Our friends on the field paint a picture of tentmaking in real life whether they tell us of struggles, surviving or thriving. (Would you like our newsletter? ) Despite the pandemic, they offer their skills and their witnesses. Tentmaking covers a wide range of professions, locations and employment/support models. ‘Business as mission’ (BAM) has been given much attention over the past twenty years. But have you heard from a tentmaker at church or at a conference. They are only occasionally heard or seen. BAM typically involves a team, financial investment and the support of a mission agency. Tentmakers, on the other hand, are individuals and families seeking and finding an open door.
Glenn Deckert has reminded the Christian community of the tremendous potential of tentmaking. In Working Abroad with Purpose he remedies the lack of a up-to-date guide on tentmaking. It is highly practical, biblical and informed – a must–read resource for anyone concerned with overseas mission today. May we help you to get one and then pass it to your church missions team or pastor?
Aztem has, or has had people working across the full spectrum of employment possibilities – local NGO, global NGO’s particularly in health and development, jobs for early career workers, and leadership roles, own business, and managers in branches of global companies. We were reminded in a Missions Interlink webinar in 2020, that Business For Transformation is more helpful than ‘business as mission’ – this distinction might be helpful to those developing business in mission plans. Currently there are Aztem folk involved in businesses which make a profit, which they or a small team manage, and which fit the label of “Great Commission Companies”.
However, labels are not important. The lives and witness of Jesus followers can happen wherever and however, whether employee, whether in a secular business or in a Christian-owned business.
Personal decisions re BAM or the wider tentmaker spectrum, are best with good research, and advice from those with experience. A close friend said that if he had his 16+ years again, he would consider finding a tentmaker job rather than building his own business. A reminder, Deckert’s book is highly useful in both the tentmaker and BAM contexts.
People setting up business in another country for the sake of Jesus will undeniably need special skills and experience. It is clear that these may be acquired through the experience of living and working as a tentmaker prior to taking such a heavy responsibility. The same experience is sought by global businesses albeit secular. A friend with many years experience in his own business, was invited to manage the branch of an international company in the same city. There is no question that he has even broader opportunity now, as a leader in this business, to be a model and witness for the gospel.