Tentmaking 6 (Jeff Cook)

Tentmaking 6 (Jeff Cook) January 12, 2011

The Other Job: Tentmaking 6

The Apostle Paul made tents in order to fund his ministry, often receiving nothing from churches he was serving. Some present day pastors likewise divide their time between ministry and another job. A problem that has been hinted at in previous posts is that many of us actually “like” our other job. Some of us, in fact, see better work for the Kingdom taking place in our secondary vocation than we do through our church.

As such, when our other job and the church pull us toward themselves how do we choose? Is it okay to step out of our church role for the sake of our other job? Is it appropriate to give better effort and energy to our secondary job and allow our part-time church work to pay for our ministry outside the church?

On another front, what is the secret to finding a good, healthy second job? What kind of work is best for a tentmaker? Who out there thinks of themselves in a healthy position bivocationally and why?

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  • Jason Lee

    Couldn’t it be the case that doing one’s “other job” enthusiastically as unto the Lord has the potential to also be a powerful form of church leadership? What I mean by that is that working well at the “other job” may be a kind of sermon/example in and of itself to fellow church members. Isn’t connecting faith to work, linking Sunday to Monday, a difficult area for pastors … either because pastors have the de facto mentality that all that really matters is Sunday, or because pastors lofty teachings aren’t credibly because they themselves aren’t actually in direct contact with connecting faith to the marketplace? It seems bivo pastors have a unique opportunity to be a bridge in this area … to try to live it with all it’s business and struggle.

  • Kieth Daniel

    I like the comments made by #1:
    I realized this many years back and it has helped me. All of our time is God’s time. I don’t see me as having another job. My job is also my ministry, in how I treat others, working alongside them, living as I am called to live every minute of every day. The congregation at which I currently serve witnesses the work I perform and many pay close attention to how I handle my other career. I see them making strides to be the “Priesthood of all Believers” and I know that is what actually helps grow the church. The best work I believe is the one you like doing the most as long as you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself. I think we have a tendency to make it too complicated.

  • I agree with Jason. In my case, I think it gives my words and actions within our church more authority because of my job. To Jeff’s question…I think there are natural ebbs and flows to where we put time and effort. Right now, I happen to be in a season where my job is requiring a lot of time and I’m studying for a licensing exam. Consequently, there are leadership tasks that are having to be delegated so I can only focus on the most important things. In my opinion, that’s really healthy…but it is a challenge.

  • rjs

    This series is thought-provoking but leaves me out at times. I think we need to revise our entire attitude. The comments above are along the right line.

    All of our time is God’s time – and how it is spent should reflect that, including time spent on self, in relaxation, in sleep, with family, in a “secular” occupation, in service to people hurting in the world, or in service to the church either as paid professional or as a “volunteer”.

    When different jobs distract us from this overall aim – to live to further God’s mission on earth and our calling in it – we need to stop and rethink some. But our lives are not compartmentalized bits, they need to be unified wholes.

    I am not and likely never will be a paid leader in any church. I certainly will never be a church planter or a bivocational pastor. But I still hope that everything I do, from teaching, research, study, raising a family, and contributing in service to the church, is guided by the same desire.

  • Aaron

    As a youth pastor, I have been able to work as a substitute teacher in the local schools. It is a great way to interact with the students where they are at most of the time and to get to know their friends and their lives outside of the “church”. I hope to be able to do this wherever I’m at.
    I have really enjoyed this series of post and the discussion.
    There seems to be such a disconnect from church and every day life, not merely with the pastor and people, but between the people themselves.
    When a church allows their pastor to work and do ministry outside of the church office, then I think the mindset as a whole can move toward the church truly being he people of God in every area of life rather than a couple hours a week in service.

  • Been there, done that. My original bi-vo situation had me as a church planter and Christian school teacher. Later I moved from teaching science to doing science in the chemical industry as the #2. Finally, I ended up at a humanitarian not-for-profit and since I wasn’t nearly as good at church planting as I was in business, I gave it up.

    I believe bi-vo is the way to go. I told one pastor that if you read Dilbert cartoons and don’t get it, you are out of touch with 80% of your church members with respect to where they spend the bulk of their time. I don’t understand why my kids like to watch The Office because they’ve never experienced the painful reality of having to work with these people. Maybe it’s the novelty of it that suits them. Pastors who find shows like The Office and Dilbert cartoons mere curiosities rather than social commentary would probably benefit from being in the world of work for a season.

    As for what is the “best” job, I would say whatever is furthest removed from ministry. I’m in training & education and sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of Sunday School teachers, and often I am. In the lab, it was less so, but I continued to be encouraged by the number of believers in the workplace.

  • Jason Lee

    I found RJS’ comment refreshing and clear-headed. Her statement that:

    “When different jobs distract us from this overall aim – to live to further God’s mission on earth and our calling in it – we need to stop and rethink some.”

    brought to mind the possibility that “ministry jobs” and “church activities” can also distract us from this overall aim. I don’t mean to suggest that this is often or usually the case, but I’m sure the paid ministers out there can tell us just how often this temptation arises … that the professionalism of ministry or academia of theology can actually distract from God. Seems like these tensions exist regardless of whether an individual is mono-vo or bi-vo. Does the concept of idolatry clarify when we’ve become imbalanced?

  • Chris

    Frost, in his book “Exiles” has a pretty good critique on the dualism created by the church, meaning, that one is called into ministry, but not called to any other work. He basically says this is nonsense because it sets up a distinction of sacred and secular worlds. As someone earlier noted, all of the areas of our lives are God’s and if one feels the leading into a certain kind of work that is “non-ministry” then it is a call and it is ministry because we can integrate our faith into that context.