The Christian professional pursuing a tentmaking career benefits greatly from three Scriptural teachings. These are in addition to a clear understanding of the basic Christian gospel. By “tentmaking” I refer to a person with professional qualifications and/or workplace experience who accepts employment in another country for income and for opportunities to share the gospel with colleagues, neighbors, and new acquaintances.
What are these three teachings? First, an effective tentmaker must believe strongly in the sacredness of work. In the Scriptural account of creation God placed man in the Garden of Eden “to work it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Man’s diligent labor in any honorable occupation fulfills, in part, God’s purpose for men and women. Work well done brings pleasure to God, the Creator. Accordingly, the tentmaker should be seriously committed to a profession and the particular job he or she has taken. Should work requirements at times entail longer hours than expected, there should be no feelings of guilt about failing God. As a layperson, the tentmaker is called to do excellent work while seizing opportunities to explain the gospel to those who are willing to listen.
The tentmaker arranges occasions so that colleagues, clients, or neighbors may have the benefit of a dual witness to the Savior.
A second basic teaching is that God Himself is always at work throughout all of his creation. Ultimately it is he who has arranged the tentmaker’s work situation and the neighborhood in the host country. The people one meets are not there by chance. Furthermore, God is already at some stage of work in the inner life of these people. All have a God-given conscience no matter how distorted or clouded it might be. Jesus promised that God the Holy Spirit, “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment . . .” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit works to awaken the conscience to truth as the gospel is shared in bits and pieces over time or in comprehensive summary form. Often a tentmaker discovers that his or her own witness is either a sequel or a precursor to some other believer’s voice into that same person’s life, a sign of God’s sovereign work over time.
The tentmaker does well to embrace a third truth from Scripture while living and working among people largely ignorant of the gospel. The Scriptures establish that there is something special about two voices speaking the same truth. The Mosaic law states, “Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three . . . shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus himself in countering the arguments of the Pharisees said “it is written that the testimony of two people is true” (John 8:17). It was with this truth in mind that Jesus commissioned the twelve, and the seventy-two, to work in twos in bearing witness to the Kingdom of God. Paul the apostle invariably traveled with a colleague or two on his missionary journeys. So today’s tentmaker must ever be on the alert to somehow involve the voice of another believer in witness to another, be it a fellow tentmaker, one’s own spouse, or a willing local believer. The tentmaker arranges occasions so that colleagues, clients, or neighbors may have the benefit of a dual witness to the Savior.