The end of February marked the 2-year anniversary of the end of my employment at Hebron Baptist Church, and the end of my career as a full-time pastor in the institutional church. This choice, to venture into bi-vocational ministry (serving churches while earning income in ways other than the church), has been a radical life change for my family and me. I had been a full-time vocational minister since graduating college in 1987, and yet here I am in my early 50s, exploring new roads and new opportunities.
The last two years have been very difficult to travel. Dealing with the pain of job loss in 2013, then the pain of health loss in 2014, has been a serious struggle for myself and my family. And yet I have felt the hand of God guiding me, felt His presence comforting me, like no other time in my life. I have sought Him with what I’ve come to call a “desperate intimacy”, to know Him more fully and follow His direction for my life.
In my final years at Hebron, I began to sense that God might be up to something new with me soon. I still enjoyed what I did, and the people I shared ministry with, but there was a growing restlessness in my heart, a feeling that the way we “do church” in America, for all it’s good, may not be the New Testament ideal. And I had begun to feel the full-time, on-staff, salaried, “professional” minister might be more of a corporate management model, rather than a Biblical model. My studies of the New Testament seemed to indicate the early pastors served the Church, but also had other, outside means of income (ex. Paul as a tentmaker, etc.) to provide for themselves and their families. I knew I was approaching a crossroads- either stay the course, and work another dozen or so years and retire on my pastoral pension and savings, or take the plunge at mid-life, and see where the roads lead.
As Robert Frost once wrote, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Two years ago, I had no idea where God would lead when I found myself outside the institutional American church. I could have circulated my resume, and I did in fact get calls from churches looking for a children’s pastor. Yet God led in new directions, taking me down new roads I am still traveling. As a volunteer pastor with Phoenix Community of Atlanta, my wife and I have found a home among like-hearted brothers and sisters in Christ, in a very New Testament-feeling way of “being the church.” As a teacher at Dacula Classical Academy, I am combining my love for the Bible with a love for history. As executive director of the 127 Legacy Foundation, I experience world missions and children’s ministry together, both things I enjoy. I still write- here, for several motorcycle magazines, and the book I published, “Road Dirt: The Musings & Ramblings of a Biker Preacher” on Amazon Books and Kindle. And I still buy and sell motorcycles, as I have opportunity- got one in the basement now I’m working on.
I’m making a fraction of the income I made when employed by the church full-time. But I’m freer, happier, and enjoying stepping through the open doors God presents to me. Besides, God has met every need we’ve had, be it financial, material, etc. “We haven’t missed a meal, haven’t missed a bill”, I tell folks. God is good, all the time.
New roads can be scary to travel, but when guided by God, the journey and the destinations are beautiful beyond measure.