Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amos 7: Amos the Bivocational Preacher


Amos 7:12-16 Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom." Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'

Amos was a shepherd and a gardener before he was called out of his vocation to do the work of a prophet, viz., prophesying. He is the example of a bi-vocational preacher. He didn't leave his vocation because he was called in order to go "full-time": "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel." (Amos 7:14-15).  Amos was an example of someone  who did not give up his vocation to become a "full-time" prophet. He nevertheless did the work of a prophet.

Nowadays, we think that a call to pastoral ministry is the same as a call to give up our secular vocation. But the truth is any service we do for God is defined by our gift and calling, not by whether we are a dedicated pastor or bi-vocational one. We tend to elevate the "full-time" pastor to the position of spiritual authority while not recognizing that God might have equipped others with equal or greater spiritual authority in the ministry defined by their gifts. Amos could not be a prophet without the gift of a prophet. But he did not need to become a "full-time" prophet to do the ministry of the prophet, for it is not the amount of time that defines his ministry but his calling based on the gift given to him.

Much of our current thinking about ministry has been defined by the Christendom legacy of the clergy/laity divide that originated in medieval Christianity. If churches are to be released to fulfill the missional agenda, we need to re-think what it means to be a pastor in the churches. If churches are willing to have bivocational pastors sharing the same responsibility as "full-time" ones, then we would have solved the problem of insufficient people to fill our pulpits as pastors. It's time for a change of mindset regarding who can lead and pastor the church. The lay people with gifts need to be released for the pastoral ministry. And full-time pastors need not feel their spiritual authority threatened by lay pastors who may be able to exercise certain ministry better than they can. The church is called to a body-ministry where everyone fulfills their gifts and calling. A full-time pastor may still be necessary to do some things not possible by bi-vocational pastors by virtue of their secular vocation. But that additional availability of full-time pastors needs not translate to imply superseding authority.

Father, set Your people free to serve You. You have gifted Yourpeople to serve as bivocational ministers. May Your people rise up to the challenge of spiritual leadership as bivocational pastors. Amen.

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