Hope Chapel Santa Rosa, California grew to more than 500 people with Dr. Tom McCarthy as pastor. He was a physician and church planter. He invested 8 hours a week in disciplemaking, sermon prep and staff meetings. The team did all the work. It began in a living room. Tom passed away a few years ago after handing off to Daniel Boyd. The church continues to grow and multiply others–many in Fiji.

      1. Stephen Elliott

        Thank you Dr. Moore. So, would it be safe to say that it is a rare exception that a local church can numerically thrive under the direction of a bi-vocational lead pastor OR are there lots of churches which numerically thrive with a bivocational lead pastor? A few can numerically thrive, but most churches need the attention of a full time pastor to grow past 150-200?

        1. So far, that’s true in America. I personally know more than a dozen guys that own large companies in mainland China that planted bivocationally. The smallest church numbers more than 4,000 people. Pete Wagner’s book, Out of Africa, documents eleven pastors who do the same–the smallest church numbers 7,000+.
          The real power, though, will come through multiplication. Two excellent books are On The Verge: A Journey Into The Apostolic Future of the Church by Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch and Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Neil Cole.
          Thanks again for the dialogue. You help bring this site to life!!!

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