The Beauty of Bivocational Ministry

By Josiah Espinoza | September 22, 2021

“Like Paul, I too have learned how to work with my hands so that I might not be a burden to my young church plant.”

I am the Pastor of a young Southern Baptist church plant, Sovereign Trinity Church. We have not even had our 1 year anniversary as a church and yet there are so many beautiful things I have learned as a bivocational church planter.

The Beauty of Time

I work 40 hours a week at my job, spend about 20-30 hours a week preparing for my church’s Sunday Service (this includes prepping worship slides, prepping worship music, practicing worship songs, prepping the church building, mid-week bibles studies and sermon prepping) and I am taking 3 Seminary courses for my Masters of Divinity program at Gateway Seminary. At the same time I am doing my best to stay connected with our local Baptist association, keeping up with meetings, writing updates to my mentors and supervisors, keeping the California Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board up to date on my progress and still making time for personal fellowship, counseling and church events.

This is not me complaining. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am energized by the constant activity of this busy season. I love serving the Lord and serving God’s people with every ounce of my being. However, the Lord has humbled me in this process because I would not be able to do this on my own. In fact, I don’t do this on my own! I have a beautiful and multi-talented wife that is engaged in every aspect of the church. She is a wonderful administrator, a gifted musician and just has a heart for the Lord. I have a humble and solid leadership team that helps in so many ways and without them I would be drowning. But ultimately, the Lord strengthens, sustains and encourages me. I know this work is not done in vain.

Time becomes such a precious commodity. Learning how to balance home life with a wife and 4 kids, work life, church life and school life becomes an undeniably necessary skill to obtain. Just sitting down and watching Netflix with my wife or Spongebob with my kids is such a treasure. I enjoy the time I have sitting down at dinner with my family. I hold dear the moments where I can sit down and talk about the day with my kids. I love the moments where I can wrestle with my boys. It is so beautiful because I value each minute that is spent with them.

Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Now I am by no means a materially rich man. The profit that I am gaining through my diligent work is the harvesting of souls. Since November 8th 2020, our church has had 5 salvation, 12 baptisms and 17 new church members. We started with 25 people (adults and kids) and last week (9/22/2021) we had about 80 attendees. By the mercies of God, the Lord in his sovereign goodness is blessing the work of the ministry in ways that I could not imagine. That is not to say that I have the key to success, I am simply rejoicing at the very notion that God is blessing the work that I am engaged in. The Psalmist in Psalm 90:12 beautifully states, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The Lord has granted me a heart of wisdom, a heart that has learn to put the necessary things in his hands and the unnecessary aside. I just don’t have time to watch sports, to have a major hobby, to play hours of golf or even to binge Netflix. God has taught me the beauty of time.

The Beauty of Solidarity

If there is one major thing that this COVID pandemic has taught us is that consistent, full-time church pay is not necessarily a reality. I read an article from The Courier, a Southern Baptist web article called “Is Bivocational Minsitry the New Normal?” In this article from 2016 it stated that 50 percent of SBC pastors are bivocational (probably more in 2021). The articles goes on to say that 35,000 of the 46,000 churches in the SBC are in the two categories of small church or bivocational status. Other numbers place the percentage at a much higher rate, somewhere at the 80 percent mark but that it most likely falls between 40-60 percent. Now, some may chalk this up to unfaithful giving, to passionless evangelism or bad ecclesiology, and that may be the case. However, there is a beauty in bivocational ministry that allows for pastors to connect to the Scriptures in a much profound way.

The Apostle Paul was a man deeply acquainted with bivocational ministry. The Scriptures tell us that he was a tent maker by trade (Acts 18:1-28) and whenever Paul entered a city he lived among the people and worked with them. That does not mean that he did not receive financial help from other ministries or that he didn’t ask for financial aid. Paul would have been the first to say to the churches, “Pay your pastor a liveable wage,” but he chose not take that right in every city that he went to. In fact, he set the example of a strong work ethic to be able to show the saints in the city of Thessalonica how they are to live among the people.

Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you;  we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us.~1 Thessalonians 6:1-8

And again Paul says

If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you?  If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right; instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. For my part I have used none of these rights, nor have I written these things that they may be applied in my case. For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast! ~ 1 Corinthians 9:11-15

So, it is not that I cannot choose to take a wage from my church. In fact, during the Summer of 2021, finances were scarce for me and my family. So in June, July and August the church helped with $500 a month each month. Could I have taken more? Probably. Would the church joyfully give it, yes! But, I did not need more than that and I do not plan to take any more from the church for quite some time. Like Paul, I too have learned how to work with my hands so that I might not be a burden to my young church plant. I joyfully give offerings to the Lord just like everyone else. I happily sacrifice time and energy to serve the Lord and his people without pay just like everyone else. I use my weekends for ministry needs instead of hobbies like everyone else. I schedule church events around work schedules just like everyone else. I have learned the secret of having little and having much and being content in those things. I am content being a bivocational pastor because it liberates our small church to do things that most small churches would feel burdened to do.

There is such a beauty knowing that I am one of thousands of SBC and non-SBC pastors that are in bivocational ministry. There is a profound connection with Scripture and understanding of Paul as he set the example of a hard-working bivocational minister. Will the Lord grant a full time position in the future? Possibly. Am I craving it? Not really. I have seen my dad faithfully serve his Spanish speaking church, that he planted in his own backyard for nearly 30 years. Has he ever been a full time pastor? Once, for about 3-6 months, then he went right back to work once he saw he was a burden to the ministry. I only pray to have that kind of faithfulness in my time of serving the Lord.

The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty

Who am I but a slave of the Lord. How dare I even try to begin to systematize the free and sovereign work of God in the harvesting of souls. I am simply a co-worker of God’s mission; an undershepherd of the Great Shepherd. Any success that I have had and any success that I may have in the future is not mine, but the Lords. How can I possibly systematize God’s sovereign grace. I am but a wounded gardener in the field of God, in constant need of sustenance. Your word, O God, is my sustenance and my life. Your Spirit, O Lord, is the water that refreshes my soul. Please continue granting your mercies and please continue granting your servants success in the ripe harvest. Your word says, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) May it be O Lord that you grant a great national revival that will glorify your name and magnify your work throughout the world.

Father help me to understand more deeply and profoundly the words of the Apostle Paul as he stated,

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Continue humbling me before your presence. Send your Spirit before me and toil the hardened hearts that they might receive the implanting of your Son’s good news. Grant to me strength and courage as I continue the work of planting and watering. You alone, O Lord, have the power to grant the growth. Only strengthen my prayer, strengthen my walk, stir my affections for you Lord and help me to dwell in your holy word.

Give life to dead bones with your breath O Lord, anoint me to preach your word faithfully. May the unction of your Spirit breathe through the words that are said at the pulpit. Remove the wolves in sheep clothing, shut the mouths of false prophets, rescue your people from the snare of the devil. The times are evil Lord and our days are numbered. May we be found faithful before your sight on the day of your visitation.

I have no ability, no glory, nothing that allows me to ever take away from the glory that rightfully belongs to you Jesus. By your sovereign hand, send the people you would have me care for and send other lost sheep to your other faithful under shepherds. Grant the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear, grant them regeneration by your will Lord, that they might repent and believe unto salvation. Grant cleansing and baptisms like never before. Give us the power to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that you have commanded because your promised that you would be with us, even to the end of the age. Amen.


My Church Planting Story

By Josiah Espinoza | September 21st, 2021

“The time had come for me to step out in faith to engage in the wonderful but weighty task of church planting.”

My name is Pastor Josiah Espinoza. I am the Pastor of Sovereign Trinity Church, a young and growing church plant in Victorville, CA with the vision to ultimately plant in Oak Hills/Hesperia, CA. Several years ago the Lord placed this deep desire in my heart to plant a church. My wife and I prayed into this desire for over 5 years, beginning in October of 2015. 5 years later, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, the calling to plant became even more clear. The time had come for me to step out in faith to engage in the wonderful but weighty task of church planting.

In January of 2018 I was attending classes at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. I was attending an Evangelism course that was really stirring my heart for street evangelism and door to door preaching. One faithful day, several things ended up happening that would change the course of my life. A church planting catalyst had come into class that day to talk about church planting in Tennessee. It was extremely tempting but I decided not to take more information from him. It did however, revitalize the desire to church plant some day. As I headed to my car, a pastor from a church that I had attended in California prior to moving to Kentucky calls me. He asks if I wanted to come back home to California to be the worship pastor for their church. I was extremely excited and after talking to my wife, we agreed that we would come back on the condition that we would eventually be sent out to plant a church. After communicating this to the pastor, he agreed and 6 months later, on June of 2018, we were back home in the city of Victorville, CA.

