Bivocational Perspective: Redeeming the Curse of Labor

Hugh Halter: "I will never lament the 20-some years God blessed me with a trade that would sustain my full-time calling to ministry."

Excerpted from “Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, Learning to Be Human Like Jesus” (David C Cook)


It was my junior year of college, and I was broke. Realizing that next semester’s $3,500 bill was looming, I went down to a local paint store and asked the manager how a youngster like myself could learn how to paint houses for a living. He gave me about 30 minutes of his time and soon filled my Honda hatchback full of brand-new gear. I spent that day and the next nailing signs on telephone poles around Seattle to try to get work.

Within two hours I got my first call, and by the end of the summer I had put away $10,000 for the next school year.

At the time, I was so thankful that I would be able to finish my college degree, but I had no idea how important this trade would be to God’s call on my life.

I’m now 46 and haven’t had to paint a house for four years. With a bad back, I’m quite content to make a part-time living from speaking and training other leaders around the globe, but I will never lament the 20-some years God blessed me with a trade that would sustain my full-time calling to ministry.

Wait. Read that last statement again. I want to make sure you caught this incarnational key: my worldly vocation was directly connected with my calling as a vocational minister. I received my call to ministry from God when I was a sophomore in college, and I remember it like it was … today. I woke up and knew that every waking moment would now be about helping the lost, leery and least find faith in Jesus. I just knew it! I changed my major to religion and psychology and upon graduation went right into seminary. From there it was 10 years with Youth for Christ, then I made the transition into our first church plant. And although each phase of full-time ministry changed drastically, one common gift held it all together. My job as a painter. I unknowingly experienced the power of seeing my secular life as inextricably linked to my sacred calling.

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As my family grew, expenses grew and the stakes got higher, but I never varied from my morning and evening prayers that went something like this: “Lord, thanks for how you always provide, so send me work or send me money. I’ll respond to whatever way you choose to bless me.”

And it worked.

When he sent money from supporters of our ministry, I would fill my days with people, nonstop. And when he sent me work, I would increase my intentionality of meeting with people for early morning breakfasts, lunches and late-night gatherings in our home or a local pub. It wasn’t easy, and I always preferred option A, but learning to balance the sacred and secular was, and still is, the most empowering skill to living as an incarnational missionary.