It takes zero dollars to talk with someone about Jesus. It’s possible to be a missionary right where you’re at. And together, we can also engage the global issues of bringing the gospel to the unreached. Paul the apostle set the example.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1–16. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 2:9–12:
“For you remember, brothers, our labor and hardship: working by night and day in order not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and righteously and blamelessly we became to you who believe, just as you know how we treated each one of you, like a father his own children, exhorting and consoling you and insisting that you live in a manner worthy of God, who calls you to his own kingdom and glory” (LEB).
Paul and his colleagues, Timothy and Silas (also called Silvanus) worked non-ministry jobs while in Thessalonica, to ensure that they would in no way be a burden to the local people (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This decision freed Paul up. By not having to depend on the Thessalonians for provision, he can insist that they live completely for the kingdom of God. He can do so boldly.
Today, we can do the same: It’s possible to self-finance the ministry God has called you to—with hard work, budgeting, putting your hard skills to work, and self-sacrifice. It’s also possible to begin your local labor for the gospel simply by having conversations with those who don’t know Jesus. Everything grows out of relationships.
Paul provides us with what could be viewed as a model for ministry. When reaching a new people group, like the Thessalonians, Paul requires nothing of them. Instead, he finances his ministry in other ways—in this instance, through working while there. He likely worked making tents for markets and temporary housing (see Acts 18:1–4). Paul models what would later be called bi-vocational ministry.
At other times, it seems that Paul plans to fund his ministry to a new area by fundraising at a “sending church” (see Romans 15:28; 2 Corinthians 1:16). There are also examples of Paul prompting churches to support relief work happening at other impoverished churches (Romans 15:26–27; 2 Corinthians 8:1–6; Acts 11:29–30).
We need an and-both approach to ministry. You should be a missionary right where you’re at, viewing your day job as bi-vocational to your ministry work of spreading the gospel—and as part of that overall effort. We should also all be part of the global cause of bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. But this does not mean that we should rule out fundraising as an option, for there are also times that we need to be completely devoted to one cause (compare Acts 13:1–3). Whatever the method, self-sacrifice should always be our modus operandi (our mode of operation).
It makes good sense to require nothing of a people group who hasn’t yet heard the gospel. It also makes good sense to have a strong reputation among them, working when possible and necessary. And it makes good sense to always operate under the impression that our entire lives are ministries—whether we’re making an income related to that or not, whether we’re self-financing or depending on the support of others.
What are some creative ways you can share about Jesus that require little to no cost? Who can you support today who has a ministry that emulates Paul’s and is focused on the global work of bringing the gospel to all people?
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