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Avoiding the Tentmaker Trap

by D. Gibson
Forward by Patrick Johnstone
Published by WEC International

It's astonishing how many North Americans are taking jobs overseas. It has even touched my family, in that my younger, middle sister has gone to Qatar this year to teach at the university there, and possibly to write curriculum for that brand new institution of learning. Not until I re-read this book just recently, did I get my head arond the idea that so many are doing this.

For those who are familiar with the Bible, we all know the expression Tentmaker is loaded with meaning. Basically that someone goes to another country or culture and works or conducts business there, but uses that presence as an opportunity to tell others of Christ and to win them to faith in Him.

So our next thought might be, why don't all those people taking jobs over there, also become tentmakers, like Paul and Pricilla and Aquila of the New Testament? Perfect! Self-supporting missionaries. Saves us other poor Christians a lot of expense!

Hold it. Not so fast. There are some difficulties or traps such a person could fall into. This book takes a careful look at this style of doing missions, or even just witnessing as an individual Christian, wanting to serve the Lord.

Gibson takes the reader through a quick history of missions, then lays out two Biblical models for missions; Pauline tentmaking (named after Paul), and Pricillan tentmaking (named after Pricilla and Acquila, of course). Paul was an evangelist/preacher, who supported himself when necessary with tent-making. The married couple focused instead on setting up a home and business, and then witnessing one-on-one as they met people through their work. They did open up their home for most of these "new church meetings."

Gibson developes six foundational stones - ways of looking at these types of ministry. He points out their strengths and weaknesses. For the right people, with the right personalities, and the right advance preparations, this is a wonderful way to do missions!

It gets the laity more involved, it eases some financial pressures (but not always!), it models natural Christian living to the other culture - who may have no idea what Christians should behave like, and it IS a foot into countries where anyone openly preaching the gospel is rejected at the port.

I liked the way stories of examples, and of history, are woven together to make this point. Yes, tentmaker missions can work, but go prepared!

Another blessed help in this little book, is all the helpful resources in the Appendixes. There are self-surveys to find out if you should even be considering this option. There are long lists of places to check for job openings, how to prepare your resumes, identify your possible obstacles, and how to research your choice of mission, and country. Plus much more! Many books, even films and videos lists. You will be amazed.

Considering tentmaking? This is your manual! You will need it, else you might come home, burned out and bitter. You want to avoid things like that.

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Ruth Marlene Friesen

Ruth Marlene Friesen
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