Most present-day worshippers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning. Being familiar to most Christians as one of the gifts the Three Kings presented to the Christ Child, the burning of frankincense has been part of cultural and religious ceremonies for millennia. Frankincense is a resin from the Boswellia tree which is made into oils, incense and used in everything from worship to medicinal uses. Its name originates from the old French “franc encens”, meaning “quality incense”.
Johns Hopkins University teamed up with researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to explore frankincense in order to see what kinds of effects it has on the mind. To measure the effects on the mind, researchers used some of the resin from the Boswellia tree, known as incense acetate, and gave it to some mice. This test showed that incensole acetate affects the area of the brain where emotions reside. They found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressant-like behavior. They concluded that when someone comes in contact with frankincense it has a strong anxiolytic (anxiety decreasing) effect and acts as an anti-depressant, leaving a person feeling relaxed and open, which can be very soothing.
As local congregations are dwindling in membership, pastors are beginning to embrace the role of a bivocational minister. Some even intend to remain bivocational regardless of the size of their congregation or its growth. Thus, a call to a bivocational ministry can have a variety of reasons. Bivocational ministers serve the church without being dependent on them for income. However, this is not to say that being dependent on a congregation for salary somehow were to necessarily lead to compromise. On the other hand, there is some freedom in leading a congregation that does not pay the bulk of one’s salary.
1. Bivocational ministers are often more connected to non-believers. No full-time pastor wants to be disconnected from people who need to hear the gospel truth. Full-time pastors often can be cocooned in the church world. Bivocational leaders can be equally cocooned, of course, but their work outside the church at least provides a roadblock to that process.
2. Bivocational ministers lead churches that often have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. In most churches with full-time staff, the largest percentage of their budget goes toward payroll. Thus, funds for valuable ministries can be lacking. A parish that has fewer personnel commitments can free up funds to easier maintain and increase social, educational and community ministries.
3. Bivocational ministers make starting more churches likely. In order to reach people in our ever more secularized society, more mission churches and ministries are needed. In the beginning, such endeavors usually do not have the funding to support a pastor. Thus, a bivocational church planter can provide leadership without straining the church’s budget.
4. Bivocational ministry models apostolic outreach. Getting the gospel to the world will require efforts far beyond full-time clergy. Bivocational pastors can model the ancient apostolic approach.
5. Bivocational ministers learn how to train workers and delegate ministry. Burnout can be a danger for the bivocational minister, unless he learns to share the load. The bivocational minister realizes he cannot and should not do ministry alone. His role makes him realize the 1 Corinthians 12 ministry by recognizing that God calls everyone to take on a particular role in the church.
6. Bivocational leadership affirms vocation as ministry. We often promote a clergy/laity divide that lacks scriptural warrant. The bivocational minister brings these worlds together. His workplace is his mission field.
7. Bivocational ministers can better understand the struggles of ordinary laypersons. These pastors know what it is like to work in the secular world for a number of hours and then spend time with church work. They understand being drawn into a world that daily beckons church members to live worldly and less spiritual. They know the struggle of trying to be a tentmaker and an evangelist at the same time.
8. Bivocational ministers can now get theological training without leaving their place of ministry. Via online education, bivocational ministers can now earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in ministry or theology while keeping their lives planted among the people they seek to reach. Such approach is educationally solid and practically relevant.
9. Bivocational opportunities invite us to challenge all our church members to consider God’s calling. Following God’s calling does not always mean leaving home and employment. It is recognizing that God has given you a job, so that you can lead His flock.
Only the wise know just where predestination ends and free will begins. Meanwhile, you must keep on doing your best according to your own clearest understanding. You must long for freedom as the drowning man longs for air. Without sincere longing you will never find God.