The army of laborers in the harvest is increasing. This arises out of a profound move of God among young people. This will necessitate financial resources. But that potential shrinks as the workforce increases.
The apostle Paul spoke of two ways to support full-time ministry (I Cor. 9):
- Living off the gospel (9:14), and
- Supporting the ministry by working (9:15-17)
A third kind of support, similar to the first, comes from the life of Jesus through “some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases…These women were helping to support them [Jesus and the disciples] out of their own means” (Luke 8:2,3). Gratitude expressed itself in generosity. Jesus and the disciples did not raise support; their work did.
End-timers in the church of Thessalonica had put down their shovels. They considered labor irrelevant in light of Christ’s return. Paul corrected them and said, “Get back to work.” He wrote that he didn’t eat anyone’s food without paying for it: “On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help (option #1), but in order to make ourselves a model (option #2) for you to follow” (II Thess. 3:9). I encourage option two for the following reasons:
- Young people today tend to overestimate ministry and under-estimate both work and marriage. The statistics are revealing. Young people are waiting longer to get married, which also means that some don’t. Many young men are too taken up with doing ministry to stop and think about marriage. I have urged young men, including those considering ministry, to get a job, get a house, get a wife, and get a kid—in that order! Some put off marriage for ministry, not realizing that marriage creates ministry and prepares for it.
- A tent-making skill opens the door to do strategic ministry in the marketplace. A friend was potentially offered a position in an Arabic country in his field of expertise. He was surprised at how excited I was. I saw him going as a missionary but getting paid for it by his company. I have encouraged my children to develop practical skills that can be used to fund ministry, their own as well as others. Some young people are frankly lazy and need to learn the importance of labor.
- Living by faith means trusting God for our resources. Those who have been on three short-term mission trips and are raising funds for an extended tour may have only learned to live by the faith of others.
The second option helps young people to reinforce the truth that:
- The marketplace is the mission field. When we put in an eight-hour day at work, we can learn to let our lights rather than thinking ministry begins on Friday night when we hit the streets.
- The family is ministry. Raising up young warriors is kingdom labor and strategic work.
- Hard work is godly, because it is like God to work. Some feel that full-time ministry means that they are entitled to receive support, an outlook that could cripple them for life.
- Better to care for others than being cared for. It would be unhealthy for young people to move from parental support to the support of others.
- Fundraising can give a wrong message. Some young people have the picture that support-raising enables them to do ministry while others do work. The difference with this kind of support-raising is that the people who are funding the work are not the recipients of the ministry. New Testament elders and apostles lived off the gospel. That is, they were paid by people who received their services. Neither apostles nor elders raised support. It was given to them in return for services rendered (see I Cor. 9).
- Working is a testimony to outsiders. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (I Thess. 4:11,12). If all people know to do is teach the Bible and counsel, they do not interact with the world as effectively as people with serviceable skills. The tent-making can serve this young adult generation well and serve as a viable option to raising support.