“Tent making” as it is still quaintly called, although it may be debated whether Paul made the tents to raise his material support or else as a reason to sit with fellow believers in the market place and carry out personal evangelism there before the full ‘team’ arrived to commence the main outreach to the city! (Acts 18:2-5) To this reference could be added Paul’s practice in Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:6-10) where he and his fellow servants worked at various jobs to earn their keep in addition to the preaching of the Gospel and teaching.

In modern days “tent-making” has often been seen mainly as a means of entering difficult countries by taking up ‘secular’ jobs (is any job ‘secular’ when performed by a child of the King and for His glory?) to live there and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, “tent making” as a New Testament model of support for full time workers was not intended to be this, rather a situation where the servants of the Gospel could combine activities so that the burden of their material support was not placed on others. In many parts of the world the vast majority of church and ministry workers, especially in the rural areas (where many of them are) are self-supporting, i.e  follow this tent making model. Most of their material support is raised from their own farming, trading or fishing activities. In urban settings this can be done through self-employed status, running your own business or perhaps by taking early retirement or simply during retirement, where pension accrued is sufficient to live on and serve God in local churches or other ministries.

The down-side of providing your own material support is that the amount of time and effort spent in doing so may far outweigh the time and energy you may have left to do the ministry God has called you to do. Hence the value of receiving some or all of your support from others who feel that their responsibility and blessing is to support those who are called by God to serve the church. Check out the other branches this tree to see the other side of the coin!

Check out the accountability section of this decision tree on this matter in particular, because one of the potential challenging sides of self-supporting in the Christian work is the danger of becoming a lone-ranger and doing your own thing. It would be very important, if you have the financial means to support yourself in ministry, to ensure you are part of a ministry team. This may simply be established by being part of a local church leadership team, or by joining a mission or ministry team.