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Online tool aids small church, bivocational pastors

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Gary Mitchell spent 20 years as a pastor in small, rural congregations. Like many church leaders across the country, Mitchell held a full-time job to support his ministry.

"I've been bivocational my whole life," said Mitchell, who is 68 and "retired." He now trains, equips and networks with the nearly 1,000 bivocational pastors in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

"The vast majority of churches are led by a bivocational pastor," Mitchell noted. Nationwide, the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network estimates there are about 37,000 smaller church pastors, most of whom are bivocational, within the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Most bivocational pastors are looking for affordable study tools to assist them in their sermon preparation," Mitchell said. "They are starved for information and resources. I constantly search for study materials that are easy to use and not overwhelming. Bivocational pastors have limited time and resources."

One of the main tools Mitchell tells pastors about is, a robust online Bible study tool launched in 2010 by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"I love the format of," Mitchell said. "All the tools are in one spot."

In June, LifeWay updated with some key features to help meet the growing needs of bivocational pastors, seminary students and other Bible lovers.

In addition to the HCSB Study Bible as well as select content from books like the Holman New Testament Commentary and references from Strong's Bible concordance, MyStudyBible now includes access to new free content including the English Standard Version (ESV), American Standard Version (ASV) and the Reina-Valera 1960 (RVR60) Spanish translation of the Bible.


LifeWay also introduced an online store where users can purchase access to additional content such as "The Apologetics Study Bible," "The Holman Illustrated Study Bible," "The Teacher's Bible Commentary," "Word Pictures in the New Testament," "The Holman Bible Atlas" and "Experiencing God."

Users also can purchase access to content on an as-needed basis with three time frames -- 24 hours, 30 days, or unlimited Some 24-hour access costs 99 cents.

" makes the Bible and some of the best biblical reference materials in the world accessible," said Paul Mikos, LifeWay's executive editor of digital publishing. "Now people don't have to spend $400 for commentary sets or Bible software. They can dive as deep as they need when they need for as long as they need."

"Expense is the biggest obstacle ," Mitchell said. "Most bivocational pastors can't afford expensive commentaries or the fees for the websites with all the bells and whistles. But they will invest in these types of tools. These price ranges put invaluable tools within their reach."

Aaron Linne, executive producer of digital marketing for LifeWay's B&H publishing division, describes as "continuing LifeWay's path to utilizing the biblical text in new ways, presenting products and ideas where the Bible itself becomes the basis for our digital publishing efforts."


"The Bible is central to the Christian experience," Linne said. " is all built around the Bible. We are trying to deliver the best digital Bible reading and studying experience to the people we serve."

Mikos said, "It is our prayer that this site is a blessing to those around the world seeking to know the Lord and His Word more intimately."

Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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