Our family comes from a line of Christians working abroad! I was talking with my mother the other day and she commented on how different things are now from when they lived overseas.
Actually, the main difference is that they worked in a very open country as traditional “m-workers” and we are living in a closed country as Christian business people. I asked myself, “Has missions changed?” My quick response was “Of course!” However…
In reality, “missions” has not changed…the church still has the same mandate to go into the entire world and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yet something is different…the places that are left to be reached are not receptive of the gospel or traditional “m-workers” who bring this good news.
Because of this, the need for “tentmakers” has taken the front stage. Although our “tentmaking” business allows us to enter our country of residence, more than that, it gives us an identity, thrusts us into relationships, and gives us boldness to proclaim.
Opening the Door
Whether we like it or not, many countries and peoples have slammed the door in the face of Christianity. In some cases, the door is just closed, while others seemed to be bolted from the inside. So what is the key to opening these doors?
Traditional “m-workers” do not hold the key; actually in some cases they cause the door to be locked more tightly. Every nation around the world is looking to develop their country, especially their economies. Heads of state are calling for investment and development. What an opportunity we have to rise to this call, an open door, to work investing our lives through business or employment in these countries.
“Tentmaking” is the key that will open these closed doors for the light of Jesus.
Who are you?
Anyone working in the Arab world has experienced those piercing questions like “Why did you leave the land of opportunity to come to my country?” If you were like me, I didn’t really know what I was doing or even going to do. I had some ideas but my identity was pretty shaky.
I was looking for whatever could get me my residency. Over the past 10 years, my thinking had changed to focus more on my identity and less on the visa. Identity is crucial to establishing a long term ministry in a closed country. As a BAM person, you have the opportunity to establish a valid identity in the community.
With a lot of prayer, strategic thinking, some hard work, and planning, you can develop a strong professional identity that will build trust in the community.
Relationships are vital
“How can they know unless someone tells them”…how can you tell them if you never interact with them? The power of presence! We all know it is important to be in the community in order to have opportunities to share.
I strongly believe that each of our business ventures should thrust us into local relationships. Whether it is a colleague, an employee, a business associate, or client, each relationship opens the door to a family and opportunities to be the light of Christ.
We need to be intentional about developing these relationships and spending time on and off of the job. One thing we require for any new business startup is a VSP (Vision & Strategy Paper) which outlines how the new business will create opportunities to proclaim.
How bold can I be?
A few years back I was talking with a friend that owns an adventure sports company. He shared with me that as their business grew more viable, his boldness increased. He said that as he became more confident is his business identity, it allowed him to be more confident in his sharing. His friends did not think of him as someone sent to convert them, but as true Christian friend living among them sharing his very life.
I totally agree with his point of view….boldness increases as identity solidifies.