Today is my grandmother’s birthday, and my parents drove up to the mountains to take her and my grandfather out lunch. Seafood is her favorite. I had the kids sing to her on our way home from church, and I could hear her laughing and soaking it up as she listened on speaker. I’m grateful my children have great-grandparents to whom they can sing, and I don’t take it for granted.
The last time I visited, I sat across from my Papa and asked him about his new church. He got saved as an adult and in his usual fashion, went for it. He dragged his family to church and served until his hands bled. He’s had a hand in building one or two churches and still attends weekly prayer breakfasts, lifting up names like yours and mine before the sun has a chance to warm. At eighty-seven, he’s just now getting tired and sore and wondering what that means for him. He and my sweet grandmother are stil living independently, close to family but on the hundred acres of mountainside they’ve owned for decades. Their home is a retreat for all who stumble upon it, a sacred place filled with fresh air and hard work.
So back to their new church. They’ve passed it daily and only recently started attending. It’s a tiny little white thing at the foot of their property, the kind of church whose gravestones might outnumber attendees on any given Sunday. And that’s exactly what I asked him about. Papa, do you ever wonder if churches like that will die out? What are they doing to promote growth and community outreach?
He smiled back at me and didn’t waste a second. Churches like that will never die. As he explained, I understood. That little white church on the corner, the one that’s always been there? It will always be there. These churches are what keep communities going. Because unlike mine, or the ministries I associate with, churches like these aren’t focused on growth. The people who preach and keep the lights on are tentmakers. They each have their own full-time jobs throughout the week, studying and preparing for Sunday in their free time. So every week, someone will be there to greet and teach. Every time there is a need, someone will be there to step up and help. Forever and always.
As long as the gospel makes its away across the sound waves and across the streets, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way to do church, right? My grandfather loves Ridge and the kingdom work we’re doing, but there is something very dear to his heart about the idea of humble, hard work… the kind of hard work that may never grow in numbers, but instead leaves a legacy that carries on.
This is where a lot of us stand today. We’re tentmakers, and we’re grumpy about it. We look to the ministry “full-timers” and struggle to find the time and energy to tend the things He’s already given us. It feels like a juggling act, and it’s easy to grow jealous and bitter. We start dreaming about the things we can do for His kingdom once He changes our circumstances. One day, we won’t be working out of the home and childcare won’t be an issue. One day, we won’t have to pay to publish our own books or fly to our conferences. One day, our spouse will land a ministry position with benefits and we can quit our part-time jobs. One day, there will be enough time and money to really do the Lord’s work.
But what if there isn’t enough time and money? Paul never had much of either of those things. He worked in each city to whom he ministered, using trade skills he’s always had. Is it a coincidence that nearly half of the New Testament comes from his teaching? He received an anointing with his yes, his yes to hard work and ministry – at the same time.
If you are a child of God, if you’ve been saved by His son, then you are in full-time ministry. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to be that little white church on the corner, the tentmaker giving away a message that will never die. That right there is the Lord’s work.