Symmetry appeals to me. I often stop and take notice when I see it in nature. Having things line up and correspond breathes life into my world. However, life would be boring if everything was symmetrical. When things don’t line up, life’s unexpected twists or turns add color and vibrancy to the world around us.
I think we try to find too much symmetry in the worlds of missions and business. We want everything to line up. Specifically, we want missionaries and businessmen to accomplish the same things. Yet they are two different worlds that can work together, but not always in the way we think. And this adds color and vibrancy to the church.
Missionaries and businessmen are not the same, but they need each other.
The Example of Aquila and Priscilla
I want to highlight a couple who was used of God through their business — Aquila and Priscilla. They were a dynamic couple that was booted out of Rome (Acts 18:2). They landed in Corinth and then provided a place for Paul to stay and work after his travels from Athens. Aquila and Priscilla quickly move from acquaintances to invaluable friends and co-laborers in the ministry with Paul.
Why did Aquila and Priscilla move from the status of acquaintance to lifelong friend of Paul? There are at least four reasons:
They were consummate encouragers. By the time Paul landed in Corinth, he had experienced a difficult and trying season of ministry in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul couldn’t escape his rowdy Jewish fan club who kept stirring up riots against him, so he stayed in Athens for a bit while he waited for his traveling companions Timothy and Barnabas.
After some mixed ministry results in Athens, he ended up in Corinth. Upon arrival, Paul found a couple who opened up their home to him. Not only did Aquila and Priscilla open up their home to Paul, they also provided for his needs — through work. Paul worked as a tentmaker out of need, and it was through this provision that God provided financial and relational encouragement.
They were hard workers. Aquila and Priscilla were able to give Paul a place to rest and work while providing relational capital for him. They were bridges into the community for Paul. It is through their reputation in the Corinthian community, among their business associates and neighbors, that Paul began ministering the gospel. Aquila and Priscilla provided a gospel-centric network for Paul.
They were faithful at their jobs and in their church. At the end of Corinthians Paul specifically mentions Aquila, Priscilla and their church (1 Cor 16:19). Their church enthusiastically prayed for and sent greetings back to the Corinthian church. The people in Corinth already knew Aquila and Priscilla, as faithful workers and as a fellow brother and sister-in-Christ, so this greeting added a personal touch to this letter from Paul. Paul’s ministry was enhanced due to the reputation of Aquila and Priscilla.
They were trusted companions and co-laborers. Paul calls them fellow workers (Rom 16:2). We know that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t go everywhere with Paul, nor did they minister in the exact same way as he did, but they faithfully proclaimed the gospel wherever they were — Rome, Corinth or Ephesus. They were believers who lived out the gospel in word and deed, to the point that they risked their very lives for Paul. Aquila and Priscilla gave Paul ample reason to give thanks to the Lord (Rom 16:4)!
Aquila, Priscilla and You
If you are being sent as a missionary, begin praying for an Aquila and Priscilla to receive and encourage you. Ministry is difficult and often lonely. Seek out brothers and sisters whom you can be more than acquaintances of, but those that might become lifelong friends, co-laborers in the work and your reason for giving thanks to the Lord.
Maybe you sense that you are an aspiring Aquila and Priscilla. Perhaps the most encouraging and refreshing thing you can do for a missionary is provide short-term work that provides financially and relationally for them. Here are some questions for you to consider as you seek to imitate Aquila and Priscilla:
- Who are you encouraging in the ministry?
- How are you helping bridge gospel-centric relationships into your community?
- Are you known as faithful to both your job and your church?
- In what ways are you faithfully proclaiming the gospel where you live and work?
Missionaries and businessmen are not the same, but they need each other. Similar to Paul and Aquila and Priscilla, they need the humility and ability to listen to one another, learn from one another and then, as opportunity presents itself, to work together. The symmetry between missions and business is rarely a perfect match, but when these two spheres work together, the kingdom picture is compelling.
We need more Aquilas and Priscillas. We need faithful believers who proclaim the gospel wherever they are and who are not afraid to be a breath of encouragement to missionaries.
Will you consider being an Aquila and Priscilla?
Greg Mathias is a regular contributor to our sister blog, The Center for Great Commission Studies.