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 tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
I find it interesting that Paul, the Apostle and one of the many writers in the Bible actually had a business (then referred to as a Trade.) His self-employment allowed him to travel freely within the Roman Empire to many of the locations he ends up ministering. Sometimes, wrongfully, people assume that our esteemed Apostles: Packed everything up and simply walked everywhere, with nothing seemingly to do for income, no cares in the world, few responsibilities like us and all they had to do was absolutely nothing, other than tell people about Jesus.
Yet here in Acts we learn that Paul was a part of the Tent-Making trade and that he was not the only Tent-Maker. However, do we hear about Paul's prolific Tent-making business in scripture? Other than that he in fact, was one? No. We do not. We do not hear how many tents were made in Pontus. HGTV does not broadcast yearly on an Anniversary date selected by the television station episodes of Flip or Flop: The Tentmakers Story. Where they discuss how long before houses were purchased by people, renovated and resold, Paul, Aquila and Priscilla all were Tent-Makers with reputations in Rome for their trade.
Fast forward almost two thousand years and take a look at things honestly. There are people who have settled down to turn that which was an outflow of a dramatic experience in their life into a way to sustain themselves on earth. Since when did doing the Lord's work become a fiscal rite for the "Here and Now"?
There are many people who might possibly argue with me and I welcome constructive debate on the topic. I am aware of a few of the viewpoints that will be shared as well. Someone might choose to take us to 1 Corinthians 9 and discuss the fact that it is mentioned in the text that there are those who worked in the temple and within the religious constructs of the day and actually made money, money that sustained their families. I would agree but not to the extent we are faced with this today.
Look at the way the entire religious system of the day was abused prior to the Revolutionary Philosophy of Life- "The Way" referring specifically to Judaism and the way the system was participating in activities which angered Christ himself. The more the government pulled the strings regarding the finances of a location, the more creative the temples became turning the temple into a place in which the synagogues actually made even more money, while the people that propped these Institutions up (the worshippers from communities all around them) relied on them for spiritual guidance, direction AND substantial sustainability.
James understood this. Within his book we learn one of the fruits of our relationship with Christ is seeing someone who has an immediate physical need and meeting their immediate physical needs understanding that in doing so, we open a "GATEWAY" into that person’s life whereby we are able to assist in meeting an immediate spiritual need.
Today, meeting someone's immediate physical needs is portrayed as "enabling someone to rely on others, not developing a strong work ethic and providing an opportunity for someone to be lazy and not do for themselves."
This has been going on for years now.
What on earth has changed?
Spirituality as a Currency
I still occasionally play a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game called World of Warcraft. In WoW, you earned copper, silver and gold as currency for completing a wide variety of quests and missions, slaying evil creatures and the like. Today, ministers attend bible college and seminary but are they learning a legitimate trade to earn a living for their families? Some are, but woefully, many others attend bible college and seminary to learn how to “Peddle Spirituality or Religion" and sell their spiritual services to hundreds or thousands. In many cases, selling the Good News to people who need to hear it. The Self-Help genre has existed longer than I have been alive, yet during my lifetime the number of God-Fearing, Bible Believing Ministers selling "How To Books" has increased to astronomical numbers and we even have Ministers today attempting and even succeeding at becoming Politicians.
When did our relationship with a God who simply wanted a relationship with us become more about worldly financial gain?
Why is it that a Church can have thousands in the congregation all with financial problems, possibly losing their homes, unable to keep their families warm NEED to get assistance from Salvation Army, Goodwill, the government, etc. and when told or suggested they should ask their local churches for assistance the church they are members of turn them away or take up a $50.00 love offering? Yet, anyone with half a brain can access public records for the same church and see (in some cases) $100,000.00 residing in a savings account ear-marked for building maintenance!
The people are the church and the buildings are falling apart!
There is a direct correlation all throughout the scripture that the Body of the Church IS the building and building maintenance is important to God. Yet when everyone from those in leadership down to little timmy are being shown an improper image from start to finish regarding the purpose of the church why shouldn’t we expect Timmy to leave the church when he is able to make his own decisions? Why is it that when someone who has all their faith in what God can do believes God will use him or her in ministry experiences a Church close an entire ministry down because they "no longer can afford ministry to Youth" or "no longer can afford the children's ministry" some of these same fresh out of college believers turn away?
