Greetings. If you’re new to Sentergy, welcome! If you’ve been following the blog for a while, thank you for coming back, glad to hear we haven’t scared you off!
I am a passionate normal follower of Jesus who works hard at a normal job in order to leverage every bit of time and income toward making, growing, and gathering disciples into healthy multiplying churches. I’m passionate about this because I’m passionately in love with Jesus. Love for Jesus equals obedience in taking His gospel to every person on the globe. This whole “ #NoPlaceLeft ” thing, isn’t our vision; this is His vision. I long to see His vision accomplished in my lifetime!
Here lies the difficult reality, the brutal facts. I believe seeing His vision accomplished in my lifetime will be impossible while +/-95% of the Christian labor force continues sitting idly on the sidelines while they watch the 5% of those who are “called into vocational ministry” play the game.
So, here’s my story of getting into the game. And by that I mean becoming a normal Jesus follower who works hard at a normal job as we (my family and I) leverage everything to obey Jesus’ and make disciples until there is #NoPlaceLeft.
I was raised in a Christian family. On my father’s side of the family: a legacy of businessmen; Christian businessmen. On my mother’s side of the family: a legacy of Christian pastors and missionaries. But as I grew up, there always seemed to be a tension between the two sides. The roles of the ‘laity’ are not equal to the roles of ‘clergy’, or visa versa. This was never said verbally, but shown by example. I saw the role of my dad’s dad in the kingdom was to give money toward the construction of weekly christian gathering places and toward the support of missionaries sent overseas. The role of my mom’s dad in the kingdom was to receive this money as he preached the gospel from these christian gathering places and sent a percentage of the money as support to missionaries going overseas.
After I began following Jesus I sensed what was explained to me as “the calling into vocational ministry.” This only meant one thing: following in the legacy of my mom’s dad. Clergy, not laity. I was to become a pastor or missionary that would make his living solely by the donations brought in by whatever christian 501c3 corporation I was hired at or “called” to. Yet, after graduating from two different seminaries, being on staff at three different churches, and raising support as a church planter through an incredible mission organization for four years, I came under conviction.
The Holy Spirit’s conviction came while studying the life of the apostle Paul in Acts and the epistles. At this point, I was attempting to follow Paul’s missiological pattern - the core missionary task - but I had never considered also following Paul’s j.o.b.ological pattern. In other words, I did not believe I could be a faithful Jesus follower / disciple maker like Paul, while also working a normal trade in the marketplace. Then I came across these passages. Who on earth put these words in my Bible!?
Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. - 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NIV)
Now on the topic of brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. And indeed you are practicing it toward all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you. In this way you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.' - 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (NET)
But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us. For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat. But you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing what is right. But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.' - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (NET)
These are some pretty strong words here by Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit). But surely they are isolated. This must be a unique instance for the church in Thessalonica, right?
I am thankful that these are not isolated instances, and that the Spirit did not let up on convicting me. Thessalonica was not the only place where Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke worked hard with their hands to provide for their needs (Acts 17:1-9). We know from Luke’s account of Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-21) that Paul again spent time working hard with his hands as a tent-maker alongside Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Paul himself makes his intentions for this hard work abundantly clear as he reminds the Corinthian believers of his conduct among them:
Already you are satisfied! Already you are rich! You have become kings without us! I wish you had become kings so that we could reign with you! For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to die, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, we are dishonored! To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and without a roof over our heads. We do hard work, toiling with our own hands. When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, when people lie about us, we answer in a friendly manner. We are the world’s dirt and scum, even now… Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. - 1 Corinthians 4:8-13; 15-16 (NET)
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support?...If we sowed spiritual blessings among you, is it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving? But we have not made use of this right. Instead we endure everything so that we may not be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple eat food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boasting, because I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward. But if I do it unwillingly, I am entrusted with a responsibility. What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights in the gospel.' - 1 Corinthians 9:1-4,11-18 (NET)
For I consider myself not at all inferior to those “super-apostles.” And even if I am unskilled in speaking, yet I am certainly not so in knowledge. Indeed, we have made this plain to you in everything in every way. Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you could be exalted, because I proclaimed the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so that I could serve you! When I was with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia fully supplied my needs. I kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. - 2 Corinthians 11:5-9 (NET)
I have become a fool. You yourselves forced me to do it, for I should have been commended by you. For I lack nothing in comparison to those “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance by signs and wonders and powerful deeds. For how were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this injustice! Look, for the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you, because I do not want your possessions, but you. For children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. Now I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives! If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But be that as it may, I have not burdened you. Yet because I was a crafty person, I took you in by deceit! I have not taken advantage of you through anyone I have sent to you, have I? ‘ - 2 Corinthians 12:11-17 (NET)
So, first in Thessalonica, and now in Corinth we see that Paul along with his companions worked hard with their hands to provide for their own needs. He did this to leave an example for the disciples and churches to follow. He literally writes, “...I urge you to imitate me.” He did this to present the Gospel without a single hindrance. He proclaimed “free of charge”.
