Tentmakers are a reminder that there is not only one way to spread the Gospel. Tentmaker ministries across the world are constant reminders that the Gospel was not meant to be preached in one way for all of eternity, but rather that we can adapt to our circumstances, our cultures, our times, and readily be able to present the Gospel in a new way, through new people, in a new season of life.
Being a tentmaker can be a challenge to accept – one can imagine wrestling with a call to plant a business across the world from your home – but it can also be the most rewarding experience of a lifetime. It’s kind of like church planting, but… maybe not exactly.
When a tentmaker plants a business, they do so to radically transform a community for the Gospel. This comes through platforms or titles like B4T & BAM, but the heart is the same: to reach the lost for Jesus. While this may not look like a traditional church plant, it is one method that Great Commissioners across the world are using to greet, meet, and disciple people that are not familiar with the Gospel. This is following the Great Commission in a new way – a way that doesn’t always involve bringing someone to the local church – right away, that is.
I value the local church, I think it is an absolutely paramount structure for our world today, but it is not always the most ideal to get someone to come into church for their first encounter with the Gospel. Perhaps there are other ways to draw people in, ways like living in community with them, loving them intentionally, and showing up for them when they need it. This is what a tentmaker does. By living, serving, and working in community with locals in their area, a tentmaker is able to take part in growing their local community, and in so doing they are able to fulfill these Gospel-centric desires of loving, serving, and supporting those around them.
The Tentmaker: Loving Others
Being a tentmaker gives Christians a unique angle into the marketplace. Whether that is in the global West where it looks like connecting with people in the grocery store, in patient care, or in food service, it may look completely different in third-world countries or unreached nations. A tentmaker in another region of the world may face regular challenges of persecution, oppression, or even threats of death. While these are not things a tentmaker will typically have to experience in the West, all tentmakers are opening themselves to the world and all of its pain. This makes the tentmaker a target for the devil, but it also makes them a target through whom God wants to heal lost people.
Really, loving others can be as simple as smiling at them. And you don’t need to be a Christian tentmaker to smile! Yet, how much more so should we have that kind of responsibility than others?
I was recently at a fast-food restaurant and I was observing the employees working the registers and food service counters. I couldn’t help but notice how many of them did not smile at customers. I guess I was shocked – that seems like the most simple, and yet most powerful, thing you can do to minister to someone (or even to make an effort at work). This sense of loving power is an easy thing for Christians, yet many of us still don’t smile at work – or at other people in general.
Imagine… A world full of smiling Christians. What would that look like? Yikes, that might just bring people to Jesus!
The tentmaker may do more than just smile, but that is a huge part of their work: ministering the joy, hope, and fulfillment of the Lord in their everyday work. Perhaps that’s even you, wherever you are planted! You can be ministering this same love & healing wherever you are, whether you are a tentmaker or not.
I remember being liked by our regular customers when I worked at a Kwik Trip in Rochester, MN, back in 2015 & 2016. I think the biggest thing I did was smile and take an interest in peoples’ lives. They came to my line because they liked me, and they liked me because I had an interest in their stories. That was before I even knew the Lord, I just liked people.
If all Christians actually liked people… Phew, man. There we’d go, just living the Gospel again.
Sorry, I had to.
A tentmaker in any community has the unique angle & opportunity to show love, care, and tender ingenuity to their local denizens. This love is the dynamic that demonstrates the Gospel – showing up when people hurt, loving them through pain, and supporting them in their endeavors. That makes them valuable citizens, not just good Bible students.
Being a tentmaker is a challenging call that can involve business orientation, ministry, and character development, but it is also a challenge that produces depth of understanding, seed for the Gospel, and a harvest of souls for the Lord Jesus. The tentmaker ministers to communities and improves the quality of life for all those engaged with them. Whether it’s coffee or CrossFit, the Gospel goes forth through the tentmaker with the power of community.
Duty Calls, Tentmakers!
When it comes to redeeming the time, Christians have many opportunities to meet the needs of those around them. It can be simple things: donations to local charities, bringing food to the homeless, or supporting minority-owned businesses. Or, it can be bigger things, like becoming a Great Commission tentmaker and moving into a community to change the dynamic for the Gospel.
Being a tentmaker can fall into the small or major category, depending on how you want to flex that muscle. It can be making & selling handmade products, it can be opening a flower shop, or it can be selling lemonade on the street corner (maybe that’s more likely for your kiddos…). Or heck, get a food truck and sell elote! Maybe that’s just my imagination… Or hunger. But it’s possible!
No matter what kind of tentmaker you may be, or even if you are a part of a tentmaker ministry already, you have the potential to impact people for Jesus by showing them the love of Christ everyday. Your work matters, your role matters, and you are being used by the Lord to reach the hearts of lost people everyday. That is our call as Christians! And by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are engaged in warfare for these lost souls every day that we exist.
Remember, you can’t go wrong loving people, serving them, and meeting their needs. This is the core of being a tentmaker: looking to make an impact in the community by the power of the Spirit. Duty calls!
If you’re looking for more information on the value of your work, your role in God’s story, or your piqued interest in making a difference in your community through Gospel-centric service or work, check out Erik Cooper’s book, Missional Marketplace, now available on Amazon.
PS, I’m reading it, too. (And I’m not being paid to do it).