By Joe Conway
BALTIMORE (BP) — Some 200 Southern Baptist bivocational and small church pastors and their families gathered for fellowship, lunch, networking and encouragement on the final day of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Baltimore. The SBC Executive Committee, the North American Mission Board and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary partnered to sponsor the event.
For Charlie Arnold, the lunch was a reminder that he is not alone in bivocational ministry. Arnold is an emergency medical technician (EMT) and pastor of Seaside Church in Lewes, Del., where about 50 people gather for worship; the church has about 100 members.
“We are the lone church in that part of the state,” Arnold said. “We are the only Southern Baptist church for the entire region.”
Arnold and his wife Erika, also an EMT, moved to the area to help re-launch Seaside in 1996. They did not expect that it would be their long-term church home. The family moved to Lewes from Columbia, S.C., where Arnold pastored Southside Baptist Church. He has also planted churches in Texas and is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“I was the church’s first called pastor,” Arnold said during the June 11 luncheon. “Seaside launched three years earlier, but they felt they needed the direction that a dedicated pastor could bring them.”
Lewes is a recreation area and home to many retirees. In addition to serving as EMTs, Arnold and Erika are both volunteer firefighters, as is their daughter Jennifer. Arnold also serves the department as chaplain and serves in the same capacity for the Delaware Fire Chiefs Association.
Beyond the fellowship of other bivocational and small church pastors, Arnold said he was encouraged by keynote speaker Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement for the SBC Executive Committee. Weathersby used Hebrews 12 to remind the pastors and church leaders in the audience to endure in their callings.
“We need men who will stand on God’s Word and preach in obedience, and then go into the marketplace and live in obedience,” Weathersby said. “That is one of the many reasons you are truly the iron men of the SBC.”
Weathersby reminded the audience that God “has a plan for you to pursue, a person for you to prepare (including yourself), a price for you to pay, provides power to persevere and has a future prize you may possess.”
The event host was the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network. National coordinator Ray Gilder reminded the men that they are not alone in ministry. He also reminded them of the educational opportunities they have through New Orleans seminary, Union University and other avenues. The network’s next event is the International Bivocational and Small Church Celebration, June 26-28 at Liberty University.
To learn more about bivocational pastoring, visit www.namb.net/bivocational-pastors.
Joe Conway writes for the North America Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).