LaiTent 06-7-113   


Business as Missions


Patrick Lai

Authentic Media, 2005, 417 pp.  ISBN 1-932805-53-2


Patrick Lai and his family have lived and worked in the 10/40 Window for 23 years.  This book does not describe setting up and running a business but it covers just about every other aspect of working in difficult areas.  It is thorough, broad ranging, and practical.  Nearly all of it applies to both tentmakers and regular missionaries.  He frequently reports what is effective based on dissertation research among more than 450 tentmakers and missionaries in the 10/40 Window (22). 


“This book is written to both ask and answer the questions faced daily by soldiers fighting the battle in the 10/40 Window.”  “This book is written for missionaries, tentmakers, and Christians who are focused on reaching the unreached.” (xi)


“In this book, the term business is used in the broadest sense, incorporating any profit-making enterprise, such as schools, travel agencies, clinics, stores, restaurants, consulting firms, import-export, computer businesses, etc.”  “This book is designed to be a manual of the key issues today’s tentmakers face.” (xii)


“We are beginning to grasp the importance of holistic believers who go about their ‘business’ while being agents of a much higher calling.” (2)


“Though tentmakers are missionaries, the scope of their assignment creates problems and stresses which are unique and different from those experienced by regular missionaries.” (3)


“Tentmaking is using daily-life strategies to tell people about Jesus.”  “The world revolves around the marketplace.” (4)


“Estimates vary widely concerning the number of tentmakers in the world, all the way from ten thousand to a hundred thousand.” (10)


“…it is important to evaluate one’s true motives for pursuing it.  We need to honestly ask ourselves, ‘Is this God’s leading or my own desire?’” 


“Tentmakers are missionaries.  We are called, prepared, sent out by a church, and held accountable, just as any other missionary.” (11)  “It is God’s plan to use the local church to confirm His guidance and ensure accountability in the life of each worker.” (15) 


“If God is not receiving the credit, then no ministry is taking place.” “We are to place God’s light on a stand, not under a bowl.  Tentmakers are intentional about their religious ministry.”  “Tentmakers are intentional about their life and work.” (16-17)


“As tentmakers, we need to train and retrain.”  “We need to practice and participate in both ministry and job situations before moving overseas.” “It is essential that tentmakers receive both adequate and appropriate training before going abroad.” (17)  “Tentmakers are both fully missionary and fully business people.  Thus, we must be trained in our job skill and again as regular missionaries.”  (18) 


“Tentmakers are workers who have entered another culture and are serving the Lord among a people group other than their own.” (19)


“Over 80 percent of unreached peoples, those people groups without a church, are living in countries that do not grant missionary visas.” (19)  “Tentmakers are best suited for serving where regular missionaries cannot.” (20)  


There are 320,000 Americans living in the 10/40 Window. (23)


Tentmaking is more difficult and requires more training than being a regular missionary. (52) 


“Americans are in too big of a hurry for fruit.  They forget that it takes…at least two or three years for trees to produce fruit.” (53)


“Our primary objective in going overseas is to glorify God through evangelism and planting churches.  Though we also have other objectives, they are secondary.” (60)


“The top ten qualities for effective tentmakers are: spiritually mature, socially adept, emotionally stable, persevering, evangelistic zeal, recruit others, language fluency, team player, clear objectives, accountable.” (64)


“Tentmaking is not for dreamers.  It is hard work.”  “The first step in becoming a tentmaker is to consider God’s leading in your life.”  “Discern your true motives….” (73)  “Research reveals there has been a shift in the thinking of young Christian workers away from following God’s calling towards fulfilling their own ambitions.” (74) “…there needs to be more teaching on commitment and sacrifice.” (75)


“The single greatest secret to effectiveness is the willingness of the workers to suffer, to endure, and to die.  This means death to: popularity, pride, racial and cultural prejudice, material comforts, selfish ambition, a biblically unbalanced home life, etc.” (75, quoting a M-background believer)


“The best way to solve this problem of credibility is to make certain we really perform the work our visas say we do.” (77)  “Building an acceptable identity with people is a strong grounding for doing tentmaking.”  “Working and identifying with the people serves as a good model for new believers.” (80)


Three qualifications before you embark: You are mature spiritually.  Someone more mature has confirmed tentmaking as a good path for you.  You do not need propos to support your spiritual life.  “Tentmakers need to be able to manage their spiritual diet.” (93-4)


Four crucial areas of advance preparation: church and spiritual life, preparation and training, work experience, witnessing. (95)  Discipleship of potential workers is being sadly neglected. (95) 


Potential workers need to be actively involved in ministering in their local church.  “The majority of effective tentmakers have received training in either missions, Bible school, or seminary.  A solid majority (78 percent) had training in missiology.”  “All workers, especially tentmakers going into business, should seriously consider investing the time to get some cross-cultural training before moving abroad.” (96)


