Leaning into something new with God can be uncomfortable. There is an element of unsureness that we can encounter because even though we know He is faithful and has never let us down (hallelujah), we can still be uncomfortable when walking into the unknown.

If we think of our apostolic and Biblical heroes as people without genuine human emotion, it can really distance us from the relevance of their stories to our lives.

 

Something unique about the Apostle Paul was his position as a tentmaker. While this may not scream “preaching the Gospel”, Paul had a unique angle with his work as a tentmaker when you think about it. Paul was able to engage the marketplace with ministry because he was also a part of the economy, not just the church.

 

Paul the Tentmaker and B4T

 Really, there isn’t a lot of text about Paul as a tentmaker, especially considering how much attention we can give that as people involved with the B4T and tentmaker ministries. Luke gives us one section of one verse about in Acts 18:3 and then quickly moves on to Acts 18:5, where he writes that after Paul’s boys Silas & Timothy showed up, Paul “devoted himself exclusively to preaching”.

 

While Paul is the main [exclusively human] character of this story, much more attention is given to his ministry for the Gospel than his work as a tentmaker. So, why does it even matter

 

(Personally, I’m curious why Luke even included that in his narrative. That could be an interesting investigation).

 

While much of what we can imagine about Paul as a tentmaker is foremost conjecture, we can assume that he was undoubtedly engaged in the marketplace as a craftsman. What we do know as well is that his tentmaking allowed him to find fellowship with his friends Aquila & Priscilla (Acts 18:2). Luke even writes that it was because of their shared trade that Paul stayed with them (Acts 18:3).

But why does this matter?

 

I think it’s an interesting insight into the kinds of work we can be exposed to for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps Paul did not imagine working as a tentmaker, and there is no textual evidence as to how long he was doing that, either (though we do know he mentions working among the people in the churches he planted in several letters, including 1 Thessalonians). Yet, even in that, Paul possibly worked this trade in Corinth until Silas & Timothy showed up later, which then allowed him to devote more time to preaching the good news of Jesus.

 

At the same time, this was an opportunity for Paul to reach the community in a true B4T fashion. This was Paul’s extended hand into the marketplace, into commerce, and into a crowd of people that may or may not have ever heard him preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Being a tentmaker gave him a window.

 

Further, we can see that Paul planted himself in the community by working within it. One example is in 1 Thessalonians 2:9, where Paul records,

 

For you remember, believers, our labor and hardship. We worked night and day [practicing our trade] in order not to be a [financial] burden to any of you while we proclaimed the gospel of God to you.” (AMP).

 

From this text, Paul & his comrades were working in the community and engaged in the marketplace while preaching the Gospel, which is what we refer to today as being a “tentmaker” or having a “tentmaker ministry”.

 

A tentmaker is someone who has another business or marketable trade beyond ministry. This gives them the potential to raise funds for their ministry work or to simply engage the marketplace, thus creating a tentmaker ministry.

 

While this example of Paul indeed demonstrates a tentmaker ministry, it also highlights the practice of B4T. Paul placed himself, along with his companions, into the heart of the community, working & serving alongside one another and “practicing their trade” among the people. One can conclude in that space that these Gospel workers were able to meet new people and perhaps even discuss the Gospel at work.

 

These evangelists were also living examples of Christ. Paul writes,

 

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10, ESV).

 

They lived the Gospel, talked the Gospel, and preached the Gospel. That’s B4T, tentmaking, and apostolic ministry all in one. That’s being a sent one (apostolos).

 

Tentmaker Ministries and B4T Today

 We all know people love their application points in a sermon, so what does all this mean for us today?

 

It means that wherever God calls you, whether you’re in full-time ministry in a church or whether you’re a business member or leader in the marketplace, you are a sent one – an apostolos – one sent out to preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).

Therefore, not only does your work matter, but you are in the employment of Jesus to spread the Gospel throughout whatever sphere of influence He has placed you in. For you today, this may mean exploring B4T opportunities or expanding your horizons into tentmaker ministries. Either way, this may not always mean talking about Jesus at work, but it does always mean living out the Gospel in your daily life and being the salt & light to those around you.

 

In the marketplace there is an untapped reservoir prepared for the next great move of God. This doesn’t come from pastors only; in fact, it comes from everyday believers working by the Spirit of God to transform their communities and workplaces for Jesus (aka, B4T). This means being an agent of awakening in your workplace!

 

This is one angle we see Paul and his associates utilizing in Acts 18 and 1 Thessalonians 2, but it is even more relevant today in our Western society, where we have closed off the marketplace from the Gospel. In the US, we have made conscious & continual efforts to ensure the Church has minimal influence in our government or social structures, while also separating the “sacred” from the “secular” by segregating Christian vocations between “ministry” and “all the rest of the stuff”. This should not be so!

 

We have each been given a unique calling by God, whether in vocational ministry or marketplace ministry, and both can (and will) be leveraged by God to bring the light of the Gospel to the community that you are planted in. This is the heart behind B4T – a program that seeks to plant the Gospel in communities around the world to transform them for Jesus.

 

Here, in this exact space, we can see that this practice of B4T truly results from a course of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth; something we have all been commissioned to do (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

Our call to obey the Great Commission does not apply only to the pastoral ministry, but it applies to every place we set our feet as believers, whether in the marketplace or in the church. We have all been given access to the authority and power of Christ, and we are all equally called to use that for God’s glory in transforming our communities and bringing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.