I will tell you what I have come to realize within myself. What WE are doing is wrong.
Read Proverbs 14, while considering the following:
Why do churches formulate under a 501c3 Corporation?
That is, Non-Profit Status in the eyes of the government? Some will say, this is merely for accountability purposes. Others will say it is for Tax Breaks. Other's will say it's for tracking purposes. Absolutely NO REASON given for the creation of ANY church as a 501c3 Corporation I have ever heard and expect ever will hear HAS ANYTHING TO DO with impacting that particular body of believer's relationship to God.
However, if we analyze what little we know regarding the movement birthed shortly after Christ ascended to be with the father and left his Holy Spirit within us, we discover some amazing things happening over the turn of the following century. People meet in houses. People focus on Christ and the Apostles instruction regarding community.
Is it because of our childhood and Hollywood movies that we unintentionally miss the fact that people lived in their own homes? Had their own jobs and made their own livings and came together in spirit and in truth? For these people tithing had a purpose. It was an investment to combat the tremendous number of social liabilities living in the Roman Empire and being a non-pagan Roman afforded the life they knew and the condition of their neighborhood and they believed that their combined resources would in fact make a difference in their people's life. They were able to do things they would have never been able to do had they never combined their resources. Yet somehow, as time moves on, this movement settles into a religion of an entire society. Buildings become sponsored by the government and the government made (even though it was small), a profit. Clergy and business people whether a simple secretary, CPA or the like turning a profit on the ministry, gaining worldly goods justified as a means to reach more people like Bus Ministries.
Convincing themselves that their reasoning to invest hundreds or thousands into Missionary Services all over the world is not only necessary but practical while the people generating the money for the community resources struggle in real verifiable ways every day. Hoping that in their sending money (even the church body doesn't have because ALL their needs are not being met) should go somewhere else in hopes that God will bless that. Really? At what cost?
The cost of someone in the church home being unable to afford their mortgage or pay a bill for the sake of a tithe? Their irresponsible debt? Their husband or wife being injured and unable to provide for their family any longer? If people cannot directly relate to the problems with this system, to any number of events that MAY OR MAY NOT be directly related to irresponsibility, is it not then safe to say that it is ALSO IRRESPONSIBLE of the church to send money out of it’s community when SOMEONE SHOULD BE TAKEN CARE OF AT HOME?
It was out of the impact of realizing that Paul did not consider himself an Evangelist as his Career. His career was tentmaker his ministry was Evangelist. So, I too began to change my own life in the spirit I understood this and Empowered Presence was birthed. Did I go to Bible College? Study the Bible? Youth Ministry and Biblical Counseling? I sure did. Yet, I always wanted ministry to be separate from sustaining my family and NEVER figured out a legitimate plan on doing that until I had been a Youth Minister on a Part-Time Salary and watched an entire Youth Ministry close due to lack of funding. At least that is what I was told.
Everyone has an opinion, obviously, but I sat on the board and knew that if the members of the Church were MORE important than Out-Sourcing the Gospel Overseas, the Youth Ministry in that church could have been saved.
Yet when you are a Corporation For Profit or Not for Profit, it IS as simple as Committees and Boards making decisions for the people. Not necessarily the members feeling like what they would choose to do is actually being done.
I still love my Jesus. I still live for Christ and still seek to make Him known to those with whom I am known and those who I have the opportunity to meet. My trade is Computer, Network and Web Services Contractor and the desire to never again connect the need to sustain my family with a ministry that is supposed to be open-handed and FREE.
If the price has been paid by Jesus Christ for eternal life, justification, sanctification, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then stop paying for your spiritual services promised by God.
Stop paying for forgiveness of sin. Stop paying for everything that Christ already paid for and take what you have and share it with people who NEED IT. So that you can give when there is a NEED.
Stop manufacturing new needs...(Do we really need to take on the responsibility of another worldly building than our Homes?) For taking this responsibility when we all already have our own simply impedes our ability to meet the needs of PEOPLE that NEED HELP.