Sunday, January 24, 2016

Have you considered a tentmaking ministry?




Paul the Tentmaker
Rethinking Ministry and Missions in the 21st Century

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought:
for by their occupation they were tentmakers. Acts 18:3

Paul is the Christian's example extraordinaire. The Christian life put into action is summed up in the life of Paul. Paul not only taught by his word but also by his work. James says it this way: “...shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”(James 2:18) The apostle Paul's life was full of works and many pages of Scripture testify to that fact. Though he once strove to bring an end to the Church, Paul became the hardest worker in the New Testament. There is likely no other person who has been so fully a devoted Christian servant than Paul. How did Paul come to be so zealous for the Lord? As a saved man, as an apostle, as a writer of many of the epistles, was he not worthy to receive financial reimbursement for his services? Of course he was. Why then was Paul a tentmaker, laboring for his daily provisions? Paul reveals for us the motivation for his hard-working attitude: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) Paul explained why he worked harder than all of the rest of the apostles. It is simple. It was because of God's great grace bestowed upon him! He gives testimony to this life by mentioning the Lord's wonderful grace in the closing of each of his letters. “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”(2 Thessalonians 3:17-18)

Yet, did not all of the apostles receive this same grace? And, do not all Christians partake of the same great grace of our Lord? Indeed so. Paul was no different than us when it comes to being a recipient of God's grace. His grace is indeed sufficient for us just as it was with Paul. In order to help understand why this servant was so convinced he must work and live as he did, let us consider another person who also greatly treasured the grace of our Lord.

"And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." (Luke 7:36-50)

Paul is like this thankful woman. He understood what a great sinner he was (I Timothy 1:15). This woman was fully aware of her many sins and thus had a great appreciation for her Saviour. She loved much because she was forgiven much. Her gratitude is shown by her caring actions toward the Lord. Paul's gratitude for his great measure of grace is demonstrated in his many works of service. His is a labor of love. It is because he had been greatly loved by the Lord that he showed his love in return. Paul knew forgiveness and grace. Grace motivated him to strenuously labour and abundantly serve. Paul's realization that the Lord's grace was shed upon his life is the reason he labored more abundantly than all of the rest of the apostles.

The obvious question is do we understand the amount of grace given to us? Are we not appreciative of our salvation as was this woman? Hasn't the Lord generously forgiven our many sins? Are not we saved from the same flames of hell as was this woman? All Christians are rescued from the same eternal damnation as was Paul! So, why don't all Christians show abundant evidence of such a life changed by grace? The truth is we all should be moved with great zeal for our Lord. We all deserve to be in the same tormenting place forever. Our labor should bear witness of the wonderful grace of Jesus in our lives.

It is out of his appreciation of God's love, forgiveness, and grace that Paul was a tentmaker. He didn't have to be. Paul could have required compensation for his service to whom he ministered. This apostle could have required the churches to give sacrificially for his teaching and preaching. He did receive gifts once in a while and did not turn away loving care that came in the shape of finances or practical help. Yet, Paul, even with all of his academic qualifications and special gifting from the Lord, willingly took on an ordinary job in order to provide for his daily necessities. This is grace in action! Let's now take a look at some of the things Paul said about his labor for income.

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? (1 Corinthians 9:6)

Paul and Barnabas had outside employment. That is, they had jobs that earned income apart from any church gifts. The two had a right to receive monetary remuneration from the church for their spiritual ministry. This is what it means that they had power to forebear working. They had the right to get paid by the church for their teaching and service, yet they chose not to exercise that right. Many Christians benefited from those two traveling ministers. The Bible makes it clear that those receiving teaching from the Bible should receive payment for their work. Here are some verses which declare that they had the right to get paid for their spiritual labor.

