Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


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A Tentmaker

  • Jim Townsley
  • Sep 22, 2014
The Apostle Paul and his co-laborers, Priscilla and Aquila, made tents while pursuing their primary goal of preaching the Gospel. "And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers." - Acts 18:3  The New Testament leads us to believe that Paul worked a secular job in Galatia, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus (1 Th. 2:9; 2 Th. 3:7-8; Acts 20:31-35; 1 Cor. 4:12; 9:6).  He used his skill of making tents to carry him into some very difficult mission fields and into areas, such as Corinth, dominated by commerce. Paul did not want his new converts to think he was laboring just for financial support. As a result he often received no monetary compensation for his spiritual labor (2 Corinthians 11:9). However, he did eventually teach his new believers their responsibility to support those that ministered to them the Word of God (1 Corinthians 9:6-11).
Pastors engaging in secular work to maintain a new church is not a new idea. In addition to Paul, the vast majority of Baptist preachers in Colonial America received no salary for their labor, partly because the churches were small and unable to pay the preacher. As these churches became stronger they did eventually support the pastor in part or completely. Many early church planters were farmer/preachers. There should be no shame if a man of God must find secular work to continue his ministry if it becomes necessary.
No two situations are the same. In large metropolitan areas where expenses are high and results are modest, three years of support  may not be enough. Some rural areas may never yield enough results to pay a full time preacher. The solution may be to pastor several churches, like the old circuit riding preacher, or the pastor may have to find secular employment.
Normally U.S. church planters receive temporary support for three to five years allowing the church time to become self-supporting. Acquiring monthly financial support is extremely helpful in establishing new churches. Only as a last resort should a man seek outside employment, because every available minute is needed to build a church. As a word of warning, when possible, the preacher should be willing to give up his job and trust God to provide his needs. Holding on to a secular job too long can hinder the progress of the church. However, working a secular job, when necessary, can keep the church from going into debt.                      
            Here are some guidelines to follow when seeking part or full time employment:
1. The job should not conflict with the services of the church.
2. The job should allow flexibility in its schedule.
3. Use learned skills to find the best job possible.
4. Get the most pay for the least number of hours.
Some suggestions of the kind of jobs to seek:
1. Flipping houses if you have the skill can offer a very flexible schedule with a good return. This would not be possible unless the preacher had construction experience.
2. Computer skills. Numerous jobs are available from your own home if you have the skill to work from your computer.
3. Many sales jobs offer flexible hours and can yield a good salary, but this is not for everyone.
4. Construction work.
5. Landscaping. This normally has a low investment and it will only be seasonal in the north, but it can be very lucrative and flexible.
6. Driving a school bus. This requires little skill and often bus companies will train you and pay for your license. Also, it is usually only morning and afternoon hours and it affords the opportunity to meet more people in the community.
Warning! Some jobs offer low pay, bad hours, and zap your strength. Remember, you are building a church not a building a resume. If you can stretch your budget, work hard at building the church, and learn to go without. you should do that before seeking a secular job. But, as a last resort to keep the church out of debt a temporary job may become necessary.