I often get a lot of criticism for leading a bi-vocational life. What that basically means is that a lot of people find it absurd that I have two professions, especially since one of them involves ministry.
There has long been this notion amongst full-time church workers that if you really want to serve God and live by faith, you have to leave everything and jump into the boat 100%. In other words, remove all your other sources of income and get a huge pay cut.
While that is the case most of the time, and God has honored men with that kind of faith, it’s not always the scenario. It wasn’t definitely the kind of direction for me, mainly because of two things. First, I had asked a handful of people (pastors, businessmen and mentors) whether I should leave the life of an entrepreneur and focus solely on ministry, and they all said ‘no’.
Second, I tried doing just ministry with no business and boy was it the worst decision I ever made, not because I went hungry, but because I got extremely bored. In other words, for the time being, I believe that God has called me to both be in ministry and in the design industry.
Here are a few benefits to my being bi-vocational:
1. Freedom from financial burden.
There are two ways this is actually good: Number one is that the church is freed from financial burden. It can be really expensive and impractical for churches to hire full time staff at the pay rate people like me need. I don’t have to demand the church to pay me a salary that can sustain me and my family. I honestly don’t have to.
Number two is that I free myself from the financial burden. It’s common for church workers in Iloilo to have to ‘live sacrificially’ for the sake of ministry. But is that really necessary? Wasn’t Paul bi-vocational? David also did a lot of ministry as a king. Being bi-vocational has helped me free the church of financial burden, and has kept my family well provided for.
2. Greater levels of ministry opportunity
Even though I work in design, marketing and writing on retainers as a sideline, I am still a minister where God leads me in that area. Being a designer (and a rather successful one for that matter), has given me influence in communities and circles that my church cannot take me, and when I go there, I bring the Gospel with me. I’ve written for blogs, had speaking engagements, spoken in podcasts and done trainings and in all of them, I have not held back in giving honor to God.
I am constantly on the look out for opportunities to insert the love of God into everything I do, may it be in my words or in my actions. After all, I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power that liberates and sets free. Designers can carry that message, sometimes even better than pastors in certain groups.
3. Opportunity to set an example
It’s easy to say to businessmen to not cheat on taxes when you don’t pay a 12% VAT off your own pocket. It’s easy to tell employees to say no to bribery and corruption in the context of corporate culture when you don’t have to deal with office politics. But putting yourself in their shoes makes you more credible.
Being bi-vocational helps me keep a realistic picture of the corporate world. Not that it’s any different to be completely frank, but it helps get the message across a whole lot better for people who just don’t get it.
4. Increased productivity
I can fairly say that I would not be as productive in ministry if I weren’t busy doing something else. I say that because it’s only because I’m always busy that I run at a momentum. Do I get tired? Yes I do. Do I get burnt out? Every so often, but God is always gracious in giving strength and fire to carry on.
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I’m not saying that there are not cons. Bi-vocational lifestyles can be a challenge to health, balance and reputation, but only if placed in the position of conflicts of interests, which should be the number one thing to avoid.
I’m also not pushing for everyone to be bi-vocational. There are some areas of ministry that need complete attention, and some people that are not cut out for bi-vocational status. It doesn’t mean their less productive or hard working, it just means God has wired them differently.
Nowadays, culture has evolved to allow bi-vocational lifestyles to be widely accepted- even for ministers. Flexible work schedules, the emergence of SAAS (softwares as a service), and better access to entrepreneurial possibilities all make having two jobs much easier. You can be a book writer and a pastor, a life coach and a teacher, a car salesman and a spare parts dealer. The list can go on and the possibilities are endless.