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (1 Timothy 5:17-18; see also I Corinthians 9:7-11)

The pastor who teaches the Bible is worthy of being provided the physical necessities of life. This provision includes monetary compensation. Double honor refers to respect and also to provide the pastor the things necessary to get by in this earthly life. Here is further instruction from the Lord.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Those who preach the gospel and teach the Bible should be taken care of by those who receive their teaching. In other words, those whom the Lord is using as pastors and preachers should make their living from this work. Here is another clear statement: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate [share] unto him that teacheth in all good things." (Galatians 6:6) Hard work is required in order to study and to teach properly. 2 Timothy 2:15 teaches that those who study the Bible are workmen. It also takes a lot of effort to reach a city or the countryside with the gospel of Christ. Many hours of labor are required in order to minister properly for our Lord. The Lord himself has made allowance to provide for his servants who are responsible especially for preaching and teaching the Bible. Let's see how the Lord set up distinctive ministries distinguishing between practical helps and the ministry of the Word of God.

Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:2-4)
Widows were being neglected. The early church sought a way both to help the women and to ensure that the ministries of prayer and the Bible were not forsaken. The Lord directed certain men to oversee taking care of the widows (probably the first deacons). Other men kept their ministry concerning prayer and the Bible. Until this time there seems not to have been any who were designated to assist the apostles. If the apostles involved too much time with benevolent kinds of service (serve tables to provide food for the widows) they would not have the necessary time to pray, study, preach and teach. Both helping ministry and Bible teaching ministry were important. Neither should be neglected. However, the Lord had appointed some specifically to designate time for prayer and time for the Word. As ministries grow, this distinction may get more pronounced. Nevertheless, we find Paul doing both practical hands-on work and teaching the Bible. He had to make sure that his preaching of the gospel was never neglected. His teaching ministry could not suffer. Paul found time for both. When Paul was ordained an apostle he was not married (1 Cor. 9:5). Some, however, believe he was a widower. He did not have obligations to provide for a wife and family. Still, we find that his personal income provided for others along with him in ministry (Acts 20:34). It is evident he kept his priority to honor the Lord in Christian service and in his paying occupation.

Paul had been commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus. He was a missionary and a Bible teacher. Paul was certainly well educated and experienced. Was he not worthy of getting paid for the spiritual work he performed? Certainly he was. But for the most part, Paul chose to work a regular job rather than take a paycheck from those to whom he ministered. It doesn't make sense … unless grace is factored into his life and ministry! You see, Paul was saved by grace and he did not deserve anything but to be forever separated from the Lord. Out of his great love for the Lord and for the Lord's Church, Paul chose not to take advantage of this right. Consider his reasoning.

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:18)

Paul freely received the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now he was making that same gospel available with no cost attached. The gospel is free and Paul wanted to take it to others that way. What a wonderful example of grace this is. It is as if he were saying: “I have been freely forgiven of all my sins. I now want to freely let others know of this same forgiving grace.”

Consider also the personal aspect of his ministry. Think about the many days of difficult labor he poured into the churches for the cause of Christ.

I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:33-35)

Paul's outside employment provided not only for his own needs but also for some who ministered along with him. Paul was a giver. He probably could have worked as a high-scale lawyer, as a chief executive, or as a top educator. He turned aside from these higher-paying jobs and worked with his hands. He made tents for people to dwell in. There were many other kinds of dwellings in his day made of rock, brick, and wood. Paul was laboring for those who most likely did not have the money to purchase a higher priced home. Paul the tentmaker made an honest living. He further points out his reasoning for spending time in this self-supporting industry.

So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)

Paul's was a personal ministry. He was always thinking of others. Not only did he share the gospel but he shared himself as well. He loved people and he was constantly on the lookout for ways to help. In order to give the gospel free of charge he labored making tents. It is important for Christian workers, indeed all those who name the name of Christ, to be employed in those occupations which are wholesome. Paul found a way to honor his Lord while earning an income.

Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9)

This hard-working apostle stayed industrious throughout the day. Although he had the right to be provided food and the other basic necessities of life, he did not use that right. In this verse he states he was also making himself an example for other Christians to follow. Christians ought to be diligent workers. Of those in the marketplace, Christians should be the ones who are honest, punctual, and pleasant to be around.