I was so excited about being back home. I was ready to jump into ministry, to start home studies and to start making connections for possible church planting. However, after the excitement wore off, bills started piling on, rent was due, debt had to be paid and the $1,400 dollars a month I was receiving from my church was not going to be enough. I needed to find employment to be able to provide for my family and to be able to keep serving the people of God. By the end of July 2018, I was hired by Azusa Pacific University, my alma mater. My monthly pay from my church dropped to $500 a month but overall my family was going to be fine because of my new job. I was discouraged that I couldn’t spend 40-60 hours a week on the church campus anymore but what I didn’t know was that God in his divine providence was preparing me for a future in church planting that would set me up for success and continual provision.

I was discouraged that I couldn’t spend 40 hours a week on the church campus anymore but what I didn’t know was that God in his divine providence was preparing me for a future in church planting that would set me up for success and continual provision.

Throughout my time of serving at this church, I learned how to rely on the Lord in the midst of my bi-vocational ministry. I had to learn how to lean into the Lord for strength and perseverance in ways that full-time ministry would not have allowed me. I learned how to manage my time more effectively and efficiently. I learned how to set an example of giving and stewardship. I learned how to set apart time for my wife and family because time became so precious.

On January of 2020, I had started a Bible Study in my house. Church members, non-church members and non-believers were attending. We started with just 4 men the first couple of weeks and by the end of February 12-15 men were coming and their wives were coming to the women’s bible studies. We genuinely thought that this was going to be the start of our church plant. Then, March 2020 comes around and the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, mandates and pandemic hits. The church shuts downs, home groups shut down, everything shuts down! I thought that this was the end of this potential church plant, but God had different plans.

On Resurrection Sunday of 2020, we purchased a new house. After moving, my wife and I decided that eventually we would take the risk of getting COVID, open our house for Bible Study and worship, and see if the Lord would bless us. On June 2020, we did just that and the Lord indeed blessed our home. Our Bible Studies grew and we had about 5-10 families consistently attending. Some were members of other churches but others were not. I saw the potential of starting a home service and just trying to start a plant. At the same time, the church I was serving at wanted to plant satellite campuses, whereas I was called to plant an autonomous church. Due to this disagreement they decided not to send us and sponsor us as a church plant. However, by the sovereign mercies of God, the Lord had sent a wonderful brother, Pastor Stephen Feinstein of Sovereign Way Christian Church, to sponsor us. Through the North American Mission Board and their Send Network, we officially became a functioning church plant on November 8th, 2020.

We held Sunday services in my own living room, bible studies on our kitchen table, baptisms in our backyard jacuzzi and counseling sessions in my office. Our home became the church. For approximately 6 months our home was always full of people and we loved every minute of it. We soon grew out of our home that only sat 30 people and we moved into another brother’s house that could sit 40 people. After being there for about 4 months, we grew out of that as well. On July 1st 2021, we were able to lease our own facility and hold Sunday services. We have been there for about 2 months now, it seats about 90 people and we are starting to grow out of that facility. I could not have imagined myself in this position 1 year ago.

Last year at this time, I had been let go of my worship pastor position. My wife and I were devastated that we could not workout the church planting sponsorship with our home church. We were in the middle of a world wide pandemic and we never thought a church plant would happen during this time. Since our first Sunday on November 8th, 2020 we have had 12 baptims, 5 salvations, we have doubled in size from 25 to 50/60 Sunday attenders and the Lord continues to bless us every week.

As we approach our 1 year anniversary, I could not be more blessed, joyful, excited or humbled. The Lord has tremendous things instore for Sovereign Trinity Church and we could not be more ready to receive the blessings of God. The Lord is good in his divine forebearance, kindness and grace toward me and my family. He has poured out heavenly blessings beyond my wildest dreams. I’m just along for the ride as I serve my Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Unity in Christ Alone

 By Josiah Espinoza | August 22nd, 2019 

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  ~ Galatians 3:27-28

In a post-modernistic, post-feminist and present racial theoretical culture, the definition and concept of unity has been twisted and ill defined. For many, unity can only be achieved through the destruction and reconstruction of socio-economic and political powers. Black culture can only unite with white culture if white culture “repents” and “atones” for the sins of their ancestors, for slavery they did not commit and for advantages they “unfairly received”. Women can only unite with men if men emasculate themselves, accept the radical feminist definition of toxic masculinity and fight to suppress toxic masculinity and step down from their God ordained roles as heads of their homes. The poor can unite with the rich only if the rich recognize their unfair power, dismantle their structures of oppression and disseminate their wealth equally to everyone. But this is not repentance or atonement, it is penance. Pay for your sins to appease the covetousness and hateful attitudes of the “oppressed” masses. If you do not bow the knee to this identitarian leftist mob, you will be publicly crucified and be forced to bow by legislative power.

