Summary: What is God’s ideal for pastoral ministry? He gives us more than an indication in 1 Corinthians 9.
Tent Making, or More?
October 13, 2001
Over the past decade or so, a lot of discussion about ministry has been about whether or not ministers should be tent makers or fully supported. As we are aware, in many denominations, including our own, financial conditions seem to encourage the support of the ‘tent making’ or ‘self funding’ ministry. Some denominations operate solely with ministers who are employed in some work or business and who minister during other time. Some operate with some portions of support from the church while other comes from other ventures. We have ventured into this, as our income has dropped, and as some areas have become unable to fully support a pastor. Some have had to take reduced salary and have the freedom to earn otherwise from other sources to support their families. In the midst of this discussion, some voices have risen in loud support of the idea of all ministry being of the ‘tent making’ variety. I’ve heard it; probably, so have you. Many look to scripture and find some support for both a tent-making ministry and a fully supported ministry. However, in looking to scripture, above all, we want to see the will of God.
As we come, in our study of the chapters of 1 Corinthians, to chapter 9, we find this subject rising to a crescendo and Paul discussing both the current reality for himself and the ideal that God had in mind. The key to understanding what Paul wrote lies in a series of uses of the same word that begins its use in the previous chapter, which we looked at some months ago, now.
1 Cor. 8. 9- remember that this chapter discussed the reality of one God and that others that were called gods were not really. However, some had a conscience issue and Paul cautioned them, and us, to be careful about using our freedom or liberty in any way to hurt others who might not fully understand this reality.
So, in this verse, we find that word ‘liberty’, which can be rendered, equally, right, freedom, or power, and I want you to begin a connection that flows into the next chapter. Paul carefully used this word, and explains how freedom that exists, or rights that exist, can be softened at the instigation of the holder of those rights.
So, if you’d like, circle that word in chapter 8, and then we’ll read on from there and begin into chapter 9.
1 Cor. 9. 1- let’s read the first few verses down to verse 12, for now. Having read, let’s go back and circle every time that word is used and, if you’d like to do as I have, connect these uses with a line. (Go through this exercise- v. 4, 5, 6, twice in v. 12.) There’s a final use of this word in v. 18.
From all this, we learn that Paul, as minister, had certain rights, freedoms, or powers, but that there was some sort of conflict that existed so he, by his choice, did not use those rights that were his. So, he supported himself, in ministry, in other ways and through other people, in order not to put any sort of burden on these people. He thought the burden might be one that would stand in the way of the preaching of the gospel.