Tent Making Missionaries

Tent-making missionaries sounds like a good idea. The term refers to professional people, Christians in all sorts of careers who will travel to other countries and “infiltrate every structure of society!” According to Kritzinger and Saayman in On being witnesses the tent-makers are

• Secular salaried people, who find positions abroad, usually with the help of an agency, and who offer their services to the local mission or church.
• Self-employed missionaries who, like Aquilla and Priscilla in New Testament times, are able to maintain themselves, while working in the mission field.
• Students who travel abroad, usually post-graduate students who study overseas on a scholarship, using the opportunity to witness to their fellow students in a way older, professional, missionaries seem unable to do.
• People who use their retirement years to serve as missionaries abroad. Thousands of American Christians retire to countries abroad and, being financially independent, are able to render a special service. Their long experience and the respect they receive in societies where age is held in high esteem, make the contribution these senior Christians are able to give, invaluable.

I think this is wonderful. I believe that all of us no matter where we are should be sharing the gospel with as many people as we can. We should all infiltrate our society. We should be involved in local churches and making a major difference.

While I am very glad to hear of anyone that gets involved in society I do not in any way believe that they can take the place of the real, live, full time, church planting, leader training missionary.

The business man is required to be focused on his business. He comes home tired. He feels pressured to do a good job and should. He also must think of how being an outspoken proponent of the gospel might get him in trouble at work.

A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. It is pretty hard to be business focused and church planting focused. This is not to think badly of so many pastors that are bi-vocational but even they will admit that they are working two full time jobs and find it hard to juggle it all.

I challenge all of you that are in colleges thinking of finding the easy way to do missions to not get swallowed up in the “tent-making” philosophy. You will be a jack of all trades and master of none–especially the important one of training leaders and planting churches.

Deputation can be done and well. It is not broken no matter how many say so due to a laziness, unprepared, undisciplined approach. If you will raise the money you can do ministry. That is what you want. Your heart is right. The information about “tent-making” is at best misleading.

I will continue this discussion over the next few days. I welcome your questions and comments!

About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.

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