Bivo pastors serving God in rural Missouri
Two even double as newspaper publisher, journalist
By Lee Warren
April 19, 2005
WAYLAND – In places like Wayland, located in the northeast corner of the state, population 400, churches are dependent upon bivocational pastors for their survival. Dan Steinbeck, pastor of Southern Baptist Fellowship in Wayland, preaches to 24 faithful congregants every Sunday and he knows that rural churches like his are unable to pay him a full-time salary. That’s okay with Steinbeck.
“I’m very comfortable with where I am and what I think God is doing in the Wayland community,” Steinbeck said.
“I’m not a full-time pastor, but I am. The church pays me a stipend, but it’s not what you would pay a full-time pastor. I understand that and I know that the church couldn’t afford a full-time pastor. However, I am a full-time pastor because things happen at night. I was at the hospital at 2 a.m. one time when one of my church members broke a leg.”
Steinbeck, who received his calling from God to pastor Southern Baptist Fellowship while he was a lay member there, wants to see other rural churches continue to reach into other “out of the way” communities with the Gospel.
“I’m not ready to write off rural churches yet,” Steinbeck said. “My church is not going to die as long as God allows me to minister and as long as I’ve got breath to preach there.”
Those words would bring a smile to the face of Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch who spoke at the East Tennessee Bivocational Evangelism Conference in Knoxville, Tenn., last month.
“Since almost half our Southern Baptist churches are led by bivocational pastors, I believe it’s high time we recognize them and honor them,” Welch told the conference attendees. “(If) we are going to evangelize America, it will not be without the crucial efforts of all our bivocational pastors.”
Doug Wilson, a bivocational pastor of Knox City Baptist Church, a small church located about 45 miles southwest of Wayland, in a town of about 220, said that he was pleased to hear Welch’s comments.
“During his national tour, Brother Bobby made an effort to visit smaller churches and bivocational ministers as well as the large churches,” Wilson said. “I think that demonstrates his grasp of the reality in many of our churches—especially in rural areas.”
In addition to pastoring rural churches in the Wyaconda Baptist Association, Steinbeck and Wilson also share a passion for journalism. Steinbeck is the publisher and editor for the Press-News Journal in Canton, circulation 3,100, and Wilson is a journalist for the Quincy Herald-Whig in Quincy, Ill., circulation 27,000.
“A lot of people aren’t going to say that journalism and ‘religion’ should go hand in hand,” Steinbeck said. “And they might ask ‘What’s an editor of a newspaper doing pastoring a church?’”
Steinbeck doesn’t see any conflict.
“It’s important in my job as editor and reporter at the paper to always tell the truth,” Steinbeck said. “And it’s important when I’m preaching God’s Word to speak the truth.
“God needs Christian journalists, He needs Christian farmers, He needs Christian teachers, and He needs Christian businesspeople who understand honesty and who understand applying God’s principles in dealing with the world.”
Steinbeck points to the Apostle Paul who was a tentmaker and a missionary when asked about the concept of being bivocational. Many other examples of dual officeholders exist in Scripture as well. Moses was a prophet and a lawgiver. Solomon was a king who built the temple. David was a king and prophet. And many of America’s founding fathers were pastors who also held seats of political authority.
“We’ve got lots of examples of people from Bible times and American history holding more than one office,” Wilson said. “I believe most people don’t know how many people they come in contact with every day who do more than one thing. Perhaps it’s a salesman who referees soccer games on weekends and teaches a Sunday School class. At the very least, a dual occupation can become a conversation starter and a chance to share a testimony.”
Steinbeck encourages lay Christians who have already chosen a vocation and feel like they are doing what God intended them to do, to stay open to the possibility that God may also call them into bivocational ministry.
“God is raising up other pastors,” Steinbeck said. “You don’t have to be in a mega-church to be called by God. I’m not trashing mega-churches because they certainly have a purpose and they’re certainly reaching people, but the people in rural areas are important to God, too. And they can’t afford full-time pastors. They need bivocational pastors—people who can support their families with their regular jobs and still serve the church on Sunday and Wednesday and with the other needs.”
He said that if people feel led by God to possibly pastor a church or to take on some other form of Christian service in addition to their regular vocation, then they should speak with their pastors or directors of missions.
“Ask God to confirm it,” Steinbeck said. “He did for me in a big way.”