“If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:12–14, KJV)
When I was considering the Lord’s call to the full-time vocational pastorate, I remember a wise pastor’s words. He was a close friend and a true servant of the Lord. He pastored the Korean Baptist church in our city. He had given up a very lucrative career in a technical field to serve the Lord in the pastoral ministry. What he told me was that being a pastor was a very hard work.
As a man who had only done an interim pastorate at that time, I sat back and thought sarcastically, “Right.” I had worked in high pressure management positions in most of my adult life. I had worked extraordinary hours in these jobs perhaps 60 hours a week and sometimes days on end. I often had to leave home from weeks on end. I thought, could it be more difficult than this?
It was not until I entered the full-time pastorate that I realized how correct my pastor friend was. The pastor’s life is a difficult one. The problems I encountered were different, but the demands were high. The calling of the pastor requires sacrifice of time, energy, and emotion for the sake of the flock. The sense of urgency and responsibility for reaching others with the truth is always there. My phone would often ring at the most inopportune times to deal with parishioners’ burdens, burdens that the pastor often must carry alone by God’s grace.
Yes, the pastor’s life may seem rosy from the outside, but there are moments that many do not understand. A pastor that fulfills his calling does sacrifice. Moreover, beyond all of this, many are called to sacrifice financially. My Korean pastor friend gave up a lucrative career to pastor a church. Many pastors work in a full-time job just to be able to pay the bills while pastoring. Yet, they chose to do so because they have a calling and a burden to minister the gospel.
Paul indicated that the Lord had ordained that those who preach the gospel have the right to live by the gospel. In other words, they should be able to live without seeking outside work. However, like Paul they often will choose to serve in a field where they must, like Paul, maintain a job requiring them to work in a job outside the church in addition to the work of the pastor. We call these bi-vocational pastors.
Most of these bi-vocational pastors have small congregations. Some of them in rural communities. Some are new church start-ups. Oh, they would sincerely like to make their livelihood by ministering in the church, but practicality prevents it. These men sacrifice much. But there is good news. They may not have large congregations and sufficient church salaries, but I believe their reward will be great. The Lord knows their heart. He knows their sacrifice. They will never get the recognition that others with large congregations do on earth. Yet, their reward is in heaven. They will hear those cherished words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”