Vocation is vacation from occupation
MEMPHIS—In northeast Missouri, Mike Wilson serves as the pastor of Richland Baptist Church here. He is also the director of missions for Pleasant Grove Baptist Association and owner/operator of his own bulldozer.
He does these three jobs while also caring for his energetic daughter Sarah, who has autism. Wilson said he has an “occupation which is construction. I have a vocation or calling as a pastor, and my vocation is my vacation from my occupation.”
For Wilson, it is all about priorities.
“I had to learn along the line that my bi-vocational ministry meant that I had to set priorities,” Wilson said. “When I first started out I had a priority towards the construction business. And God took that away from me so that He might help me see the need for placing the ministry as the top priority. The construction side enables me to continue to be able to do the ministry.”
Wilson’s brother is also a bi-vocational pastor as he pastors and works at a newspaper as an editor. Wilson and his brother are both bi-vocational pastors and actually married twins—Alma and Wilson’s recently deceased wife, Velma, who died last November from complications resulting from a routine surgery. Wilson talked about his brother’s and father’s influence on him in the ministry.
“My father was a great influence in my life,” Wilson said. “He was a deacon and a song leader and believed in taking your children to church, not sending your children to church. My brother actually was the first one that I got to follow in the pulpit after he had done youth ministry. He was a tough act to follow, as he was a natural when it came to speaking to people where I was very uncomfortable. He has now surrendered to the ministry and pastors the church we went to growing up.”
Wilson said that he also received a calling. He talked about that.
“I was given an opportunity as a teenager to fill in for a youth Sunday and I felt very inadequate at the time of the invitation,” Wilson said. “But some people very near to me came to know the Lord. I then let the Lord know that I was willing to be used at any time in supply ministry. But it was not until I had gone my own way and had business failures that the Lord finally revealed to me that He had nothing against me running construction equipment as long as my priorities were towards Him.
“My wife actually received the calling to become a pastor’s wife before I got the calling to be a pastor. She had some things that God wanted her to work on and to pray for. We had three daughters at that time and the middle one is autistic. God has blessed us and allowed us the opportunity to work together. My wife and I had been married for 27 years when she passed. One of the harder parts of ministry is going on with the ministry when one side of the partnership is changed.”
When his wife died, Wilson needed the support and prayer of his ministry and they rose up to the challenge.
“I’ve been blessed with a church and an association that will do things to equip me to work with my family situation,” Wilson said. “God has blessed me with the Baptist people. Everyone has been a real blessing. The first night of my wife’s visitation after her passing there were about 800 people who came. We have felt such an uplifting in prayer and the supplying of our needs. They have been real supportive of my daughter, as we have worked on associational projects. Being autistic, Sarah has certain behaviors that they have not only learned to love, but also have helped her continue to work on her singing. They also encourage her in her study times. They provide all the needed materials in times that I have to be in the pulpit. If no one else in my family is present, they have been willing to help. They have embraced her as one of their own children.”
Finally, Wilson had some advice for other bi-vocational pastors.
“The Bible shows us that bi-vocational does not mean that you are less than any other pastor,” Wilson said. “It is a special calling given as we see smaller churches becoming a greater ministry to our state and nation. We realize the necessity of men and women who are called into ministry to be able to serve God first and allow another occupation to minister to others. I would like the readers of The Pathway to always keep our bi-vocational men and women in their prayers.”