“The most effective way workers can prepare to serve overseas is to invest one or more years ministering with international student.” (97)


“…not having a good marriage before setting out greatly increases the worker’s chances of being unproductive on the field.  …issues which were little problems at home become magnified once overseas.”  (98)


“Two non-ministry factors are ‘reading books on missions and missionaries’ and ‘exercising regularly.’” (98)


“Working a regular job provides experience and discipline that only the working world can teach.”  “What matters is that you learn to work and that you do your work well.” (99) 


“It is exigent that future tentmakers get practical experience doing evangelism before going overseas.  The more experience and the greater the number of evangelistic tools mastered, the better.” (99)  “Without a doubt, all applicants should be experienced in face-to-face evangelism and discipleship before going overseas.” (100)


“When it comes to missions and evangelism, students from a Bible school have been to boot camp.  Students from a secular university have been in battle.” (103)


“From a long-term worker’s perspective, there is only one reason why we are willing to accept short termers: laborers.  We need more long-term workers.” (104)

“Roughly one-third of the [200] short termers I have worked with have neither returned, nor become advocates, nor were of any help.  Thus, it is easy to understand how short-term programs may get a bad reputation.” 


Four categories of short termers:

·        Burners are usually people who come overseas for a holiday.

·        Servers are people who come overseas to help.

·        Learners are those who come overseas wanting to learn about God, missions, the world, different cultures, and themselves.

·        Discerners are people who know God is leading them into long-term mission work and seeking specific guidance for their lives.”  (105)


“…workers who have no full-time Christian work experience before going overseas are likely to be ineffective.   …take six months or more to serve full-time in a church at home.”  (107)


“A large majority of workers were commissioned as missionaries or tentmakers by their home church.  The church has a major role in sending tentmakers!” (107)


A great list of missiological issues for tentmaker training, adapted from Ted Yamamori, is provided on pp. 109-110)


“Tentmakers need to have a viable skill, trade, or service they can use to gain employment in their adopted country.”  (113)


“When considering what to bring overseas, less is best.” (116)


“Who people work with and work under is actually more important to their productivity and well-being than matching their gifting or skills.” (118)


“Our sole desire is to release God’s glory among those who do not know Jesus.” (123)


“My life must be lived so that it cannot be explained apart from Jesus.”  “A tentmaker’s life and work is simply allowing Jesus to live His purposes in and through us.” (124)  “The key is not the business or the location, but the people running it.” (124)


Areas of concern:  the language in which you minister, the culture which will be the context of your ministry, and your personal bonding with your team and the local people.” (124)  “Language fluency and cultural sensitivity are keys to becoming an insider with our adopted people.” (125)  “Language learning is 90 percent motivation and hard work and 10 percent intelligence.” (128)  “Learning a language takes time; learning a culture takes even longer.” (132)


“Contextualization is conveying the gospel message clearly into a new cultural context by becoming one with the people.” (133)  “In our witnessing and discipleship, we must continually be aware that the meanings of actions, values, or objects in our home culture may not have the same interpretation in our adopted culture.” (135)


“Our primary assignment is to love people into the Kingdom.”  “It is important that we make genuine friends.”  “It is important to discipline evangelism into our lives and relationships.  “The gospel must flow through us, in whatever we do.”(142-44)


“Ministry requires both our words and our actions.”  “Ministry should flow through our work”  “As we live the life, we cannot neglect to speak truth into people’s lives.” (145)


“God can work through our mistakes, but He cannot work through our doing nothing.” (147)


“Prayer is a major outreach tool.” (150)


“The ultimate objective of all mission work is to establish God’s church where it does not already exist (Romans 15:20).” (154)


“Churches that want to support nationals should channel funds through a mature and very trusted source who is on the ground and well connected to those who will ultimately receive the funds.  Do not send money directly to the worker.”  “Never fund without an accountability framework.” (162-63)


“As much as possible, the local group of believers must take responsibility for the church from the very beginning.”  “It is much harder to train leaders, for we must teach them to think for themselves, to disagree with us, and to stand for their own convictions.” (164)


“There are four foundations which must be a part of the life and work of every tentmaker: a consistent spiritual life, a team with similar objectives, submission to godly leadership and accountability to godly experienced leaders.” (169)


“There is no debate that of all our strategies, prayer is the most important.  …prayer is God’s strategy.” (169)  “The research shows that the strongest spiritual factor related to effectiveness is that ‘workers who regularly practice fasting as an important spiritual discipline’ are very effective.” (172)


Two important criteria for prospective team members: a calling and a teachable spirit. (175)  “Always choose character over competence.”  “People with good character can be trained to be competent….” (176)


Good list of team member qualities – p. 177-178

“Tentmakers need to find mentors who will hold them accountable to their ministry objectives.”  “Many organizations, like many churches, have poor systems of accountability.”  “Once you learn the teacher does not collect the homework, you stop doing the homework.” (192)


“Most tentmakers fail for one of three reasons: loss of focus, loss of balance, or they burn themselves out.”  “A mentor must be able, experienced, and tell it to us straight.” (193)


“Tentmakers are at the forefront of the greatest spiritual battle.”  “A solid sending church is needed for the tentmaker’s well-being.” (199)  “Some tentmaker negotiate a MOU or ministry agreement with their church.”


