PAUL: Aaron, tell us a bit more about your work in the market-place – your paid work. What do you do? Does it demean your paid work to call it “tent-making”? Do you see it as a vocation? How do you think of it?
AARON:…Currently, I work as a Production Manager for a Fiber Optic Engineering/Manufacturing company. I’m responsible for managing a couple of shifts with about 80 employees to ensure the parts we manufacture are assembled properly & shipped on time. I also run a business with my wife, & another married couple who we are in community with. The wives are hair stylists, and the husbands run the business development side of things.
Hmmm…I wouldn’t say it’s demeaning to call my paid work “tent-making” at all. I suppose, if you paint things black and white that may be what it is. Paul spread the Gospel, and made tents to support himself. I work the job I work not necessarily because I love (or even like) Fiber Optics, or engineering. I help manage and grow our small business with our friends not necessarily because I love hair salons and cosmetology (But working for yourself is certainly much more “fun” =) but because it provides for my family, and brings me life. Working brings me life. Using my gifts, and skills brings me life…there’s something in the Bible about working…somewhere in the middle…what is that book? Oh yea, Proverbs. Just because I no longer wake up, go to my office, and read my Bible for two hours “on the clock” does not make my job any less powerful/meaningful to the Kingdom.
We hear stories of powerful moves of God, and they always come from guys who get paid to be a Christian full time…so…of course those stories are BIG. They are newsworthy…and…they ARE. They are AMAZING stories. The problem is that it sends the wrong message to the laity. The clergy gets paid to “grow the kingdom” 40+ hours per week. So, they have lots of fruit to show for it. This standard is spread out through the Kingdom, and makes “normal folks” feel that they make little to no difference in the Kingdom – even if they TRULY want to…and…actually ARE; it just looks different. Right now my main focus is leading my family spiritually, and being in tight knit community pushing/being pushed closer to Jesus. Along the way Jesus opens up doors to branch outside of growing His Kingdom through discipling my family, and friends I’m in community with.
PAUL: Aaron, you have moved from a high profile, planting and ministry exemplar role to your current pattern. Have people accused you of “leaving the ministry” because of your decision to give so much of your time to the market-place? How do you respond to that?
AARON: I’ve actually never thought about it like that. I think most of the folks who walk with me know my heart well enough to know that if I’m doing something it’s because I heard God’s voice. I think one time a friend who worked closely with in my “vocational ministry” role pushed back a little bit simply because he didn’t want to see me “settle” for JUST discipling my family & potentially “wasting” an apostolic calling Jesus has placed on my life. I received his council, and it led me to the realization that while the season I’m in of discipling my family will never end there will be opportunities that come up to grow the Kingdom outside of that. My friend was encouraging me to be open to those opportunities and to take them. I would view this dialogue as one of those opportunities.
I can’t lie and say that there aren’t days that I miss the “posh” lifestyle of a “cutting edge” church planting pioneer (not my words). We got to make our own schedule, travel at will, and do some really neat things for the Kingdom. But, that season had to come to a close for me as God refined my heart and began preparing me for the next season. He spoke to me that it would come, and that I’d be better prepared for it. I always have, and continue to encourage any and all people in, or going into vocational ministry to be bi-vocational. To me it’s one of the most strategic ways to grow the Kingdom and protect against getting trapped in a “Christian bubble” where you’re always around people just like you.
AARON: Paul, tell me how you balance doing “big” meaningful things for the growth of the Kingdom (ie, the things that draw attention, get recognition, etc.) and the “small” seemingly less meaningful task of discipling a few people very closely for a couple of years at a time as Jesus modelled in the scriptures…the “big” things seem better. They get more attention. On the surface they seem to make more of an impact. Could we be missing out on the biggest thing of all? (Discipling a few to go and make disciples themselves – this doesn’t make the cover of a magazine, and nobody brings you to speak at their conference because you spent two years with three guys who go on to multiply the Jesus in them, in others)
PAUL: You’re probably right that the quiet, low profile, person-to-person is not what tends to get celebrated. It’s generally not what’s paid. Having said that, I am sensing a growing hunger for spirituality that equips the believer for his/her particular world. I think people are hungry for that. I think that people don’t want a spirituality that implies that their work (the bulk of their lives) is irrelevant to God, the kingdom of God or the Church. I find people resistant to a teaching that makes growing their church the Great Cause from which their work and their families are regarded as an unfortunate distraction. (Growing the church is, dare I say, a concern absent from the Gospel.)
In a way the fact that my work in the market place in 2014 has taken up the great proportion of my week really has forced me to value the “small” things. But then that’s not really so much of a shift when I reflect on it. When I think about it the fruit I have most valued through the years has been exactly the kind of low profile, person-to-person kind of ministry you’re talking about; those moments of being instrumental in another’s finding faith, or being pivotal in another’s journey in some other way. Those interactions – meeting, developing a relationship, Gospel-ing, praying through to assurance, discipling etc. – for me these have all taken place “outside” in the place of our scattered life. I guess that’s why I resonate so strongly with the image of the meeting place as the training place for the market place.
To make it personal, my work in real estate in 2014 has invited me in a fresh way into people’s lives in all their times of transition; births, marriages, deaths, promotions, retrenchments, children growing up, prosperity and pressure, relocations – the works. And my conversations in those moments can be multi-layered. Often people start opening up about their lives in a quite unexpected way. And sometimes those conversations can be significant.