Len at “NextReformation” has written a very interesting post called “missional spirituality – tentmaking.” Of course, by the term “tentmaking,” Len simply refers to elders/pastors who work a secular job, that is, they are not paid by the church to be elders/pastors.
Len makes this very observant statement about “tentmaking”:
The deepest challenges are financial and identity related. Christendom structures do not tend to validate unpaid ministry, and that lack usually impacts the internal sense of identity of leaders. Pastors and teachers without letterhead and business cards may have difficultly not just with those who would otherwise be colleagues, but also with their internal convictions about call and adequacy. But we desperately need pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets who are not waiting for permission to pursue their kingdom vocations. The existing system will only rarely legitimize a call that is outside its boundaries. But those boundaries exist more as a legacy of a cultural modality than a biblical one, and they are collapsing.
I can tell you that from my seminary and denominational perspective, Len is exactly right. An elder/pastor who works a secular job for support is viewed differently than an elder/pastor who is paid a salary by the church, even if that salary is extremely small. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think anyone who is part of the seminary or denomination would make that statement, but it seems evident in actions and attitudes.
I guess, using this terminology, I am a tentmaker… and by choice. Interestingly, I think Paul would be surprised that we use the term “tentmaker.” That was his profession. It wasn’t anything special.