“The tentmaker’s lifestyle must reflect integrity, the character of his faith (incarnation) and the nuances of his environment (contextualization).  Our work style must project commitment to professionalism.  …if we cannot manage our time well, tentmaking is going to be very stressful.” (222)


“Ministry and outreach need to become a lifestyle, not just events.” (224)


“Thus, a tentmaker actually needs to be trained to cross three cultural barriers: the ethnic language barrier, the business and customs barrier, and the social and economic level barrier.”  “Tentmakers should be characterized by qualities such as flexibility and a sense of humor, which allow us to adapt to life in a different culture.  We should make a conscious effort to find beauty and value in unfamiliar situations.” (234)


“In my travels around the 10/40 Window, subjectively speaking, 70 percent of the nationals who are fully supported by foreign money to do a certain type of ministry are not doing what they are paid to do.” (242)  “To pay a pastor’s salary only requires ten employed members to tithe.  Any church having a sacrificial spirit should be able to support its own pastor.” (243)


“We must realize people are smart, and people talk.  We fool only ourselves if we think people do not perceive our real intentions for living among them.  We need to be who we say we are.” (250)


“Hence, when we speak of the rich we are not talking about ‘them’ but ‘us.’  Those we think of as rich today are really the super-rich, the mega-wealthy.” (252)


“The biggest obstacles tentmakers face are often the ones we have created in our own minds.  We are to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), not the barriers.” (258)


“Though women in the West may feel stereotyped and that there is a glass ceiling in business and other areas of life, in the Third World this is truly the case.  Women tentmakers can expect to fight to be heard and to work twice as hard for success as in the West.”  “Sacrifice and suffering will take on a new definition for women tentmakers.  They need to have listening ears and guidance for dealing with issues they never encountered before.” (269)


“Serving cross-culturally involves every family member, so it requires the whole family’s commitment.”  “A discontented wife or teenager is likely to shorten the career of any tentmaker (Proverbs 19:13).” “Couples should learn to function together, not just live together.” (271)


“Possibly the greatest priority for God in calling us to the mission field is the transformation He wishes to work in our lives.  When we first move overseas, we take along a lot of cultural and spiritual baggage.  Expect the Lord to do a major house cleaning in your life.  Be ready for it.  It is painful, but it is good for you.” (272)


“Each spouse needs to have a sense of significance and fulfillment.” “Though their roles may vary greatly, both spouses need to agree on the wife’s role.” (274-75)


“The list of ministry opportunities for women equals or even exceeds those of men.” (276)


“Twenty years ago there was much talk about living a simple lifestyle.  Today’s younger generation has little clue what that is.  As tentmakers, you must be prepared to do without many of the items you are used to.” (287)


“The most difficult decisions faced by tentmakers are not business or ministry related; they have to do with our children.” (293)


“Jake, a friend who was working in the Middle East, was just expelled from his country.  It seems a local co-worker typed his name into Google and discovered from a church’s website that Jake was there to do missionary work.” (336)  “Security is a huge issue for tentmakers.” (337)  “Home churches can be among the biggest security risks.” (342)  “The internet is easily the greatest threat to a tentmaker’s security.”  “Information flows freely on the internet.  Anyone can find out almost anything about another person.” (345)


Major reasons workers quit:

1.      Marriage problems

2.      Poor leadership

3.      Unrealistic expectations

4.      Lack of teamwork

5.      Sexual sins

6.      Inadequate funding

7.      Satan.  (362)


“In Christ, both the process and the result must bring glory to the Father.  Thus, the means do not justify the end.  The end result is embedded in the process and work of serving needs, which are both spiritual and practical.” (368)


“Integrity by definition includes wholeness and honesty.  If we have split personalities, we cannot live with integrity before the people we serve.”  “I am confident God mixes science, business, and His Word together just fine.”  (370)


“Tentmakers are God’s people who are determined to find ways to present the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world, peoples who are beyond the reach of regular missionary work.”  “Business as usual won’t do, and that is the point.  We need to attempt some mighty unusual business.” (380)




A. Short-Term Worker Questions

B. Church Planting Phases

C. M.O.U. (Memo of Understanding)

D. Questions to Ask Before Joining a Mission Organization or Team

E. Secular versus Sacred Terminology (Old and New Paradigms)



For another thorough book on being a missionary, see On Being a Missionary by Thomas Hale [dlm].

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