The tentmaker’s mandate is securely rooted in Scripture. It starts with the very nature of God Himself and ends with a specific calling.
1. God’s Nature and Kingdom.
Genesis 1-11 records the pain in the Creator’s heart when what he made so good was so spoiled. But our God is a missionary God who loves His creation and cannot abandon it. He comes to fallen, rebellious man asking “Where are you?” In his call of Abraham and then Israel, His ultimate purpose was salvation for the nations (Gal 3:8,9, Is 49:5,6), a purpose finally realised as the Gospel is taken to the Gentiles by faithful followers activated by His own missionary concern.
2. Human Need.
Romans 2:1-12, 10:12-15, 15:17-20
People who are cut off from God are lost in the deepest and profoundest sense. But God reaches out to them by grace through Christ to save them. The tentmaker, sharing God’s compassion, carries the world upon his heart and is prepared to be involved, at whatever cost, in establishing the Kingdom in human life and society. Paul’s passion – to preach the Gospel where Christ has not been named – burns on the tentmaker’s heart. When he sees specific groups of people partly or fully closed to traditional missionary approaches (65% of the world’s population), he seeks to respond creatively to the challenge, “How?”
3. Christ’s Lordship and Our Priesthood
1 Peter 2:9-12
All believers, not just a select few, are priests, belonging to God, living under His rule and declaring His praises a pagan world by life and by word. Any value distinction between sacred and secular is false. Every believer is equipped by the Spirit for ministry. Based on this understanding, the tentmaker goes where God sends him to testify through all of life’s experiences.
4. Paul’s Missionary Example.
1 Cor. 9:12-19
Paul often opted for the tentmaker model throughout his missionary career. By being self-supporting, he would not be a burden on the believers and would also avoid compromising the gospel, God’s free gift, by expecting financial assistance from converts. His preaching and his working were part and parcel of his gospel presentation.
5. Biblical World View of Work.
Genesis 1:27-30, 2:15
Work is not a necessary evil, nor is it merely a means by which to make money to fund “real” ministry. Neither should it be valued only as an opportunity for evangelism with no intrinsic spiritual significance. Work was God’s gift to man at creation, good and perfect before it was debased by the Fall. It is valuable in itself. Through it, God intends his people to find satisfaction and fulfilment. More than just being a way to earn a living, work also benefits the community. Of even greater significance, when done “for the Lord” it becomes an act of worship, honouring to God. The tentmaker therefore recognises the God ordained context of the workplace.
6. Clear Call from God.
Galatians 2:7-9, Romans 15:17-20, Acts 13:1-4
The personal focus of a specific call comes individually as well as corporately through the Body of Christ. By his special gift-mix, the tentmaker is uniquely fitted by the Spirit for cross-cultural ministry in particular situations, and shares with the missionary the same goals of discipling and church planting.