Magazines 2023 May - Jun Tentmakers: Multivocational Ministry in Western Society

Tentmakers: Multivocational Ministry in Western Society

03 May 2023 By Jason Mills

An extended review of a 2022 book edited by James W. Watson and Narry F. Santos

Note: Our print issue contains a shorter version of this review. Faith Today welcomes your thoughts on any of our reviews. We also welcome suggestions of other Canadian Christian books to review: Contact us.

Wipf & Stock, 2022. 168 pages. $33 (e-book $10, hardcover $45)

Interested in pastoral work and having a gig on the side? This book is for you. Combining research and stories from people doing multivocational ministry in Canada, this publication is a first of its kind. Edited by James W. Watson and Narry F. Santos, both teaching at Tyndale University, the book draws together mixed methods research and biblical, theological and practical approaches to multivocational work in which, “a congregational minister or missionary … also has other paid employment.” The hope, according to Watson, is that the volume “would contribute to further exploration, encourage further research and writing, and launch others into the multivocational adventure.”

Arranged into four sections, the first provides results from the Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project. Drawing conclusions from interviews with 40 Canadian leaders (24 men and 16 women), readers learn how these bi- (and sometimes tri-!) vocational pastors respond to questions about balancing jobs, time allocation and God’s calling. Subsequently, Wellness Project @ Wycliffe researchers Malcolm, Fisher and Prusazcyk compare online survey results provided by multivocational (MV) and univocational (UV) ministers. Surprisingly, the research revealed no significant differences in satisfaction and stress between MV and UV ministers. Those who freely chose MV ministry over UV ministry, as opposed to being required by a denomination or obligated for financial reasons, were “more likely to enjoy a sustained level of positive engagement with their work.”

In Part Two, Santos turns to the New Testament, pointing to the apostle Paul as a model for tentmaking. Relying on academic sources from bygone days, he lays a foundation for multivocationality. James Pedlar, a theology professor at Tyndale Seminary, builds a theology of multivocational ministry by referencing an early Methodist schoolteacher who fulfilled God’s call by using his gifts (charisms) as a preacher. Pedlar advocates for using a theological lens of vocational charisms or gifts, rather than employment, when talking about this subject. “The way pastors are compensated is not fundamental to our theology of ministry.” Pedlar posits, “Every way that my daily life contributes to human flourishing is a part of my sacred calling.”

Part Three addresses areas of concern that surfaced through research findings. To combat personal life stressors, Marilyn Draper and Mark Chapman, both seminary professors, suggest tentmaker homes can become places of refuge, hospitality and worship. In a separate chapter, Chapman highlights the need for sabbath as a way of counteracting mulitvocational leaders’ concerns about work-life boundaries. Furthermore, Jared Siebert, director of the Canadian missional organization New Leaf Network, asks, “How do we tend to the tentmakers?” He peels back the layers of opportunities and challenges for multivocational ministry at the personal/pastoral, local church, and denominational levels.

The book finishes with stories from four multivocational pastors. James Robertson describes shepherding two rural Baptist congregations while working as a full-time professor. New Leaf Network operations manager Amy Bratton compiles, writes and reflects upon Ashoor Yousif’s account of being a professor and pastor in an Arabic church with a strong team-based ministry. Michael Puddicombe teases out how multivocationality is built into his calling as a Salvation Army minister, while Cam Roxborough, national director of Forge Canada, muses about the pitfalls and benefits encountered from his almost 30-year run as a side-hustling pastor in Western Canada. These four different narratives thoughtfully highlight distinct and diverse expressions of multivocational work.

The editors have gifted Canadian readers with an assortment of writings, half of which are penned by Tyndale professors. For those new to this field, especially pastors and denominational leaders, Tentmakers is a helpful overview of key multivocational ministry themes. Set alongside Bivocational and Beyond, another book about multivocational ministry published in 2022 (by Darryl Stephens with Atla Open Press), what Tentmakers lacks in breadth and depth, it makes up for in personality. The writers clearly care about the subject of multivocational ministry; they also seem to love the church. As Siebert rightfully points out, “The Canadian church has much to learn from tentmakers.” This book provides the church that opportunity to learn. It may even inspire some members of the body of Christ to become tentmakers themselves.

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