Tentmaking

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This is the first of a series of articles that will explore how all of us as Christians might discern and fulfil our charge to “teach ye all nations” and “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20) and bring others to the knowledge of God and His all-embracing love. We will explore not just the theological but also the practical ways and approaches to living out our faith in our day to day lives in such a way that we can fulfil our divine charge and bring others to salvation. Our Lord taught us to pray “Thy will be done” (cf Matthew 6:9–13) and we know it is the will of God revealed in Christ that all receive salvation (1 Tim. 2:3-61 & 4:9-11).

In the Worker Priests page of this website is described a way of apostolic ministry attributed to the Apostle Paul’s example of materially supporting his ministry employing his family’s trade as a “tentmaker” while living and preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:3). Tentmaking often refers to the activities of any Christian who, while dedicating him/herself to missionary work for the Gospel, receives little or no pay for Church work, but performs other (“tentmaking”) jobs to provide support. But actually in the context of our shared vocation and the Great Commission, all of us are in reality called to be “tentmakers” i.e. sharing the Gospel in every part of our daily lives, including at work and in all our daily social interactions with others. While some may feel particularly called to be missionaries or evangelists, we are in fact all called to be engaged in spreading the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul writes that not all are called to be apostles, prophets, doctors, workers of miracles, healers, etc (cf 1 Cor 12:29) but he precedes his list with “Now you are the body of Christ” (cf 1 Cor 12:27 & Ephesians 4)… all Christians share in the Great Commission, the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread His Gospel to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:18–20. Jesus says “and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” the word “you” translated here is plural “vobiscum” (Latin lit. “with you all” Greek ὑμῶν you all) i.e. Jesus was addressing everybody present; the commission is not to be executed “solo” but in community… that is, by “us”. Accepting then that it is beholden upon every Christian to share the Good News, how do we go about this?

Evangelism is not a reserved Christian ministry e.g. like the priesthood. Rather it is a ministry common to all the baptised, it is a “vocation” i.e. a calling that we all share in. Just like those who discern a vocation for the Sacred Ministry do so by prayer, study and the identifying and developing of gifts and skills, so should all the baptised charged with this very important commission. Vocational discernment is generally a lifelong process… after all the end result i.e. the fulfilment of God’s purpose for our lives is Heaven! So don’t worry too much if you think perhaps you are a little slow in getting started with this vocation or identifying and developing your gifts and skills, you probably have been just without knowing it! Why? God doesn’t ask of us anything we cannot do, “And God is able to make all grace abound in you; that ye always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,” (2 Cor 9:8). If you have constantly prayed for guidance, for strength, for wisdom and understanding, if you have availed yourself of the guaranteed means of God’s grace in the sacraments, particularly of Penance and the Eucharist, then you have been discerning and receiving everything necessary to fulfil His Great Commission.

Living our lives demonstrably as Christians i.e. putting into practice what we believe. It’s one thing to be aware of our faults and failings before God, confessing them to Him in our daily prayers or in the sacrament of Confession. But if the way we live our lives is not prompting questions from those around us about our faith, because we might appear as hypocrites or not elicit any curiosity at all by our way of living, then we are failing to demonstrate the ongoing conversion towards holiness that our lives as Christians should be. We’re failing to demonstrate the impact that living in love and in union with God should be having upon our lives. Both the Apostles Peter and Paul explain evangelism as being ready to answer questions about our faith (1 Peter 3:14-16 Col. 4:5-6), if nobody is asking it may mean that nothing in a Christian’s speech or conduct suggests that God is worth knowing… tbc…

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