One of the questions we hear often is “Will you work when you’re in Germany?” After all, it is a developed country with a strong economy! Wouldn’t it make sense for us to seek employment?
The answer to that is Yes, and No. Initially, we will need to focus on learning the language and will not have the required chops to get a work permit. In addition, our visas will be as religious workers, which will limit employment opportunities. In short, gaining employment will not be as simple as turning in a couple of applications.
So will we be working? YES! Of course! Nick will be working as a pastor, and the family will become evangelists! Our work will consist of church planting and ministry, just as if we were doing church work here in the States.
What people often mean by this question is, “Don’t you want to support yourself so that you don’t need to worry about raising support?” The answer to that is no. I will seek to present a biblical basis for the support model so that you may feel comfortable with this approach, and I will offer some practical reasons why it makes the most sense, even in a country like Germany.
A Biblical Basis for the Support Model
From the Beginning of the Old Testament through the New, God has laid out that he desires those who devote their lives to ministry to be supported by the community of believers.
Num. 8:12-14; 18:21-24 and Deut. 14:27 lay out the plan to support the Levites in the Temple/Tabernacle worship of the Old Covenant. Simply put, the other 11 tribes of Israel inherited allotments of land, but not so with the Levites. Instead, they were entrusted with caring for the operation of the Tabernacle (later the Temple). They offered the sacrifices that the people brought, and earned their living (all their food, all their housing) off of that. The idea is that 11/12 of Israel supported 1/12 of Israel, so that they could devote themselves to ministry operations.
In 1 Kings 17:7-24, God commands Elijah to ask a widow to help support him. A WIDOW! What’s more, she didn’t have much, but only enough to prepare a final meal for her and her son, and then die (v. 12). Yet, God sent Elijah to them and supported all three of them through the widow’s faithful service.
In the Gospels, Jesus sends out groups of 12 and 72 disciples to go proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. He told them to take nothing with them but to live on the benevolence of others. Not only that, Jesus himself lived on support—see Luke 8:1-3!
Paul’s letters trace a pattern of churches supporting him in his missionary work in other cities. He tells the Thessalonians that he never asked them for money so as not to be a burden for them (2 Thess 3:7-9). BUT, that support seems to have come from the Philippians, whom Paul commends for their generosity (Phil. 4:16).
But wasn’t Paul a “Tent-maker?”
Paul probably did not make a habit out of “tent-making” to support himself. While this is a common idea, the only place such is mentioned is in Corinth, in Acts 18:2-5. Reading this passage, it almost seems Paul did this as an outreach to Aquila, more than as a need for support. If anything, it was because of temporary need, as Timothy and Titus were bringing support from Macedonia (see 2 Cor. 11:7-11). While there are many times Paul boasts that he was “not a burden to anyone,” these are just two examples where it was on the support of other believers.
The Philippians supported ministry in Thessalonica. Paul used the Generosity of Macedonia and Achaia (i.e. Corinth, where he was a “tentmaker” so as not to burdent them) to encourage the Romans to give generously. In fact, the Corinthians became model supporters, once they came to believe. They were not expected to give to the Mission when Paul came to them, but he says they had “a year ago started to give,” and now even desire to do so. This is followed by the famous passage where he teaches “God loves a cheerful giver.”
This progression was Paul’s program. It is the basis for his teaching that teachers of the Gospel ought to share in the good things of their students (Galatians 6:6), and that the “worker is worth his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). Surely, even John had this in mind when he told the church that they “will do well to send [the brothers…who have told the church about your love] on their way in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 5-6).
It is plain to see that God’s plan for those seeking to serve his Mission are to be taken care of by the community of believers.
This is not only a biblical concept, but there are some practical concerns as well. Here are some to keep in mind.
- There is a conception that the church is only after our money. This is a concern (hopefully) that only non-believers have, as believers are supposed to be “sold out” for the Gospel. But the reality is that many people feel this way, especially in Europe, where membership in the state church means taxation taken directly from your paycheck. Ministers who are supported from established churches and believers have no need to present those they hope to reach with the added burden of financial support.
- Tent-makers’ attentions are divided. If you are an average church member, you know how hard it is to just involve yourself in Bible Study classes or small groups. Can you imagine being in charge of the entire church?!? Splitting time, energy and priorities is extremely difficult, and is barely sustainable long term. Like Paul, ministers may be expected to be “tent-makers” for a brief time, but the added pressure of family and ministry on top of a 40-hour work week is not sustainable long-term for the health of a church. This principle applies to our local churches as well.
- Tent-makers’ are limited in their potential to succeed. This ties into point (2) above. Bi-vocational pastors are constantly faced with the decision between expertise and excellence in ministry or in their “career,” often leading to neither being done with excellence, regardless of your metrics measuring success.
- Family becomes more important when you’re in a different culture. Ok, not more important, per se, but it requires more focus, at least at first, to make sure everyone is acclimating well to the new culture. “Coasting” is easy in your native culture, but to keep a family healthy and strong in a move requires more attention and intentionality for a time.
- Giving increases your Kingdom perspective. Giving to various causes makes your view of ministry grow. Adopting a sponser-child in a developing nation raises your awareness to life conditions there. Supporting missionaries increases your interest in their ministry, and opens your eyes to the Church Worldwide. Jesus said, “where your money is, there your heart will be also.” Giving is a spiritual discipline and one of the quickest ways to break the hold our American materialism has on our hearts.
So will we work there?
YES! We are honored to focus our lives and our work around the Great Commission, making disciples and baptizing people into the Body of Christ. And, with your help, we will be humbled to do it in partnership with believers from all over the world.
We may find other ways to reach out and meet people (teaching English, voice lessons, etc) eventually, but with the loving support of fellow believers, those can be evangelistic endeavors aimed at winning people to Christ, and not necessities just meant to keep us afloat.
With your help, we can reignite the light in a part of the world where it has been snuffed out.