Life-Changing Ecclesiology

The following letter is written by my brother-in-law Sean Gossett to his church. It is explanation of how his changing understanding of church leadership and ministry is the basis for seeking to be bi-vocational. It is my conviction that it is important for the church today to seriously compare its current practices with New Testament teaching on church leadership and body life. It is also my conviction that doing so will result in significant changes for the local church and her leaders.

Sean Begins Bivocational Ministry at Springhill

For about three years now, I have been on an exciting journey in my faith. Specifically, I sense that God has been changing my convictions about what makes for a healthy church. Back in October, I met with the elders and shared what God has been doing in my life. I requested a pay reduction and an extra day off during the week to pursue real estate investing. Beginning in January, I will be bivocational at Springhill, devoting part of each week to ministry at Springhill and part to ministry “in the world” through real estate.  My responsibilities at this point will not change.  I will just have fewer hours in the office each week.

I sense that God is directing my heart to simplify church ministry. One observation I’ve made is that staff-generated, program-driven ministry is less “effective” than ministry initiated by the people. Families across our nation are failing to disciple their own children. A major contributor, in my opinion, is the program-driven church. I don’t believe that programs are inherently wrong, but many have traded an ongoing, lifestyle of surrender to Christ’s Lordship for a cheaper version of Christianity, where the chief end is involvement in church activities.  I think this can have harmful effects, as people ease their consciences with church busyness, thinking that they’re doing their duty for God. It is a checking off the “spiritual box” in one’s mind, if you will.

What does this have to do with my decision to leave a career in ministry? If programs are not the focus in the church (and there are less of them), there is no need for full-time staff members because there isn’t enough work in the week for them to do. Is this good? Yes, I think so, because the church becomes less dependent on one or two people. The responsibility and health of the church is spread out. This is the reason that I believe that God has charged a co-equal group of elders to share the responsibility of leading the church – because it is not healthy for one man to do it.

One of the questions I’ve wrestled with is, “Is a career in pastoring wrong? What does scripture say about this?” Though I don’t have a definitive answer to this, it has been important for me to answer, personally, to be sure that I’m not running from something that God “called” me to earlier in life.  While space prohibits a more detailed response, one thing that has been suggested to me is that during New Testament times there was no concept of a career in pastoring. In scripture Paul mentions compensation in ministry, but compensation is different than a career or livelihood earned entirely from the church. There are several implications of this that affect a church’s health.  Most noticeable is the scriptural teaching of sharing the burden of leadership among all church leaders.  Lining my life up with scripture regarding biblical church leadership is a major motivation for me in this entire process.

Another benefit of bivocational ministry will be financial relief for our church. I heard recently that the average United States church keeps 98 cents of every dollar, while only sending 2 cents abroad for missions. Springhill isn’t much different from that statistic. It is my hope that our church will be free to give away more of our resources in the future. I can have a direct impact on that by providing for my own family.

Along this journey, Anna has been my dearest friend and most trusted confidant. I have treasured this journey with her. Also, there have been many godly men who have counseled me in this decision. Their wisdom and input has greatly impacted my thinking. I’m grateful for God’s wise plan for making good decisions in the safety of the community of believers (Prov. 15:22). That said, I’m on a journey with God and don’t have all of the answers. I welcome your questions and discussion and even correction, if I am wrong. My only desire is to line my life up with the Word of God, for the glory of God!