Trades and Evangelism
When I was in S. Korea, Lou and Thelma Nicholes had me over for some tea and dessert. Lou shared that when he directed the Word of Life Bible Club ministry in Ohio, my dad would come every year and conduct evangelistic meetings throughout the state.
“Your dad never wanted to stay in a fancy hotel,” Lou chuckled, “he would say that we needed to be with God’s people, and this meant that one night we were in a posh home like Lydia’s in Philippi, but the next night we might be sleeping in bunk beds with only one bathroom down the hall.”
My dad learned this importance of giving and receiving hospitality from the Apostle Paul. I learned from my dad, so when I went up to Montana to speak at a marriage retreat weekend in Red Lodge, instead of a room in the local hotel, we stayed in the home of Myron and Laurie in Roberts, a few miles up the road.
In the first century, Paul not only encouraged hospitality, but also countered the image of preacher as huckster. These orators traveled from city to city living off the gifts from the audiences they won by their spellbinding rhetoric. Paul wanted to make sure no one confused him with these religious peddlers who fleeced their audiences, abused their hospitality, and then skipped town. Here’s how he began his ministry in Corinth.
“After these things (the meeting at the Areopagus) Paul left Athens and came to Corinth. And finding a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla (they had to leave Rome because the Emperor Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave the city), Paul approached the couple. They both practiced the same trade—tent making—so Paul stayed with them and they worked together. Then on each Sabbath he dialogued in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:1-4
I’ve never made tents like Paul and Priscilla and Aquila, but from hauling hay, to teaching guitar, tutoring math, selling books door to door, working construction, teaching in a Community College, and tutoring in Hebrew, the Lord has given me a lot of opportunities to use my own skills to put food in our stomachs and a roof over our heads. And while pastoring, my best illustrations came from the hands-on experiences doing what we all have to do—earn a living. I also learned that God’s people generously free you up to devote yourself to ministry if you feed them the Word.
LORD, thanks for Myron and Laurie’s hospitality in Montana many years ago and for the gift you gave Mary and me of a life-long relationship with these special friends. Help me to keep learning from Paul’s practical, authentic example and from your example as a carpenter. You open a lot of opportunities to share the Gospel when we connect working together in common trades.
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