Paul labored in the Lord's field by praying, evangelizing, and teaching. Besides these ministries he also worked to earn a living for himself. In this way he was not chargeable to any of those believers. Even though it was his right to receive financial remuneration from them for his work, he didn't take any. He worked at a trade to be an example to other Christians.

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, (Acts 28:30)

Near the end of his life, Paul did not live in a parsonage but in his own rented house. He had the freedom to minister as the Lord directed. This is yet another way Paul was able to give to others. Hospitality and caring for others was part of who he was in Christ. He kept his hard-working attitude all throughout his full life of service.

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)
Paul left Titus to set in order the fledgling churches on the island of Crete. Cretians were especially known for their laziness (Titus 1:12). Working was expected to be part of the normal Christian's activities. Titus was to give them an admonishment regarding laziness and teach them to stay occupied with profitable works.

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, ... (Acts 28:3)

Even when Paul was traveling as a prisoner while shipwrecked on an island, we find him doing something that seems a menial task. He was collecting wood for the fire so that he and others could stay warm. The Lord ended up using this act of service as a means to reach the islanders with the gospel of Christ. Some people think it is below themselves to serve others or to do simple tasks for them. Those with this kind of thinking are missing a great quality of God's love.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister [serve], and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Paul served because he himself had been served by the Lord. What meekness was shown by our Lord! Our Creator lowered himself and served sinful man. Cannot we, sinful man, out of gratitude humbly serve others? Would not we, beggars for the salvation of our souls, want to freely show others where to get the Bread of Life? Tentmaking can be a part of ones's grateful service to the Lord. Like Paul, a tentmaking ministry can be a way one can show his love and heartfelt gratitude to his Savior.

A modern day tentmaker is a self-supporting pastor, missionary, or other Christian worker. Tentmaking may not be for everyone. Personal prayer before the Lord would be a prudent place to begin. Yet, a tentmaking church planter or other Christian worker can give not only of his heart but of his hands. Often when churches get a call from a missionary on deputation or a traveling evangelist, money is the primary reason for calling. Speaking engagements sometimes are booked primarily with financial reimbursement in mind. Missionaries may want to "present their ministry" but it is very often for the purpose of raising support. Paul did not take that approach. He sacrificed and worked hard at a secular job in order to give to the church instead of suggesting a church give to him. He never presented his ministry, he just ministered! What trust in the Lord we can learn from this servant. Too many times a missionary in another country will contact a pastor seeking more support (money). It was once suggested that a missionary pick up a part time job in order to make ends meet. The job could also serve as a means to contact people in the community. The response was that the missionary's visa did not grant him the privilege to work. Long forgotten by those who call William Carey the father of modern missions is that he worked as a shoemaker and as a dye manufacturer. There have not been many linguists or educators on the mission field like Carey. Yet, he had time to work for a living. Perhaps a modern missionary who enters a country as a tentmaker would make a more permanent impact on a people. It is worth consideration.

Christians need to take into account what we are teaching the next generation. While short-term mission trips have become vogue in recent decades and their benefit is notable, the means of getting to another destination does not entirely mimic Paul's methods. Many of our readers may have forgotten what youth are capable of doing. There have been many young people who have gotten a part-time job or have helped in a business to earn some extra cash. Teens and college age people earn money for phones, clothes, food, and cars all the time. But, when it comes to going on a short-term missions trip, guess who they think should pay for it? Usually not them. Why can't young people work or get help from family to go on a church trip? Fundraisers and letter writing have taken the place of good old fashioned hard work. Young people who want to go and serve the Lord are learning to expect someone else to pay their way. That is contrary to the simple lessons they can learn from Paul.

