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The First Tentmaker

Six months following my graduation from the University of Delaware, I was floundering as a social worker and youth director. Based upon my interactions with ministry leaders in Delaware, I reached a point where I didn’t know what to do anymore. Since my life experiences were limited as a twenty-one-year-old, I scanned the internet to see if there was an organization that could help me. I stumbled upon Tentmakers Youth Ministry based in Hopkins, Minnesota. After a series of phone conversations and interviews, I was selected to participate in a relatively new extensive seven-week leadership training program. When I arrived, this was like a spiritual bootcamp who anyone interested in making the ministry their fulltime career.

To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methusael, and Methusael the father of Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah and of the other was Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle and purchase possessions, Genesis 4:18-20.

Some days when I arrived on campus of the host church, people I talked with the day before were gone. As this training unfolded, a few quit and others were asked to leave because they didn’t possess the necessary ministry skills to survive this difficult career path. What I found out later, leaders were sitting in the back of the room observing our behavior and daily interactions. While this seems cut-throat, it’s better to exit before you fail than end up being the next headline in the latest church scandal. Although the workload was grueling, pressing the limits of my comfort zone day after day, Tentmakers Youth Ministry transformed me. This was the closest I ever came to experiencing heaven on earth, becoming close with people like Phil and Otis, both gifted ministers.

After this [Paul] departed from Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently arrived from Italy with Priscilla his wife, due to the fact that Claudius had issued an edict that all the Jews were to leave Rome. And [Paul] went to see them, And because he was of the same occupation, he stayed with them; and they worked [together], for they were tentmakers by trade, Acts 18:1-3.

This organization is based upon the apostle Paul’s philosophy about ministry. Paul believed that missionaries shouldn’t rely mainly on donations from sponsors. Rather, Paul encouraged Christian leaders to find a trade you are gifted in and use a portion of these funds to support your ministry. One of the reasons why Aquila and Paul became close friends is that they shared the ability to make tents. As Paul traveled throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea, others were impressed by the tent Paul made for himself and wanted one as well. The first recorded tentmaker in history is Jabal, a descendant of Enoch. God blessed Jabal who traveled from field to field with his cattle, living in tents he made. If you have any aspirations to start your own ministry, follow the tentmaker model so that God will begin to make your dreams a reality.

by Jay Mankus


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