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- We see in Acts that Paul doesn’t have a particularly fixed model. Flexibility is key, and also knowing the season that you are in.
- There are four different funding models:
- Fund raising – this has lots of advantages. It can be detrimental in building relationships locally if you are seen to not ‘work’ but live an expensive lifestyle with schools etc.. through overseas funding. It builds a better foundation in the church when people are seen to be working.
- Self supporting – this is through working in a business. It can be very difficult unless you are able to release time to learn a language in the early stages. It can take a few years to learn a language.
- Tent making– it is very difficult to make a business start up successful in a different cultural context. It’s difficult in your home country! This is because the time focus is on sustaining the business, especially in expensive cities. Where it does work well, is where there is clarity on what the individual or company can do that the locality needs. For example there is a company that imports high end computers from the US. Identify what is your unique selling point? It is easy to end up feeling unproductive in the area they moved out to be involved in because of the time required to start up and run the business. You need to be aware of this and set realistic expectations.
- Remote working– this is very possible and viable in todays world. The disadvantages are that it require a lot of connections back in your home country, and key skills that are required. It does take you away from connections with local people, so you need to work hard on developing these.
- Over all you need to have clear calling from God, and be willing to try lots of things.
Lessons From Acts 18
- We see that Aquila & Priscilla were refugees exiled from Rome.
- It’s the first mention of Paul working. He starts a business with the refugees Aquila & Priscilla.
- Every sabbath – Paul is working during the week, and only at the sabbath is reasoning in the synagogue.
- Later when he’s received finance from Philippi he devotes himself fully to the preaching of the gospel.
- Paul was very adaptive and flexible to the situation he was in.
- Later on Aquila & Priscilla come to faith and are travelling with him.
What if your ‘tentmaking’ job demands most of your time and energy?
- You can be a real blessing to many through your work, and by being different from those around.
- Be realistic in your expectations as to what you are going to be able to give to the church from the outset.
Have there been times when the prophetic has been important in your tentmaking?
- The prophetic has shaped the decisions made in Mark’s business choices.
Are there particular character traits that you think are helpful when tentmaking?
- One that is not useful is self reliance and independence.
- This is often valued in the UK, but is detrimental in collective cultures where people want to help you succeed.
- Also look to have emotional and spiritual maturity, perseverance, a pioneering spirit, lead yourself and others.
Is there anything you would do differently if you were to start again?
- Mark would try to reduce the amount of time he worked during the first two years so that he’d have more time to spend learning language.
When you were working remotely, did your boss ever ask you about how the church planting was going?
- People asked more questions once people were aware of the move overseas to help plant a church.
Are there any books you would specifically recommend regarding work and church planting?
- ‘Tent Making – The Life and Work of Business as Missions’ by Patrick Lai. This is a survey of people working in the Islamic world and seeing what has been successful for people. It comments on how it’s not right to use a business as a front to get a visa, but then not actually really work.
A challenge to us all. Read 1 Cor 15. What if God said that nothing you do will be wasted?