Daily in every nation it is becoming more challenging to minister for Christ. Openly spreading the gospel and holding public church meetings is getting more difficult. Tentmaking pastors and missionaries may be a solution to some tough ministry situations. Hard-to-reach areas may become more reachable if a tentmaker can "drive his stake into the ground" and get a foothold in the desired place of ministry.
Paul worked as a tentmaker out of his great love for Jesus Christ. While not all of us may follow in his footsteps in this manner, we all need to serve God with our whole hearts. Let's make a commitment to pray for those in ministry, including tentmaking pastors and missionaries.

Questions for further thought:
1. How might tentmaking pastors help the church be able to thrive in a world hostile to the Christian faith?

2. What are some advantages of a tentmaking missionary, church planter, or pastor?

3. What are some disadvantages of a tentmaking missionary, church planter, or pastor?

4. How might tentmaking situations teach young people to have an attitude to serve?

5. How might tentmaking situations teach young people practical ministry experience?

6. What was Paul's motivation for being a tentmaker?

7. What is your motivation for serving the Lord?

James Utter 1/2016



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Does Your Pastor Have A Vision?

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

How many of us have heard this proclaimed in reference to a pastor’s “vision” of reaching the lost, building the church, starting a school or promoting missions? Yet, this is not what this verse means at all. While it may preach good and there can be some application regarding evangelism and discipleship, that is not the plain meaning of this verse. How convenient it is for a preacher to quote only the first part of this verse, while leaving out the second part of this same verse entirely! This verse itself explains that the vision is the law. A basic study on the word vision in the Bible shows that a vision is special revelation from God. God’s words given by his prophets and written down for us: that’s the Bible. What is the point? It is a subtle but very significant shift to use the word vision from this verse to refer to man’s ideas or plans instead of God’s words. What is the result? This slight shift promotes a pastor, preacher, missionary or other leader over God himself! If the churches in our land are ever going to get back to God, they must first get back to the very words of God. Happy is the one who keeps the words of the Bible.   Pastor James Utter 4/2014

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Was Saint Patrick a Christian?



Patrick - Missionary to Ireland

The personality behind St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated. Many do not realize the great Christian heritage 

Patrick of Ireland left for us. Consider these facts as you commemorate this special day.


Britain had a number of Christians in the 300's AD.

Patrick was born around 389 AD.

Patrick was kidnapped when he was sixteen.

He was sold into slavery and sent to Ireland.

He escaped back to Britain after six years of captivity.

Now free, he had a dream the Irish wanted him back for holy service.

Patrick was appointed a bishop (pastor) and an apostle (missionary) to the Irish people.

This British missionary arrived in Ireland in 432.

Patrick ministered to the Irish whose lives were full of superstition and magic.

Druid priests opposed Patrick and opposed Christianity in Ireland.

In Ireland he established a simple church system.

Patrick died around 461 and is buried in Northern Ireland.



Think about: Do I want the Lord to use me as He desires to?


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Answers from the Bible - Radio Show

Answers from the Bible is a radio show hosted by James Utter. Pastor Utter takes a variety of questions and finds the answer in the Bible. They are in four minute "byte" sized programs and easy to listen to.  Click on the link to listen the programs.


Here are a few of the most recent topics.

The Ferguson Riots     
Global Warming     
John Deere     
Basic Christian Things     
Harbor Pilot

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Money and the Bible Christian Living - Rugged Faith

Money and the Bible  Christian Living - Rugged Faith is now available for sale. It has a new look but is the same book. Money, Banking, Finance and the End Times has been discontinued. Get a copy today. Also available on Kindle.





From the Back Cover
Most financial studies won't tell you things this book does! Explore for yourself what the Bible says about money. You will likely be surprised at what you have been missing. Our choices regarding money measure how we are living for the Lord. Use this book as a great resource for small groups and other Bible study classes. Youth should get this information to become aware of what the Lord expects of our everyday financial decisions.

James Utter is a pastor, author and teacher. He is the host of the Answers From The Bible radio program. His many years of Christian ministry experience combined with an earned Doctor of Ministry degree make this book worth reading.

