Thursday, May 14, 2009

I am going to be a Tentmaker

The Apostle Paul supported his own missionary efforts by making tents. He was careful not to impose on those he served, even to the point of (as the unsubstantiated legend goes) preaching all day and making tents all night.

Whatever the actual reality of Paul's life, the phrase "tentmaker" has come to be known as nearly synonymous to "part-time pastor." With the other part of your time, you make tents, or raise children (or kids, or lambs I suppose), or clean bathrooms, and otherwise occupy yourself meaningfully in the secular world.

I don't know why everyone doesn't think this is the best idea ever!
For one - you get to share the incredible richness of the job of pastoring. You get to be facilitator, leader, trainer, or whatever, and to push other people to discover the wonder of preaching good news to the poor, binding up the broken-hearted, releasing the captives, and whatever else your church does on a daily basis.
(assuming you have that generosity in your heart and WANT to share this awesome task)
For two - you get to de-burden the church. We're very careful about this when we go on mission trips (we bring our own tools, finance our own work projects, and sometimes even go so far as to eat only our own food) so why not on the home front? Why not give that vote of confidence, "I believe you can do some of this on your own," and free up funds (half a salary worth of funds) for local mission and church development?
(assuming you want to see mission over maintenance)
For three - you get out of your IVORY TOWER for half a day and get to interact with the rest of the folks in the world like other people do.
(assuming you see some value, some respect or self-respect, or some social advantage to having such a status)

Right. I know I have a tendency to overwork and so I'd actually have to listen to those spirituality lessons about self-care if I attempted such a feat. I know also that the stresses of two jobs might not always coincide nicely (getting a light load of work on the secular front during Holy Week, for example), actually, who am I kidding, they'd probably attack one another head-on and I'd be the battleground. But I'm still very attracted.

Finally: APPARENTLY -- according to my sources --
out of 13,615 active pastors in the Presbyterian Church of the USA,
forty two are tentmakers.
FORTY TWO!??? in numbers, that spells 0.3% of our pastors.
And there are tons of churches which need a part-time pastor and cannot afford a full-time one. (exact number not available...)
So look at it through these eyes:
When I'm all ready for a call, you know, post-seminary and after I learn a valuable and portable skill like making tents...
I will have my PICK of all the tiny rural PC(USA) churches that want me. I'll find an awesome one, empower the people, watch God's mission proliferate, and sell my tents from a roadside stand.

(if you join me we will make a community out of it and start a revolution.)


  1. Great post. I just shared it on my FB profile. I think you are right on!

  2. Love it T. I have thought a lot about tentmaking. Actually, I have thought a lot about teaching philosophy or some like subject at a community college or something 30 hours a week and leading a church like 10 hours a week. Sounds better than me to be in a church office 40 hours a week--they can get really boring!

  3. Thank you for your post!! I've been a tentmaker for 4 years now and love it! (

    Working full time as a public school teacher is my tent.

    The best way to do ministry!

  4. Amen! God bless the tentmaker revolution.