Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 1 Corinthians 9:6-7
From these verses, we notice that Paul and Barnabas were exceptions. Paul and Barnabas worked at tent-making (Acts 18:3) while they preached the gospel. However, it seems “the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas” (v.4-5) didn’t have secular jobs. It shows us the individual nature of the call of God.
We know from Acts that the apostles knew the importance of giving their “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4). Yet Paul was able to combine tent-making with an effective ministry. There were also times when Paul, “devoted himself exclusively to preaching” (Acts 18:5). I’ve noticed when listening to missionaries speak, that there are a variety of ways they gain financial support. God enjoys diversity.
We cannot put God in a box and insist that everyone does ministry the same way. I’ve heard people say that all pastors should be like Paul or that all churches should be like the New Testament church. The problem with this view is that there are many different leadership styles and models in the New Testament. Our focus is on how God wants us to minister to our community in our culture.
What does this mean for me and my church? I can’t assume that God’s plan is going to be the same in every situation. Over time, I learn how God has equipped me and my church for the things he has called us to do. We seek the particular path God wants us to follow.