Christian Living / Personal Finance / Bible Study

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Is God Doing In The American Oilfield? Take A Look At This Fresh Perspective From Two Men Who Know!

O i l f i e l d

Occupation is No Barrier

Good News in Montana

No one told me about the Gospel (Good News) while growing up in my Montana farm and ranch community. The Good News impacted me before it reached my twin brother. I had never heard the preaching of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The Gospel in the Good News of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection which is talked about in God’s Word. In 1976, a man shared the meaning of the Good News. He showed me from God’s Word, the Bible, that I was a sinner in the eyes of God: “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23a. We all have sin in our hearts. We were born with sin. I found out: “the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23a. I already knew everyone faces physical death, but now I understood about spiritual death. Because of my sins, I would be separated from God for eternity - unless my relationship with God was repaired. According to the Scriptures, there is nothing I can do to repair my relationship with God – only God can do that! God, in His LOVE, created a plan which would reunite His fallen creation to Himself. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 Christ paid the price for all sin. I asked God to forgive me. I called upon Jesus Christ to save me. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13 Salvation is a gift from God – it cannot be earned. Romans 6:23b "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Good News in the Oilfield

God began to burden my heart to tell my family about Jesus Christ. My twin brother was working in the oilfields of Wyoming and Utah. He did not know about the Good News. The Lord showed his great love for me and I wanted my brother to know God's love too. In 1979, after much prayer, I resigned my teaching job. My family and I loaded up our car and the rental truck and moved over 600 miles to Heber City, Utah. I went to work for my brother in the oilfield. I invited him to a Sunday night service. During the invitation to trust Christ as his personal Saviour, he raised his hand to show he was ready. By God’s grace, I had the privilege of sharing Jesus Christ with my twin brother. He understood Romans 5:8 which says: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." My brother called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to save him! We spent the next three years working together on drilling rigs. Together, we shared the Gospel of Christ to different men we came into contact with. We told them about the LOVE, MERCY and GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ. God changes lives in any profession, even the oilfields of America. Over those three years I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel to several men working in the oilfield. I witnessed God convicting others to repent and call upon the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior. I spent thirty-two years in the field of education and five years in the oilfield. I am retired now and live on a ranch in southeastern Montana. Occupation is no hindrance to God’s love. I continue to see God working in people’s lives.

Good News From My Twin Brother

“I began my career in the oilfield in 1974 in Lyman, Wyoming. I started in 'worm's corner', the lowest position on the rig there was. Over the next seventeen years, I advanced to working in all positions on a drilling rig including Tool Pusher. I did not realize I was a lost soul until 1979. That's when my brother came to work for me. He began witnessing to me about the saving power of Jesus Christ. I was living in Heber City, Utah at the time and I was invited to a Baptist church. The next thing I knew, I was going to church three times a week and enjoying the preaching and teaching of God's Word. Then, all of a sudden, we ran into a verse from Romans 3:23: 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' Two parts of this verse stuck in my mind. The first is: 'all have sinned.' The second was: 'short of the glory of God.' That described me. I was taught through God's Word that sin started with Adam and Eve and was passed down from generation to generation until present time. I acknowledged my sin to God and called upon the Lord to save me. Have you thought about your need of a Saviour?”

Good News for You

The Lord says:"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20a. Is Jesus knocking on your heart's door? Believe in Him. Will you call upon Him? Ask Him to come in to your heart by faith. Trust Him as your Savior today.     C.D.

Scripture verses are quoted from the King James Version (KJV).
 
 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Syria, Israel, and the USA

What is going on with these Middle East nations and the United States?  Many people don't know that the Bible already explains many of these international relationships.  Israel is key to the whole region, and really to the whole world.  The Lord has a plan and his plan includes you!  He is working out all things for his purposes.  Money and the Bible: Christian Living - Rugged Faith covers some of what is going on behind the scenes in these days of international tension.  Read about what is going on in the world and what you can do about it!