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Tentmakers Speak

Introduction and Comments:

In this book, Don Hamilton discussed and talked about many tentmaker missionaries and their dedication, ministry experience, and relationship to the Lord. He said that this book is an outgrowth of a study on tentmakers he conducted in 1985 and 1986, because he worked with Tentmakers International.  He said with the help of several experts in the areas of tentmaking and psychological and statistical analysis, he designed a questionnaire to measure factors that contribute to tentmakers’ effectiveness as witness for Christ.

The purpose of this book is practical. It is to help people interested in becoming tentmakers, first of all to understand what is involved in successful tentmaking; and second, to motivate them to do what is necessary to adequately prepare themselves for a successful ministry. He said, it’s exciting to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing in the world today, and certainly tentmaking is one of God’s strategies today. I think first of all, many people ask; what is a Tentmaker? The concept it so well-known, it hardly seems to require explanation. In Acts 18:3, we read that Paul made tents for a living while he preached the gospel. In recent years, as a salute to Paul, the word “tentmaker” has been used to describe anyone who, like Paul, works at a secular job in order to support his or her Christian witness. He mentioned that “You don’t have to be an evangelist, and you certainly don’t have to live overseas.” “As long as you are living for Christ, you are a witness, and if you are earning your own living rather than being supported, then you are a tentmaker.”

He said, as used in this book, the term “tentmaker” refers to a Christian who works in a cross-cultural situation, is recognized by members of the host culture as something other that a “religious professional,” and yet, in terms of his or her commitment, calling, motivation, and training, is “missionary” in every way.  Tentmakers are people who cross cultural barriers. They may be found in their home countries or “overseas,” but wherever they may be geographically, in terms of culture they are far from home. Tentmakers are not evangelical Christians who happened to live overseas. Preaching the Gospel is not their “sideline.” Tentmakers have a missionary purpose, motivation, and training. They are missionaries. Successful tentmakers don’t go as tentmakers in order to avoid raising support, or to escape having to spend the time and money necessary to become thoroughly trained in the scriptures. Their motive for crossing cultural barriers is not to gain additional financial rewards, to advance their careers, or because it sounds dangerous, challenging, exciting, or romantic. Tentmakers become tentmakers because God has called them to use that strategy for lighting a darkened corner (Phil. 2:15). Successful tentmakers realize their jobs are not “necessary evils” that get in the way of ministry. Rather, they are means to an end, strategic resources to be used for accomplishing God’s purposes—purposes that might not otherwise be fulfilled.

William Carey, the father of the modern protestant mission movement, wa a tentmaker par excellence. A shoemaker, a naturalist, a professor of oriental languages, and, for a time, a government translator, he managed an indigo factory and was one of the most respected botanists and horticulturists in all of Asia. In 1821 he founded the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India. One of the earliest and most fruitful Protestant mission movements was launched by the Moravians of the 17th century. All of their missionaries supported themselves through secular occupations. Robert Morrison was an interpreter for the East India Company in China. Johannes Emde was a watchmaker in Indonesia. Gladys Aylward was a hotelier.

Dr. Ronnie Holland, a missionary in Quetta, Pakistan, is reported to have said, “Would to God there were tentmakers here! If nationals see holiness in me, they think I’m a paid religionist like their Muslim leaders. But to see faith and hear the Gospel from an agricultural extension worker on a tractor has greater impact.” Half the world’s population lives in countries that are officially “off-limits” to those with “Missionary” stamped on their passports. Tentmaker missionaries, however, legally and ethically enter these countries with other purposes than evangelization, church-planting, or Bible translation shown on their passports. Church supported missionaries generally have had a difficult time reaching out to the business, professional, governmental, and scholarly segments of society.

Lastly, many of successful tentmakers testified that their times overseas not only made an impact in the lives of the people around them, but also in their own lives. If you want to be successful, tentmaking will always be costly in terms of commitment. Successful tentmakers are not only committed to spend the time necessary to prepare themselves for ministry before they go, but they are willing to work, watch, wait, and pray for the development of relationships once they get to their destination. Their success comes through a testimony borne in the midst of long-term relationships and shared experiences. “Tentmaking is not for those who are looking for a short-cut to the mission field,” said Dick. “I am convinced that having an effective ministry as a tentmaker is considerably more difficult than being effective as a professional missionary.” If you are going to be successful, you would better have an unwavering belief that God is the one who sent you—not a mission organization, job, or anything else.”


             In this book, Don Hamilton shows me that how we can do the God’s mission like Paul, even Paul was a tentmaker; he wanted to be an example of how a Christian lives in this world. HE wanted to earn the right to be heard based on his lifestyle, the careful building of relationships, being where the people were, working side by side with them. And I think Paul is really a good example of us to run the mission of God among the people. I also encouraged and blessed through this book, because this book is full of testimonies of many part time and full time missionaries, like pastors and professionals. I realize that even they had difficulties and problems but one think they had similar, they are full of passion to do the God’s mission. I have the same experience in my life, while studying and living in Korea and doing ministry. I earned for living to doing mission bible and some English teachings in different places.


Tentmakers Speak by Don Hamilton, 1987—Published by Regal Books, California, USA.

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