Most Pastors start out their ministry being bi-vocational. According to a recent article in the Baptist Press, bi-vocational Pastors make up nearly half of all the Pastors in many states. When I served in West Virginia, our association of 15 churches only had 2 full-time ministers. It is expected that in the coming years the numbers of bi-vocational Pastors is going to increase. Before I talk about how to prepare sermons as a bi-vocational Pastor let me first remind you the ApostlePaul was bi-vocational throughout his ministry and that you should never feel second-class or unimportant. Bi-vocational Pastors are the iron men of the ministry and have helped to push the gospel into places that it would have not penetrated. The first two years of my ministry were spent in bi-vocational work and honestly it was some of the most exciting days of my ministry. The very nature of this kind of work forces you to be dependent upon God, but it does come with its own set of problems. Not the least of which is the problem of how to get everything done when you are working two full-time jobs.
Beginning today I am going to dedicate my Friday blog posts to reviewing the books I’ve been reading or that have made a particular impact on my life and ministry. This morning I want to begin with a review of Jeff Iorg’s book entitled “The Case for Antioch.” Dr. Iorg currently serves as the President of Golden Gate Seminary but prior to coming to this position he served as a Pastor and church planter. In this book Dr. Iorg presents the church of Antioch as a case study for what a healthy church should look like.
He begins the book by showing the difficulty that occurs when we say that we want to be a New Testament church. Which one of the many local churches mentioned in Acts do we want to be like? — Corinth with it’s infighting and moral problems, Galatia with their fundamental doctrinal errors, Thessalonica with their end times fury. The simple truth of the matter is that nearly every church mentioned in the New Testament struggled with the very same problems that the modern church does. But of all the churches mentioned in the New Testament, Dr. Iorg suggests, that one stands out as a shining example for what the church should be like —the church at Antioch.
In the first chapters of the book, Iorg provides us with a brief history of the church in Antioch and how it came to occupy such an important place in the New Testament. You will remember during the first ten to fifteen years after the resurrection of Jesus, the work of the church primarily focused on Jewish evangelism in and around the city of Jerusalem, but after the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 8, the church began to be scattered. In Acts 11:19-20 a group of unnamed, innovative evangelists preached the gospel to the Hellenists in the city of Antioch. When the news came back to the church at Jerusalem the elders there sent Barnabas to check out what was happening. He in turn went to find Saul and together they returned to the city of Antioch where they spend the next year teaching and preaching in the city. Acts 11:26 says that “the disciples were first called Christians” in the city of Antioch. Over the next several years, Antioch would become the base for Paul’s three missionary journeys and in many ways eclipse the church in Jerusalem in terms of importance.
In the subsequent chapters of the book Iorg walks us through the history of the church at Antioch. These chapters provide us with a solid case-study approach of how a healthy church functions and carries out its mission. Each of these chapters is backed with solid Biblical and practical material that could easily be adapted into sermons or Bibles studies. Last year, I drew a great deal of information from this book in a series of messages that I preached entitled “What Kind of Church Are We Going to Be?” Several of our church leaders read through the book while I was preaching the series and found it to be extremely beneficial. This year, I plan to use it as one of the small group classes that we offer on Sunday nights.
What I liked best about this book is that it provides us with a Biblical model. There are a tremendous number of books on the market about how various churches are growing and conducting their ministry. These are helpful and I enjoy reading them, but what I most want as a Pastor is to be able to develop a Biblical model for how the church should function. “The Case for Antioch” would be at the top of my list for anyone wanting to develop a Biblical view of what the church should be and do.