By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
ROGERSVILLE — With a half year under his belt as interim bivocational ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, John Parrott has confirmed what he already knew from his role as a director of missions — bivocational ministers are critical in helping to reach Tennessee Baptists with the gospel.
Statistics show that approximately 65 percent of churches in Tennessee are served by bivocational pastors — men who also hold another job, Parrott said.
Though they have other professions, bivocational ministers are not part-time, stressed Parrott, who retired last year as director of missions for Holston Valley Baptist Association, based in Rogersville.
“All who are called to ministry are fully engaged in ministry,” he said.
“There is no such thing as part-time in ministry,” Parrott added.
Parrott assumed his interim role on May 1 following the retirement of Ray Gilder who who retired in April after leading bivocational ministries in the state for 20 years.
With a large number of bivocational ministers already in the state, Parrott expects the number to increase as Tennessee Baptists seek to accomplish the Five Objectives that messengers to the Summit in 2014 adopted as long-range goals for the convention.
The Five Objectives are:
(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024;
(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024;
(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024;
(4) Realizing an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024; and
(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
Parrott expects many of the new and revitalized churches will utilize bivocational ministers. New church plants and those that are undergoing revitalization normally cannot afford a fully funded pastor, he observed.
Add those to the number who already are serving in Tennessee and it only makes sense that bivocational ministers will have a key role in leading churches to accomplish the Five Objectives, Parrott said.
“When we talk about the Five Objectives it is obvious that we need to come alongside and engage our bivocational churches in being able to achieve our goals,” Parrott said.
“We can’t ignore those churches.”
Acknowledging the time constraints on bivocational ministers, Parrott cited one advantage they actually have over their fully funded counterparts.
“The bivocational pastor is out there in the marketplace, engaged in the community,” the retired DOM said. “That gives him credibility that can be very effective in leading people to Christ,” he added.
Parrott acknowledged that in previous years there was a “stigma” related to being a bivocational pastor. He credits Gilder for helping to erase that stigma in Tennessee.
“Ray brought a focus and recognition to bivocationl ministry that it did not have before. We now see they are a vital part of what we (the convention) are about.”
In his role, Parrott hopes to continue the ministry that Gilder began to encourage and support bivocational ministers. “They need our help and support,” he stressed.
Parrott invites bivocational pastors in Tennessee to attend the annual Bivocational Ministers & Wives Retreat which will be held Jan. 28-30, 2016 at the Music Road Hotel & Convention Center in Pigeon Forge.
Program personalities include Roger Britton, White’s Creek Baptist Church, Rockwood; Jeanne Davis, conference leader, Brentwood; Randy C. Davis, TBC executive director/treasurer; David Evans, TBC evangelism specialist; Leanne Michelle Jones, Faith United Baptist Church, Chattanooga; Caleb and Curtis Looper, The River Community Church, Cookeville; Steve & Michelle Looper, Hope in Christ Fellowship, Monterey; Martin Family Circus, Hendersonville; Willie McLaurin, TBC ministry specialist; Blake Montgomery, First Baptist Church, Sneedville; and Danny and Rhonda Sinque-field, Faith Baptist Church, Bartlett.
Cost is $225 per couple which includes hotel, meals, and breaks. Register online at www.tnbaptist.org. Click on “Church Administration & Leadership,” and then click on “Bivocational Ministries.”