The Generic Tentmaker

Keep calm you did not failDictionary: “A person who is normal, who fits into mainstream”

Sometimes we are guilty of highlighting the superheroes of tentmaking, you know, the ones who start multiple churches, win dozens to Jesus, start disciple making movements, build God honoring companies that also disciple their employees and communities.

What about the average tentmaker? The one who does not dare to share their story because they firmly believe they don’t have a WOW story?
Reality is that most tentmakers are not hitting the ball out of the visual ballpark, indeed they may not even get up to bat.

What does that “average” or “generic” tentmaker look like?

For over 20 years, I have been interviewing returned tentmakers and heard of their victories & failures. This is what I have learned.

  • They have shared their faith (usually when asked) with a co-worker, neighbor or friend.
  • They have somehow gotten a Bible in the local language to a few people.
  • They have tried their best to live a Christ honoring lifestyle, especially at work where they spend most of their waking hours.
  • They have invited people to their homes, where faith discussions have taken place.
  • They have intentionally prayed for their host country friends.
  • They have not actually seen anyone become a follower of Jesus.
  • They have returned home with positive memories of life abroad in a new culture.
  • They consider themselves a failure since they did not see anyone become a believer.

Short story of a “failed” tentmaker.

The good doctor worked as a village health care worker for over 20 years in a very closed country. In all those years, she did not see a single person accept Jesus. On retirement, she returned home disappointed and discouraged.

She found herself on vacation on a small island in the Mediterranean. There she met a young man who had a ministry of mentoring over one hundred underground churches via radio broadcasts, to the country the doctor had worked in. The young man told her that she had given him a Bible when she was visiting his village 15 years earlier. He had become a secret believer at age 14. Now he was the defacto leader of the underground church in his homeland.

The doctor did not remember ever giving anyone a Bible since it was forbidden. The young man insisted it was her, as he had begged her for a Bible before she left his village.

Obedience not sacrifice.

I personally do not believe there is such a thing as a failed tentmaker simply because we do not know what has happened in the spiritual realm or what kinds of seeds have been sown.

Our job is to be obey the one who has sent us. We do the work, the results are in God’s hands.

By Ari Rocklin

One thought on “The Generic Tentmaker

  1. Seven years ago we returned from a three-stint as teachers in an international school in Beirut, Lebanon. We did not go as tentmakers, per se, but carried our tentmaking training with us. We knew we would be representing Jesus Christ by the way we would conduct ourselves. Little did we know that we ourselves would be transformed from within our hearts and minds—God pitched His Tent in us.

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