Of course, the nature of man is inherently depraved and when confronted with such ludicrous ideology the natural tendency is to rebel. However, the “oppressed and disenfranchised” are also fallen creatures ready to use any means necessary to force their ideology on a culture that is quickly descending into chaos. So what is the result? The result is a divided people, black against white, men against women and poor against rich. Each group using their means of power to crush the other. What’s the answer? In a word, εὐαγγέλιον.

The Gospel

The εὐαγγέλιον (gospel) is the outworking of the eternal covenant that the Triune God made between himself and his elect people to reconcile his people back to him and to one another. All of creation is fallen and separated from God. Humanity does not commune with God, it does not desire to commune with God, indeed it cannot because humanity hates God. As a result, the sinful nature of man is made manifest toward one another in all kinds of evil ways. White hates black, women hate men and the poor hate the rich. People murder each other, steal from each other, covet each others things. Nations rise against nations out of jealousy and quarreling. Men are violent toward women, women are violent toward their children and the rich are treated unfairly in the justice system. There are so many things we can plainly see that are unmerciful, brutal and wicked. The only hope humanity has to reconcile with one another is to reconcile itself back to God. The only way humanity can reconcile itself to God is to bow the knee in true godly repentance and faith through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He paid the price, he made satisfaction for us to God, he propitiated our sins and therefore we have reconciliation with God, but not only with God, with one another! 1 John 4:20 states, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” How can you say you love God but hate your white brother? How can you say you love God but hate you male brother? How can you say you love God but hate you rich brother? You may say, “How have I hated them?” When you call them racist without cause. When you call them misogynistic without cause. When you call them oppressor without cause, you are hating them without cause. If Christ has so loved them that he would save them, how much more should you love them with the love that Christ has shown you? Unless, of course, you do not love them thereby proving that you are a child of the devil. How can I say this?

Unity in Christ

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Notice the logical conclusion Paul makes in this passage. Were you baptized in Christ? Then you have put on Christ. You cannot claim to be in Christ and not put on the character and nature of Christ. If you were baptized into Christ, meaning, you have bowed the knee to his Lordship, proclaimed him as King of your life, entered into relationship with him by the power of the Spirit, then you have put on Christ. If you have put on Christ you have been reconciled to God and also to your brother and sister. Who is your brother and sister? Anyone who bears the name of Christ, regardless of their skin, gender or social class.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” No matter what racial, ethnic, social or economic background you come from, you are not greater than your brother or sister. In the true church of Christ, there is no brown power, white power or black power. In the gathered body all are one and all are equal in value and person-hood, for all are made in the image of God. Repent from calling your brother a child of Satan because of the racial heritage he unwillingly inherited! Repent from calling your brother a misogynist because he was unwillingly born a certain gender. Repent from looking down upon a sister because she was unwillingly born in a lower social class. Repent and be reconciled to one another for the Scriptures say, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn. 3:10)

My Prayer

I am broken for the Church in America. The sin that is ravaging the body is overwhelming. The American Church needs to wake up. How can we prove to the world that we are the disciples of Christ if we cannot be one? Race divides us, gender divides us, social classes divide us. O God, please hear the cries of your servants that see this wickedness destroying your people. The voices of racial theorists, radical feminists, sexual revolutionaries and socially progressive liberals are infecting your people. I know that no plan can thwart your plan and you will accomplish all your purpose on this earth. I can see that America deserves your swift and just wrath, but Lord, grant mercy and compassion. Your people cry out to you in this wicked nation. Heal this land, revive this nation. Crush the sinful wicked hearts and establish your justice and peace on America through the preaching of the gospel. May the world see the church united as one under the banner of Christ. May the world see a people hand in hand, rejoicing in the presence of their savior, worshiping Jesus and enjoying the Triune God forever. Pour out your Spirit upon this nation, that he may convict of sin, righteousness and judgement. Empower us by your Spirit to boldly proclaim the truth of the gospel to every city, even in the face of persecution. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, please hear my prayer. Amen.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:10-12