Tent Making

Hard-working-man

For the clergyman who supports himself and his family with work ‘in the world.’ This is a holy calling.

Tent-makers are missions-motivated Christians who support themselves in secular work as they do evangelism on the job and in free time. They may be business entrepreneurs, salaried professionals, paid employees, expenses-paid voluntary workers, or Christians in professional exchange, funded research, internship or study abroad programs.

They can serve at little or no cost to the church.

The 21st Century is the beginning of the Mission Millennium, and tent-makers are needed. Christ is calling you! Will you welcome a chance to blaze a trail in new areas where the Gospel is needed? Where Orthodoxy has never even been heard of? Where good people yearn for the truth of the Church of Christ?

Unlike regular missionaries, who receive donor support channeled through a mission agency (i.e. the OCMC) or church. They are perceived as religious workers even if they use skills like nursing or teaching, because they work under the auspices of Christian institutions.

Tent-makers, on the other hand, can go almost anywhere: From an inner city outreach to rural missions across the continent. They can be far away, or the next county over.

In between these two equally excellent ministry models are hybrids–all of them valid as long as they are open and honest. Some tent-makers supplement a low salary with modest donor gifts, and some missionaries take part-time work in a secular institution like a school or university, for extra support or for contact with non-believers. Mission agencies second some of their personnel to enhance their organizational credibility.

God leads some Christians to alternate between tent-making and donor support at different times.

Probably less than one percent of missionaries are tent-makers. GGWB wants to move this percentage to over 50%. And we can begin right here in your home area.

Like St. Paul, the greatest missionary in history, Christ is calling you to spread His Gospel, and build up His Church.

Don’t sit back on your laurels. There’s real work to do, and Christ is calling you to do it.

sharing the gospel

Tentmakers’ main work is evangelism on the job.

This work is not isolated to clergy, but to any Christian in any job. Their secular positions (or study programs) are not an inconvenience that robs time from their main goal of evangelism, but are the necessary God-given contexts in which the evangelism takes place. Evangelism in a vacuum rarely produces much.

Low-key fishing evangelism is most appropriate in spiritually hostile environments. Christians use bait to fish out the seekers from among the indifferent or hostile people around them. They live out the Gospel in an attractive, godly, non-judgmental way. They demonstrate the joy of knowing God and hope even in suffering. They practice personal integrity, do quality work and develop caring relationships–all under unrelenting scrutiny. Because they are not perfect, they are quick to apologize and to admit that they are still learning to please God.

Their lifestyle constitutes bait. But without words exemplary lives confuse people. Their verbal witness is essential. In a context of friendly and caring relationships tent-makers tactfully insert appropriate comments about the Lord into secular conversations. They learn to drop tiny spiritual bombshells in a casual, natural way–as though everyone would agree. Their lives and words are bait which draws nibbles from spiritually hungry people. The seekers ask questions.

Fishing evangelism is not a structured activity but a natural way of relating to people. We find joy in explaining the gospel to people who ask, knowing we are not intruding on the seekers’ privacy nor interrupting them at an inconvenient time. It is the seekers who pace the initial conversations with their questions. Often we say too much too soon. Their questions show us what to say. They reveal their felt needs, hurts, hang-ups, obstacles to faith and which truths they lack or misunderstand.

Paul and Peter both explained evangelism as eliciting the right questions from seekers and being ready to answer them. Both apostles have the workplace in mind. (Col. 4:5,6, 1 Peter 3:14-16). When no one asks, it means that nothing in the Christian’s speech or conduct suggests that God is worth knowing. There is no bait. But a right kind of bait exists for every kind of fish–that which touches the seeker’s deepest longings.

Christians need never fear questions, not even difficult ones. They should evangelize as learners, not as authorities. They can say,

“Let me think about this until tomorrow, so I can give you a clear answer.”

Seekers’ questions also provide the opening to look at Scripture. The tent-maker can say,

“I’m still learning about my faith, but would you like to see what Jesus himself said about this subject?”

Then pull out a small Testament and do a five-minute study on an appropriate passage.

This approach is ideal for workplace or campus. When you see the same people daily, the first conversations about God must not close the door to subsequent conversations. The goal is to keep people asking for more as they are ready.

This approach is also ideal for spiritually hostile countries. Tent-makers fish out the seekers without arousing the hostility of others. Private conversations spill over into free time. These lead to evangelistic Bible studies that grow into discipleship Bible studies, and then into mission parishes.

It is ideal for church planting.