Tentmaking or Marketplace Missions:
2 Paths – Profession as Mission (PAM) and Business as Mission (BAM)
Tentmakers, whether businesspeople or professionals, go as everyday, workplace Christians working for a living in order to bring Christ to peoples who do not know him. They integrate work and witness. They demonstrate the gospel in everyday life and communicate Jesus through natural contacts in the workplace and in the larger community. Through hospitality, they gather those who respond into study groups to investigate Jesus in the original record. In time, as God works, these grow into discipleship groups and then into simple churches.
Tentmaking includes both running a business, Business as Mission (BAM), and working for someone else, Profession as Mission (PAM, “profession” used very broadly including study abroad as a university student). Either of these done for the purpose of reaching another people group with the good news of Christ is tentmaking. Since most people are fitted by God to work for others, the vast majority do PAM. Both options provide major advantages to ministry. And BAM provides some powerful advantages on top of the core benefits of tentmaking.
Blessings to Nations
Both PAM and BAM tentmakers bless nations by bringing needed skills and expertise. Both bring quality work and genuine care for people. Tentmakers contribute positively to the welfare of nations through their servanthood in work and in other relationships. Tentmakers have brought emergency medicine, agricultural development, technological advancement, energy development, educational advancement in multiple disciplines, enhancement of national constitutions, and businesses which provide jobs, training, and export products. With these contributions, they have brought patterns of thinking, problem-solving, working, and treating people which raise morale, increase productivity, develop integrity and trust, and help people in other ways. They bring multiple blessings to the people through their Christ-honoring work.
Core Benefits of All Tentmaking
- It offers legitimate access to authoritarian nations in today’s world.
Yet New Testament tentmaking had nothing to do with access, but with other powerful, intrinsic benefits.
- It provides a much larger pool of workers at little or no cost. It opens missions to any Christian.
- It raises discipleship by calling everyday Christians to full engagement in Christ’s mission and to full obedience in all of life.
- Tentmaking validates the gospel through unpaid witnesses and demonstrates that it works in everyday life—an indispensable compliment to full-time missionaries.
- It shows the power of the gospel in the face of Western culture’s view of God as irrelevant and unnecessary. No tweaking of professional ministry can ever solve this because the question is whether the gospel is relevant to everyday life. Only everyday Christians can prove this.
- It sets a pattern of everyday Christians giving serious leadership alongside full-time leaders, making it normal for lay Christians to provide comparable leadership to full-time leaders.
- The tentmaking model removes the hurdle of support-raising for indigenous workers and gives the church wings to grow rapidly. This provides a great remedy to paternalism-dependency.
Added Benefits of BAM
- Done well, BAM provides quality products and services, jobs for others, and a better workplace.
- By providing such blessing to the people, BAM often enables businesspeople to stay indefinitely rather than having to find another job or leave.
- BAM allows more freedom for sharing the gospel, offering Bible studies, etc.
- BAM provides multiple networks for the gospel to spread—workers, customers, suppliers, government officials, etc.
- BAM affords greater freedom to establish godly work ethics and worldview patterns.
- When built consciously on a Biblical worldview, BAM leads people to become more honest, productive, creative, caring, etc. Over time, this changes and uplifts the larger culture.
BAM certainly offers some advantages over PAM, but both are indispensable. All professions are needed in order to penetrate all sectors of society and only BAM and PAM together provide opportunities for all Christians to go. Also, certain professions like education have special power to impact the culture for good because of their unique role and influence. However, BAM does offer unusual potential to bless multiple networks and ultimately, the nation.
Together, PAM and BAM offer tremendous potential to the kingdom. In the New Testament, it was the primary model of church life and leadership. It made all Christians carriers of the gospel by life and word. This is why the gospel spread so rapidly. David Wright, Emeritus Professor of Patristic & Reformed Christianity at New College, University of Edinburgh, says,
Christianity traveled through business-men, soldiers, students, teachers, refugees, pilgrims, doctors, lawyers, prisoners, slaves and hostages, Christian lay people of all kinds: bearers of the Christian message as they traveled. So largely, expansion was not the work of pastors, but of Christian men and women in their ordinary routines of life. (condensed)
Rodney Stark affirms a similar conclusion in Cities of God. He shows that rank-and-file believers who traveled for various reasons caused the huge expansion of Christianity through person-to-person conversion by their example and witness. So re-building a tentmaking into the church offers great promise.