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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Getting The Most Out Of Tentmaking

Ever thought about what kind of tentmaker Paul was? I mean this guy was full-on in whatever he did. If he persecuted Christians, he did it to the hilt; on the other hand, if he suffered for Jesus, he rejoiced and sang in prison. There was no room for haphazardness or lethargy in this man. I bet you he was the best tentmaker in town, yea the country. Why? Because whatever he did, he did it for the glory of God. I have been thinking about this most of the week. I am in kind of a struggle. No, I am not a tentmaker nor the son of a tentmaker, but I want to be skilled in a trade that will support my family while I study and minister. There was a time when I was in the position where all my livelihood came from the church, and that put me in a vulnerable situation. You see, if you don't go "with the program" and all that jazz, well then they can just fire you, and your family has to suffer because of it. I don't want to risk the well-being of my family on the arbitrary decision-making of folks, nor do I want to be in a situation where I either have to compromise in my convictions and defile my conscience or otherwise stand up and suffer the consequences. Did you know that the average church budget today is comprised of 50-60% of church staff salary? Don't get me wrong, I totally believe that the church should support their leaders, and any church who doesn't isn't biblical. But 50-60% - that's a lot! Paul specifically stated that the reason he "worked with his own hands" is that he would not be a burden to the church and be free in the consciences of people he was reaching. Don't you think that the paradigm for financial responsibility set by Paul is a good one? I think so. I desire to be a minister who is directionally centered, ministerially sacrificial, and financially responsible. I don't want to be a burden on the church nor jeopardize hot meals for my kids (I don't have any yet so let's say my dog Hershey and her treats). Why couldn't we have 50-60% of the church's budget be towards missions, and by that I mean reaching the unreached people groups, Bible distribution, world hunger relief, etc.? Instead, we have 50-60% staff, 20% building programs, 10% debt retirement, and the remaining 10% split between ministeries, upkeep, office stuff, and missions. My desire is to be in a position where I glorify God in my tentmaking as well as my theology. So here's my difficulty. I am an excessive person, and anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate and sometimes an over-achiever ("i before e except after c" remember?). It is so difficult for me to do something and not become obsessed and preoccupied with it. So how do you do it? How do you get the most of tentmaking without it getting the most of you? That is the pounding question in my mind. I want to be a workman of the Word and a craftsman in the work. I want to balance theology with trade, exercising both heart/mind and hands. And I don't want to be put in a position where my trade pushes the ministry out of my life. If that happens, it has served me wrong and wrecked God's calling for my life. I think Paul believed that God was rightly glorified in his work. As he tied those knots and knit those fabrics together, he believed that his honored the Lord as much as preaching to those in the synagogue. It was no different for him. Work was God's idea, going all the way back to Adam when God gave dominion to Adam to work the ground and name all the animals. So soul-winning and being a bread-winner was equally honorable in God's eyes, for if you don't take care of your family, as Paul says, you are worse than an unbeliever. And your family is the proof text of your ministry. Whatever I do, I should do it heartily as unto the Lord, do it with passion, not lacking in zeal, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, do it for his glory. Yet I should do it with discipline and self-control, showing restraint and discretion at all times, knowing that the days are evil and the time is near for sinners to face their sin, either at Calvary or at condemnation's call. I am at this point in my life where I feel like I should take care of not just theology by tentmaking (metaphorically speaking - I do love tents by the way). I want to have a spirit of excellence in them both. When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, I did not know what exactly I'd be doing vocationally or ministerially, and still today, I don't know exactly what that is. But whatever he leads me to do, whether it be with a suit and tie on or worn out jeans and t-shirt, I want to be found faithful to God and to my family. So getting the most out of tentmaking is a big deal to me. I want to bless my family and bless my church, not be a concern or burden to either of them. Paul found time and energy to do them both, and mighty I add, he did it and still got the gospel to the whole world (as it was then). There must be something there, a trade for me, a work that will please God and provide for my family; there must be the priority of seeking first the kingdom of God, of "doing all for the sake of the gospel", of preaching the Word in season and out of season that makes for a faithful minister. This, I presume, at this point, is a matter of utmost importance. May the Lord grant wisdom in the days ahead . . .


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