December 10, 2015

On The Job Training

So begins yet another page in an ever-shifting life tomorrow with the start of another new job. I primarily proclaim the Gospel but I also labor for pay to support my family and myself. The concept has Scriptural underpinnings.

Acts 18:1-4 ~ After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Tent making for me is essentially a euphemism for doing some kind of work while in another culture to support yourself while also engaged in Kingdom work. I also see it as opportunities where the work is actually the ministry. Being in a workplace provides open doors through relationships developed for Kingdom growth and provides an income which sometimes is enough to sustain the worker.
Some of the positives I’ve considered over the years are as follows.

When work and ministry are mixed, less apparent ministry is accomplished. Only God knows the real impact of what is done, no matter what method is used. Working in a business in a culture foreign to the one that you have training and experience in is much harder than you think. If most attempts fail here, even more of them do somewhere else. Within families and workplaces reside some of the most challenging witnessing environments. If you can spread the truth of the Gospel in the workplace…you can do it anywhere.

Tent making also provides entry into lives that are hostile to the Gospel. It provides natural, sustained contact with non-believers in often tight-knit or restrictive environments. Sort of like Paul being chained to the Praetorian Guard. As Christians we literally get a captive audience at least for our behaviors…and sometimes for our speech. It consolidates both our evangelistic targets and a means of support. Finally and most importantly, if we truly behave as Christians should in these environments we set a good example (maybe even an appealing example) that legitimizes Scriptures claim of the authenticity of Jesus Christ and those who follow Him.

I must always remember and consider that most countries do not pay enough in wages to sustain a worker. Though you can make adjustments for a while, eventually you will need more funds than local jobs will provide. It usually requires getting a second or even third job which removes a parent or child almost completely from a Godly loving environment. God still blesses me enough in this country so that I do not need to scrounge and suffer like those in third-world situations (yet).

I must always consider that at an employer I may be asked to do more than I believe I myself can do. Although this is a source of great stress…it also is a good gauge to see just how far I can push myself and it is also a good barometer of my true capabilities. Not only that…I usually get paid for it unless of course I am salaries exempt.

Finally, I now realize in middle age that the real pursuit I am undertaking is one of obedience to what God is leading me to do. If God is leading me clearly to undertake a non-traditional ministry path using business or employment as the medium and the catalyst.

Paul’s ministry model is my ministry model is appears. I have given this example about Paul much thought. Paul’s literally implemented an amazing pioneering strategy when we carefully correlate his letters with Luke’s account in Acts. Paul did not use his craft to get work nor even primarily for financial support. He did it primarily with the idea in mind that he was (1) a representative of the Kingdom. (2) He viewed his work environment as an evangelistic arena an (3) Through God’s blessing he was allowed to support himself and essentially spread the Gospel and be paid to do it. Mostly through is dissertation and talks but also through his Christian behavior.

We need not slavishly imitate Paul. But certainly it is folly to proceed without careful consideration of what he did and why. No tent maker or missionary in our era has begun to reproduce what Paul did in so short a time with so limited resources. The truth is this. Being a tent maker in today’s world needs more than a good academic preparation. It really does need experience witnessing in the workplace. The person who goes to a Christian high school, a Christian college and then seminary is usually poorly prepared for tent making in a predominantly secular world. 

Probably, the best training place is now a secular workplace that has a modicum of legal protection for most people. We must never forget that employers and workplaces are essentially a microcosm of a multicultural, spiritually hostile world. It is a mission field ideal for in-service training for some of the most diverse and sometimes hostile people we will ever come in contact with…and we will be paid by the Lord to do so. That to me sounds like a good deal. It sounds like on the job training.

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