Sunday, July 27, 2014



ERNEST ONUOHAVen. Ernest Onuoha

‘….And because he (Paul) was a tentmaker as they were (Priscilla and Aquila), he stayed and worked with them’ Acts 18:3.

THE Apostle Paul stands very tall when the mention of tent-making ministry is concerned. Ordinarily, Tent-making, according to Wikipedia in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while dedicating him or herself to the ministry of the Gospel, receives little or no pay for Church work, but performs other (“tent-making”) jobs to provide support. Specifically, tent-making can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full-time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a Church. The term comes from the fact that the apostle Paul supported himself by making tents, while living and preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:3). It was there he met this couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who were also involved in tent making ministry.

  Unlike Peter and other apostles in the early Christian Church, who devoted themselves entirely to their religious ministry and lived off the money donated by Church members (see Acts 4:34-37), Wikipedia insists that Paul frequently performed outside work, not desiring to be a financial burden to the young Churches he founded. In Thessaloniki, Paul states that he and his companions “worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:8). Paul’s purpose in working was to set an example for the Christians, desiring that they not become idle in their expectation of the return of Christ, but that they would work to support themselves. He also hoped that his refusal to accept financial support would build his credibility among non-Christians, thus giving him the chance to win over more of them (See 1 Corinthians 9, particularly verse 12). For additional glimpses into the Apostle Paul’s tent-making ministry, see Acts 18:1-3; 20:33-35; Philippians 4:14-16.

  Financial support is not the only essence of tent-making. Instead the vocational identity coupled with excellence of work and lifestyle influences colleagues to follow Jesus Christ. More recently, William Carey (1761-1831), considered to be the father of modern evangelical Christian missions, was a tentmaker in India, working as a factory owner and university professor while fulfilling his mission duties. Then, international mission work was a new and controversial idea in the Church and tent-making was the only way for Carey to support his ministry. His example has led thousands of Christian missionaries to support themselves while ministering overseas.

  Furthermore, tent-making sometimes provides Christians the chance to serve in countries normally closed to mission work. Governments hostile to Christianity often accept well-qualified teachers, doctors, computer technicians and engineers into their countries to work, even if these men and women are Christians. These professionals are thus able to serve the country and support themselves while performing mission works.

  In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the term “working clergy” is used to denote men who, although assigned or not to a parish, must provide for themselves. More often than not, these are married priests who take positions in hospitals or other charitable institutions, although some can be solicitors or school teachers as well. A famous example of a working clergyman was the Orthodox Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky), Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea, who continued to work as a surgeon and medical doctor even after his ordination

    It is true today, we have scores of pastors, who elated to be in the tent-making ministry but to what reasonable extent are their works impacting to the modern day ministry is a matter to be further discussed.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Delta State

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