It is estimated conservatively that there are 10,000 Tent Makers in the world. No, not people actually building tents with poles and canvas but Christians whose primary purpose in a foreign culture where they live and serve is the Kingdom of God but whose public face is something else whether it be business, student, or NGO. This is all according to “Tent Making” by Patrick Lai, a Frontiers Tent Maker for 20 years.
These Tent Makers, as myself, are usually serving in this capacity because they are in Creative Access Nations. I have been shocked but some of Patricks findings as he studied 450 of these 10,000 estimated workers in the world. It was interesting to be reminded that Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Samuel Zwimmer were all Tent Makers.
The most shocking thing about these Tent Makers, that I now find myself part of, is that they have planted 157 church in the past 10 years. Not the 450 he studied but all 10,000+. (As of 2005, date of publication). That is an average of one church per 70 Tent Making missionaries!
Lai reports that 80% of these Tent Makers are supported at least 50% by churches and individuals. Now, I am not wanting to judge these courageous servants of Jesus as I am sure many of them are. But we do need to take an honest look at what WE (I can say that now that I am a Tent Maker though never planned to be) are actually accomplishing. Does it really take an average of 70 missionaries (56 of which are support by churches to minister) to plant one church?!
Now, I understand the supportive role of many Tent Makers and I am for it. There is definitely a need for Tent Makers who support others but only as long as those they are supporting are planting churches. I believe it take 56 church supported missionaries to plant one church because that is not the primary purpose of the Tent Makers. Maybe that is too obvious to even need to be stated.
If the church of Jesus Christ is what he loved and died for, and it’s the only thing that will last once we retire or get kicked out of our respective countries, shouldn’t we be making actually plans for church planting and then sticking our necks out to make it happen? Shouldn’t we leave for the field saying, “Church plant or bust!”?
More to come from “Tent Making”.