Now, did Paul also receive some support from “Brother’s in Macedonia” that “fully supplied his needs” for part of his season in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8-9)? Yes.
Did Paul ask for or demand this support? No.
Do you notice the pattern?
Paul did not receive support from disciples or churches that he was presently living among. Rather, he worked hard with his hands to leave them with an example to follow. Nowhere do we see Paul’s intentions more clearly than the following exhortation to the Ephesian elders. Keep the context in mind that Paul labored in the core missionary task for three years at Ephesus in the province of Asia Minor (Acts 19:8-10; Acts 20:31).
When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus... Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. - Acts 20:18-21,28-35 (NIV)
If one is to argue that Paul’s exhortation of working hard with you hands does not apply to elder / overseers in the church, that logic has now been upended. Here, Paul is clearly exhorting the elders / overseers of the churches throughout the province of Asia Minor to follow his very clear example. He even goes so far to land the plane of exhortation to them with a command of Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (it is interesting to note that this is the only place in Acts where Paul directly quotes Jesus’ words from the gospels). This was not a teaching without example, Paul gave them this example as he worked hard with his own hands to provide for his needs and the needs of his companions. He even reminds them that this is how he lived “whole time” or “three years” that he worked among them.
Okay I’ll get off my soap box pulpit. I believe you get the point, but do your own research. Please do not simply trust my word...go to the Word, the source, and see for yourself.
Now, am I saying it is wrong for a person to receive their income as a “pastor” or “missionary” through donations of those working “for profit” jobs? Absolutely not.
What I am saying is that we will never accomplish Jesus’ global mission while 95% of Christians working a normal job are simply relying on the 5% of paid pastors and missionaries to do all the work.
For this reason, my wife and I are working as travel advisors for our family's company Hourglass Travel. Before this J.O.B, I worked with Dave at Tide Cleaners. Why do we work hard with our hands? We do so we can leverage every bit of our time and income to make, grow, and gather disciples into healthy multiplying churches. And we do so praying that every one of the disciples we are given to steward would see our example - like Paul - and be spurred on to do the same. We pray our lifestyle would be multiplied as disciples multiply.
If you made it this far in the read, thank you so much. If you’re one of the 95% out there with a normal J.O.B., I pray this encourages you to get in the game, or to continue playing hard if you already are! If you’re one of the 5% out there who receives a living through donations as a pastor or missionary, praise God for you brothers and sisters as well. I pray you would continue helping the rest of the 95% join you on the glorious field of God’s harvest. For His harvest is still plentiful and the laborers are still few!
Also, don’t forget about us on your next bucket list vacation, cruise, or even trip to Disney. Fill out the form on our website www.hourglasstravel.com and we’ll send you the best rates available; we don’t charge any additional fees to book your trip. And I can promise you the small commission we do make off your trip will go toward our lives lived out making disciples until there’s #NoPlaceLeft.