tent making more

This series of articles has stirred up more and more controversy. People love to talk about it. Deputation is broken. The churches will not support missionaries any more. Both of which are not true, obviously!

These things have led to good young men and women looking for any way out of doing deputation, traveling to the churches and asking for support.

One friend wrote and said the following:

“It appears in the Bible those who addicted themselves to the ministry and were successful “tent makers” would find a way eventually to live of the Gospel. Today due to the lack of desire for full time service, being a successful “tent making discipler” is not a prerequisite to being a full time minister.

It is a shame we have to give the normal Christian life a title (“tent makers”) so that people will even want to do that.

We have to pay (missions support) a guy just to be a good Christian businessman.”

“Tent making” might be the route you take but it is not because deputation is broken. It is not because the churches do not want to support you. It might be that you have listened to the wrong people. You have been taken in. Being a missionary is a scary thing. Raising support is scary.

As a missionary your goal should be to be a church planting, leader trainer. It is very hard to do that if you are working 50 hours a week in a secular job. Actually raising support is fairly easy if you will simply get a little training in how to do it. Another friend wrote the following:

“i guarantee i could raise support to be a better husband and father lol”

Another person said that in the time he had been in his country working as an English teacher (2.5 years) that he did have lots of opportunities to witness. However at the date he wrote the letter only 1 of his students was still talking about the Bible. The reason he was teaching English was to get the visa to be in the country.

He said: “I myself have to be careful with this thought though because in the end the reason for wanting a work visa can be a lack of faith. It is a way for us to feel safe and comfortable. By the way, still haven’t got a work visa;) To be fair, many non-Americans do not have the benefits that we do and have to work so that they can stay in country. In this case, for them being part of a church-planting team is crucial.”

He also said the following:

“Two things that I’ve seen:
1. When the newness wears off you are left with a small group of colleagues that you continually work with. (As opposed to reaching many)
2. You are actually limiting yourself. This is what I mean. You either need to be all in to the tentmaking role or stay out. If you work part-time it is usually not enough to endear yourself to the staff. If you work full-time you have little time for ministry.

My thoughts are if someone thinks the way that you wrote about, then they need to be a part of a church-planting team knowing that their role is to feed contacts to the full-time church planters. If they come with the thought that they will work full-time and plant a church, they will be disappointed. ”

Another wrote the following:

“we have a friend that is one of the hardest working, most unusual men I have ever met in my life. I think there are some that can do things that all cannot do.

One woman just swam from Cuba to Florida in her 60’s without a lifejacket and without stopping. You probably should wear a life jacket =)

So that is to say that where one might pull it off, I might try the same thing and totally fail because I can’t focus on two things well.

I have been here for 7 years and have not seen a single tent-maker start a church that is still going today.

I believe tent making can be greatly used of God but typically the guy who is going to start a church and learn a language needs to be full time if he’s going to have success.

Another wrote:

“I’ve seen lots of people try to do it. they’ve learned the language, infiltrated, and have been very successful at that, but I have never seen any of them plant a church or even start a Bible study. I think the time and work it takes leaves them little to no family time as well.”

All of these notes come from letters between a team of very dedicated men and women that are trying to do the work. These are not “ivory tower” thinkers but real world workers.

I welcome your 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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