Tent Making At Moody?

At Moody Bible Institute, the possibility of introducing a course in nursing has been discussed.  Those who are in opposition to the idea like to point out that we are a Bible College.  In their view, we train ministers in the strictest sense.  Those whose salaries are paid by church and parachurch organisations can have their tuition paid by generous donors as members of the 1600 strong undergraduate day-school.  However, those who want to embrace a broader view of ministerial training say that we need to challenge the tuition-paid model, and we need to train those who can go into the mission field and be useful in ways that will fund themselves.  We need to train engineers and nurses because they are needed on the mission field.

Paul was a preacher and teacher in the first churches, but he also was a businessman.  He made mobile homes (tents) and sold them in the market place.  Far from hinder his ministry, it helped him to establish valuable connections.  How should a Bible college train today’s workers?

Acts 18:1-22

1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

 5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

 7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

 12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

 18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.


  1. What did Aquila and Priscilla do for a living?
  2. Why might Paul have been afraid or discouraged at this point?
  3. How was Gallio’s pronouncement significant?
  4. How do people that you know combine a day-job with ministry?
  5. Do you think that it is helpful for a minister to develop skills apart from teaching and preaching?  Give an example.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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1 Response to Tent Making At Moody?

  1. I disagree that Moody SHOULD create “tent makers”. I agree that we need to be sending more ministers who are useful in other professions as well. My concern is there is only 4 years in which a student is typically given to become educated in their course of study. I guess the only way I can see it working is if the student is required to double major in order to not be short changed in their bible training and to also be fully trained in their “useful” profession.

    The bible doesn’t specify when Paul trained in his profession, but given the time period, I’m sure it was something his father taught him. If that’s so, then he was already a tent-maker before God blinded him and threw him to the ground. So maybe, if Moody changes anything, maybe they should except more students who already do something useful for the mission field.

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