Founder and Writer
It’s tempting to think that a business for mission model is something that was created in a church planter think tank, but the truth is business for mission has been around a lot longer than the last five years. The Bible is full of examples and anecdotes that give way to a more bivocational approach to ministry. As North America becomes filled with post-Christian and pre-Christian contexts, pastors, laymen, and missionaries need to start thinking differently about business and mission. However, thinking differently today does not mean recreating the wheel. We need to go back to missiological practices that have been used in Scripture. Here are several examples.
Full-Time Pastors Couldn’t Have Been the Norm in the First Century
The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He spent time with the poor and downtrodden. Initially, the rich had a harder time coming to faith. Jesus led a revolution of everyday normal citizens to form a community of believers who pooled together their resources to take care of each other and those in need. If churches were gatherings of saints that met in various houses throughout a region, the pastors of those house churches could not have sustained themselves full time on the tithes and offerings of the saints in their congregations. Maybe those churches helped provide food and other needs for the pastors, but they probably would not have been able to provide for all their needs with 15 people in a house church.
Paul Received Income From Tentmaking, or Leather Working, When Necessary
Acts 18:1-4 introduces Priscilla and Aquila, two missionaries Paul often takes on his journeys with him. Paul meets them because they were of the same trade. Acts 18:3 says, “and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked.” The fact that Paul was of the same trade compelled him to work with them. Now, why was Paul compelled to work with them? Possibly, there was a trade guild of all tentmakers all working in a certain portion of the city. There’s another possibility that Priscilla and Aquila had a tentmaking enterprise throughout port cities, and this was one of their locations. In this theory, Paul would have been one of their hired hands, basically a subcontractor, that was recruited to take care of the work they needed. If this was true, Priscilla and Aquila would have been able to help Paul fund a lot of his travel through their wealth in the tentmaking industry. This theory may be plausible enough. In verse 18, Paul brings with him Priscilla and Aquila to Syria.
Luke, the Physician
Colossians 4:14 refers to Luke as the beloved physician. This occupation would have provided him the financial resources to travel. Also, Luke was possibly hired by Theophilus as a First Century documentary journalist. Having a physician around when you’re constantly getting stoned every day is also a great idea!
The Fisherman Disciples
When we look at the Gospel accounts, we see that the disciples left their nets to go follow Jesus. They were unafraid to leave work behind to follow their master and learn from him. Typically, when we hear this preached about vocational ministry, it’s often a passage used to justify why pastors shouldn’t get “real jobs” and leave their nets to join the ministry. However, in John 21, we see the disciples back at fishing. While this could be just something the disciples did when they weren’t sure what happened to Jesus after he died, it would also be a decent way to feed themselves while on their own missionary journeys. We don’t see Jesus chastise the disciples in John 21 for going back to the nets. In fact, he helps them catch the biggest load they’ve ever had!
The point is that missionaries did turn to occupations when it was necessary to fund the mission. Even though they often took finances (1 Cor 9:14) for the work from those that gave generously, they would often turn to different occupations when the mission mandated the need (1 Cor 9:15). There is a robust history of those who used business to take care of their needs while they proclaimed the Gospel, and we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss business as unbiblical or contrary to the work and calling of God.
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