I’ve been inspired and challenged by the positive role models I’ve studied in the Bible. Jesus is clearly our most inspiring and challenging exemplar, but many others also stand before us. I’ll nominate the Apostle Paul for inclusion in this group. He was a giant among the Early Church leaders, a brilliant theologian, church-planter and… tent-maker.
He voluntarily chose to stay in the marketplace to support himself so he would not be a financial burden to the young church: “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.”(2 Thessalonians 3:7b-8)
God has designed the Church leadership structure to flow through two primary channels:
1) those called to full-time ministry and
2) those that comprise a large support team of volunteer leaders.
Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, the Church needs both groups in order to flourish and grow. Many of the volunteers come from the marketplace and need wisdom to bridge the gaps between the two cultures. Both sides need to learn how to respect the differences, resist the urge to jump to conclusions, actively listen, and act as interpreters (because at times it can feel like we’re speaking two different languages).
I’ve heard the statistic that church staffing equates to approximately one full-time minister for every 100 church members. Even if we stretch that to say two per 100 members it means that 98% of the Church will never be in full-time church ministry. I have a sense that Paul maintained both marketplace and ministry roles so he could serve as an example and “interpreter” to both the “2’s” and the “98’s”.
An example can be found when Paul was in Ephesus (Acts 19). For two years he split his time between making tents in the morning and preaching during the lunch hour at the “lecture hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9-10). His tent-making craft required him to wear a work-apron that had pockets for his different tools. He would also tie a handkerchief around his forehead to keep the perspiration from getting in his eyes (visualize today’s bandana).
The next verse says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (Acts 19:11)
It appears that Paul would take his lunch break and show up in his work clothes at the lecture hall to preach after making tents in the morning. Some of the believers would borrow his work apron and bandana so they could take them and place them on people who were too sick to get to the meeting in person. His work clothes carried enough power to heal illnesses and break the grip of evil spirits. The author of Acts, Luke, called this an “extraordinary” miracle!
I think we’d agree that all miracles are extraordinary, but this one stretches our faith in a new direction when we consider how God used Paul’s work clothes as a tool to heal and deliver people. It should speak volumes to us about the value God places on our careers. It shows that God can use people in “secular jobs” like tent-making to be very effective ministers in the marketplace.
Let’s pray for a greater convergence of the ministry and marketplace so the sum total of our combined efforts will far surpass what we each group could do on their own.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.