From hospital to church: bivocational pastor points others to Great Physician

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It’s 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, and the day is just starting for Marino Martinez. The physician rises and travels to the hospital to makes rounds, relying on the Great Physician as he visits with patients and does what he can to restore physical health and wholeness.

After five hours of hospital rounds, Martinez breaks for lunch, walks out the doors of the hospital and climbs in his car to make his way across town. After a 20-minute drive, the medical doctor takes his place behind the pulpit of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Tallahassee, opens his Bible and preaches about how Christ alone can restore spiritual health and wholeness.

The physician, now in his pastoral role, points his Sunday morning congregants to the Great Physician.

When morning services conclude, Martinez heads back to the hospital to finish his duties, most likely working until early evening.

Such is the life of a bivocational pastor. In Florida Baptist Association, Martinez is one of 25 bivocational pastors – about 40 percent of the total of 59 pastors. Their secular jobs are as diverse as the individuals and the churches–realtor, teacher, accountant, police officer, insurance agent and more.

The number of bivocational pastors is likely to increase in coming years, believes Sean McMahon, director of missions for Florida Baptist Association, particularly as new churches are planted.

“Bivocational pastors are important to reach our state with the gospel,” said Ronny Raines, pastor of Bradfordville First Baptist Church, which provides meeting space and other support for Iglesia Bautista. “It’s wise stewardship of time, talents and treasures.”

Although his days are long, Martinez knows others in his congregation face similar challenges – some working more than one job, juggling responsibilities between work and family.

“I think what drives me is that we have a higher purpose than to make money. I want to be a good and faithful servant of God,” said the father of three, who added that he “has a very supportive family who shares me with a lot of people.”

About 80-90 people, who represent a dozen or so countries, are usually in attendance every Sunday as Martinez preaches in Spanish but provides sermon outlines and video projection in both English and Spanish. The congregation baptizes 15-20 people annually.

“We don’t need to be a big church; we need to be a great church,” said pastor Martinez, who moved to the U.S. from his native Dominican Republic in 2008, the same year that Iglesia Bautista was launched.

“The fact that he is connecting with so many cultures says a great deal about his ability to understand where people come from and their perspectives,” said McMahon. Iglesia Bautista is one of three Hispanic congregations in the association.

Martinez began pastoring Iglesia Bautista, which meets on the South Campus of Bradfordville First Baptist Church, about two years ago after being mentored by the previous pastor, who also served bivocationally.

“We want to partner to reach people for Jesus Christ in our city and around the world,” explained pastor Raines, noting that the relationship between the two congregations is “deeper today than in years past.”

“We pray for the church; we financially help them; we mentor them, we partner with them in mission endeavors,” he said.

Recently the two congregations held a joint worship service. Both pastors preached, and the praise teams led music together, with some songs in English and some in Spanish. Following the joint service, Iglesia Bautista provided lunch for both congregations.

“Partnering together is a beautiful picture of how the gospel brings different cultures together to make a kingdom difference in our city and around the world,” said Raines.

Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, Martinez is grateful for the partnership between the two congregations, which he describes as “an incredible blessing,” and he is grateful for his partnership with Iglesia Bautista church members, who are being mentored and developed for leadership roles in the congregation.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it all on my own,” he said.

By Margaret Colson, Florida Baptist Convention, December 21, 2016

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