Biblical Tentmaking: Church Strengtheners

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (I Cor. 15:10-11).

As mentioned in an earlier installment, Paul’s model was to enter the marketplace to reach the masses working there and work among them.  As he was in the marketplace, he would evangelize and the new converts moving through the marketplaces from all over would take the Gospel into their own towns where it would multiply. The churches were populated with those that worked in the marketplace and preached the Gospel in their own tongue.

“Paul’s theory of evangelizing a province was not to preach in every place in it himself, but to establish centers of Christian life in two or three important places from which the knowledge might spread into the country round.” [1]

Paul encouraged all to keep working their trade by saying, “Brethern, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (I Cor. 7:24).  In just a few years, Paul was able to say that “From Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ…I no longer have room for work in these regions” (Rom. 15:19-24).  The number of churches attributed to Paul as the planter seems incredulous by today’s standards, and therefore, modern church planters consider Paul a person with incredible energy and/or a missionary in which the Holy Spirit quickened in a major fashion. Truly, there is no doubt the Holy Spirit was quickening Paul’s efforts, and he was energetic.   However, could his amazing results stem also from strategy and not just energy? With his strategy, the entire Greek half of the empire was evangelized. Paul used the marketplace and the uneducated individuals in them to advance the Gospel throughout the entire world. [2] It was not an individual’s work but a collection of workers from the marketplace that spread the Gospel to the entire known world of the 1st Century.

Once new believers come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that they need to be plugged into a church body in some way for discipleship, so the local church must be the focus of any mission work.  However, what we forget is that in church planting, whether we are a vocational minister or not, you must reach the marketplace in some way.  A church plant or any movement must reach the active participants and leaders in a community with the Gospel. We have heard the church described as an organism, and it will only live a short time serving existing believers or just children (I Cor. 12:13).  A vital church needs growth.  Community leaders and the active masses are in the marketplace, and if we do not go into the marketplace to minister to them directly, we must rely on hope that they will wander into our churches. The marketplace is where a community buys and sells goods and services and trains the next generation. It is where business gets done and the entire town goes to earn a living. For many, one-third of a person’s day is spent in the marketplace, and our churches need moreTentmakers to reach them.  A Tentmaker is a servant of the church that provides whatever the local body of believers needs to reach more with the Gospel.  “…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (I Cor. 9:22-23).

According to Linthicum, the vocation of the church in the city is to seek that city’s spiritual transformation. That transformation must include the corporate systems and structures and their principalities and powers. That can occur only as the church exposes the lies on which the city is built. [3] In a city, as we have already pointed out, the heart is the marketplace and the lies that hold that city captive are propagated and centered in the marketplace.  Transforming the marketplace relies on exposing the lies by standing as a foil against them and proclaiming a deeper, more satisfying truth—the truth of the Gospel.  By giving a church direct access to the marketplace, a Tentmaker becomes a conduit for the Gospel and witness of the Body of Christ. While a Tentmaker may not be the lead pastor, they are an important mouthpiece.  Paul was pastor for a short while in Ephesus, but in many of the churches he planted he did not have an official office. Paul wrote letters, directed leaders, witnessed, and preached, but most of the churches Paul was involved with appeared as indigenous works that were self-supporting and reproducing from the beginning.  The churches may have been poor by our modern first world standards, but they were self-supporting.

Therefore, a Tentmaker may be a church planter or lead pastor, but this is not a definitive quality.  A more definitive term would be church strengthener. A Tentmaker will immediately connect with an accountable body of believers and give that local church a conduit into the marketplace to reach the active participants of that community with the Gospel.  A Tentmaker also may be a helper in counseling and preaching, but may or may not lead a church plant.  A Tentmaker may be part of a team of church planters but not necessarily the lead pastor.


Does this quality of Tentmaking only apply to overseas missions work? Can a Tentmaker be a church strengthener in their homeland?

Defining Qualities of Being a Tentmaker

A Tentmaker as a church strengthener is a servant of the church that provides whatever the local body of believers needs to reach more with the Gospel.

[1] Allen, Roland, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or ours? (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1962 reprint from 1922) p. 12

[2] Siemen, Ruth, Why Did Paul Make Tents?, 1996.

[3] Linthicum, Robert, City of God, City of Satan: A Biblical Theology of the Urban Church (Zondervan Publishing: Grand Rapids, 1991) p 142


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