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Why Did Paul Make Tents?

Why did Paul make tents by Ruth Siemens The question arises because many countries in our “post-post-colonial” age restrict the entry of missionaries, but welcome people with expertise they need, so many Christians are using their professions to make Jesus Christ known abroad—as Paul used his tentmaking craft in the first century. Exciting things are happening! English teachers are merging two house fellowships in a Muslim city where there was no believer six years ago! A linguist translated the Bible into the language of five million Muslims who never had it before—while he and his wife supported themselves teaching! An engineer has founded churches in Israel, where his firms provide manufacturing jobs for Jews and Arabs! A civil engineer and his wife do church planting in a Buddhist country, as he plans water resources and roads. Graduate study gave another couple a foothold in India. All use their vocations for missions because Paul once used his craft to make Jesus Christ known. I. Paul’s Ministry Model I have given this question about Paul much thought because in 1954 God called me to Peru and then to Brazil, as a fully self-supporting tentmaker. He gave me an exciting ministry in secular elementary and secondary schools, and in my free time helped me start university fellowships. Then I worked in Spain, Portugal and Austria, on donor support with the IFES, and then in the U.S. with IVCF. I was evangelizing, training students for lay ministry, and mobilizing many for tentmaking. God led me to start Global Opportunities, to provide job referral, counseling and training services. So I draw from my 21 years overseas, plus 20 years of international job research and feedback from tentmakers, and a sizeable collection of articles and books on this subject. But in this paper I will focus mainly on Paul in Scripture. Paul’s amazing pioneering strategy emerges when we carefully correlate his letters with Luke’s account in Acts. Little attention has been given to Paul’s tentmaking because the mission community is mainly interested in professionals for creative access to that 70% to 80% of the world which restricts the entry of missionaries. But Paul did not use his craft to get work visas, nor even primarily for financial support, which he said he could receive from churches. This adds importance to our question. Why did Paul support himself with his own manual labor when he did not have to do it? Can his model in the first century have value for us in the twenty-first? I am convinced we cannot finish world evangelization unless we adapt and implement Paul’s larger strategy to our post-modern world. We...


Aztem is able to offer training suited to individuals and small groups and mentor individuals. We also recommend wider training opportunities. Working your Way to the Nations (ed. J.Lewis, Intervarsity Press 1996), early study manual, best used with a mentor, online from Missions Interlink Australia, an umbrella network of mission agencies, runs Transition Training 10 day course and MIST Short-term Training, Global Opportunities, wide range of resources, runs Go Equipped! 4-day courses in locations worldwide each year, Kairos Course, educating and mobilising for world mission,...


For advice on particular topics contact Aztem. Also go to Resources for online sources. Neal Johnson, Business as mission—a comprehensive guide to theory and practice, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press 2009). Extensive and in depth, over 500 pages. Patrick Lai, Tent making – business as mission, (Waynesboro: Authentic Media 2005), the first in-depth study of this mission approach. Jim Chew, When You Cross Cultures – vital issues facing Christian Missions (Singapore: NavMedia 2009), highly recommended. Duane Elmer, Cross-cultural servanthood – Serving the world in Christ-like humility, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press 2006), focus on cross-cultural communication. Timothy Keller, Every good endeavor – connecting your work to God’s plan, (Hodder-Stoughton UK 2012), shows how excellence and integrity can impact...


Useful Weblinks The International Missionary Training Network – includes “Working Your Way to the Nations” course online Australian Marketplace Connections – faith in the Australian workplace