EDITOR’S NOTE — An estimated 55% of Alabama Baptist pastors serve bivocationally or covocationally. Many more serve as bivocational ministers in other church roles. In this series, TAB shares some of their stories, adapted from information provided by the Alabama Baptist Fellowship of Bivocational Ministers.
Third in a series — Deric Thomas, Pastor of Concord Church, Calera, since 2020
Q: How long have you been bivocational?
A: I have served bivocationally, covocationally or full time for over 20 years now. I began pastoring my first church, First Baptist Church, Hartsville, Indiana, bivocationally at 23 years of age. I did this while I was a graduate student and worked full time at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was a bivocational pastor at that church for two years.
Q: Describe your work outside the church.
A: I am a pastor, professor (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Samford), Army chaplain and business owner. Providing for a wife and 6 young children takes a lot of resources, as you can imagine.
Q: How many people did you have to start your ministry?
A: The population of Hartsville was about 375 people. It was literally in the middle of the cornfields of Indiana. Think of scenes from the old basketball movie “Hoosiers.” The town had one red light, one gas station and three church buildings (Methodist, Church of God and First Baptist). I loved the town and the people of the church so much. When I arrived, there were about 35 people in attendance. They were sweet people, faithful people, and they were so patient with me as a young pastor. My heart still fills with thanksgiving and praise as I think about the privilege it was to be their pastor for two wonderful years.
Q: What type of facilities did you have for gathering as a church?
A: The white church building was small but beautiful. Inside there were about 30 wooden pews that could hold about 100 people. The building sat on a dead-end road about 100 yards from the town square. I was told that the Wright brothers, who invented the airplane, played a part in the church’s founding.
Q: How long did it take before you started seeing growth?
A: By God’s grace and power, we started seeing the church grow spiritually, numerically and financially within the first few months.
Q: What percentage would you estimate is transfer growth and evangelistic growth?
A: About 50% of the growth was evangelistic and about 30% was transfer growth. Another 20% was growth due to people coming back to church who had not been in years.
Q: What type of outreach has been the most effective for your ministry?
A: The most effective outreach came through prayer; people inviting friends, family and coworkers; pastoral care and visitation in the community; and Christ-centered expositional preaching that the Holy Spirit used to draw people to Jesus.
Q: What has been your greatest discouragement?
A: My greatest discouragement was the fact I had to drive about 90 miles both ways to get there from my home near my full-time work. This was particularly hard because my wife, Heather, had just given birth to our first two sons, John Deric and Simon, who were 14 months apart. Living that far away from our church in that season of life came with many challenges. But we saw God’s faithfulness and enjoyed eating many meals with the gracious families who would host us primarily on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Q: What has been your greatest encouragement?
A: My greatest encouragement was watching God grow the church to the point where they were ready to have a full-time pastor. With tears, I prayed through whether or not God was calling me to step into that role, but I knew at that time He was calling me into my next assignment. The pastor they brought in after me is still faithfully serving there today, over 15 years later. I have noticed that oftentimes throughout my ministry, God has called me into challenging situations to prepare the way for the next person who would be there much longer — kind of spiritual “Special Ops,” you might say. It’s not always easy, but Jesus and His bride are worth it.
Q: What are the most important lessons or suggestions you would offer bivocational pastors today who also want to reach the lost and grow a local church?
- Depend on the Father (Rom. 8:15), abide in the Son (John 15:5) and be filled and led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
- Devote yourself to prayer and the ministry of the Word, in that order (Acts 6:4).
- Lead your family and your people to pray (Matt. 6:9).
- Train, equip and mobilize the church to live out and minister the Word (Eph. 4:12).
- Commit yourself to relationally making disciples of Christ among all nations, your neighbors and the next generation (Matt. 28:19).
- Love your wife like Jesus loves His church (Eph. 5:25).
- Love, teach and discipline your children (Eph. 6:4).
- Do all of this with the ultimate motive of God being known, loved and glorified in and through your life no matter what may come (1 Cor. 10:31).
- Remember Jesus is with you always (Matt. 28:20).
Share with others: