Biblical Tentmaking: Introduction

“Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee” (Is. 60:9).

Several years ago in 2008, the world witnessed an invisible but significant milestone. In our mobile, ever-changing world, more people officially live in urban areas than rural areas. The 20th Century experienced a tenfold increase in the population of urban areas across the world, while the world’s mission force has stayed relatively static the past several decades at approximately 200,000 total missionaries. [1]


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George Muller On Work

The following except is quoted from George Muller’s Autobiography, March 8th, 1843. The most impactful point of this excerpt is Muller’s lifestyle. He did not take a salary from the church or orphan home he worked. He instead prayed daily for God to bring in the funds through donations. However, the point here is not salary but focus.

…When a believer is doing the work that God has called him to do, he may be confident of success in spite of obstacles. The first thing he has to ask himself is: Am I in a calling in which I can abide with God? If you cannot ask God’s blessing upon your occupation, or if you would be ashamed to be found in it when the Lord Jesus returns, or if it hinders your spiritual progress, then you must give it up and be engaged in something else. But this is only necessary in a few cases. Most occupations are not of such a nature that a believer would need to give them up in order to maintain a good conscience before God, although certain alterations may need to be made in the manner of conducting the business. The Lord will direct us in this if we wait upon Him and expect to hear His voice.

The next point to be settled is this: Why do I carry on this business, or why am I engaged in this trade or profession? In most instances the answer would be, “I am engaged in my earthly calling so that I may support myself and my family.” Here is the chief error that causes almost all the other errors by children of God concerning their calling. To be engaged in a business merely to obtain the necessities of life for ourselves and family is not scriptural. We should work because it is the Lord’s will concerning us. “Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Ephesians 4:28)

The Lord generally meets our needs through our jobs. But that is not the reason why we should work. If providing the necessities of life depended on our ability to work, we could never have freedom from anxiety. We would always have to say to ourselves, “What will I do when I am too old to work, or if I am sick?” But if we are engaged in our earthly calling because it is the will of the Lord for us, He is sure to provide for us because we labor in obedience to Him.

Why do I carry on this business? Why am I engaged in this trade or profession? These questions should first be settled in the fear of God and according to His revealed will. We will then answer honestly, “I carry on my business as a servant of Jesus Christ. He has commanded me to work, and therefore, I work.” Whether a believer chooses to become a missionary, a teacher, a carpenter, or a businessman, he will be blessed and find satisfaction in his career–as long as he works in joyful obedience to the Lord.

Commission for Missions

We would like to introduce everyone to an ingenious business idea that is meant to assist in raising funds for world missions and the business owners.

The website is

and it is a website that takes advantage of the affiliate relationships that are used by Amazon, Ebay and others to drive traffic to their websites.  The way it works is that each retail site (Amazon, Ebay, Sears, etc.) pay a commission of around 7% which is split between Commission for Missions and whatever Mission Organization you wish to support.  The 7% commission paid by the retailer does not impact the pricing of the merchandise and it is not added to the final total paid by the purchaser.  The commission is simply a finders fee paid to the website that brought the purchaser to the retailer.  Commissions for Missions is run by a missionary in Canada, and the purchaser has the opportunity to choose a mission organization to support by the drop down menu on the left.  Worldwide Tentmakers is one of the options but so are numerous good and trusted mission organizations.  Once you have chosen a ministry and click “Go”, you will be directed to a page that includes all of the retail stores available through the site.   Some of the sites available through Commissions for Missions, are Amazon, Ebay, Proflowers, Sears, Zazzle and others.

Please take a look at the website.  It is a great way to support Worldwide Tentmakersand other Mission Organizations.  Furthermore, it is a great idea!  Again, the website is

You Are Not The Typical American

As I sit down to try to articulate my thoughts, there is one prevailing behavior that I believe is the most detrimental to the success of an international assignment. There is no doubt in my mind that this behavior is the reason why I have a job today and why I have had “relative” success in working abroad. The behavior is arrogance, and we are predisposed to it as Americans.

Arrogance relates back to my title You are not the “Typical” American! Over the past three years, this statement has been said to me a countless number of times. The first few times someone said it to me, it took me off-guard. Later I learned a secret. I would laugh, then ask, “What do you mean by that statement?” No matter what culture I was in the answer was always the same: “You’re not arrogant,” “You listen,” “You’re not opinionated,” “You laugh at yourself,” etc.

This began an internal struggle for me that I battle even today. That is, I am opinionated, I can be pushy, I am a proud American, I am a Republi- can, I am a Christian! So what makes me differ- ent than other Americans working abroad? This article addresses many of the keys to success I have learned and/or have embraced as God given strengths to counter American arrogance in the international marketplace.

1.Check your citizenship at the border. One of the greatest reasons for the failure of expa- triates is that they forget that they are no longer in the United States. The most suc- cessful expatriates I have seen realize that they are temporary visitors to specific coun- tries and they try to embrace that culture. For instance, when I was in Amman I was invited by my host to a dinner at his country home. When we sat down for dinner, I noticed that there was only one plate; however, there were four of us having dinner. I was instructed to sit in the chair with the plate. When dinner was served, it came in a large bowl and was placed in the center of the table. I inquired as to why I was the only one with a plate, and I was told that most Americans did not like eating with their hands from a communal bowl. I politely asked that the plate be removed, and I enjoyed one of the most tasteful and most fun dinners of my life.

2. Realize and embrace the fact that Ameri- cans are not always loved around the world. No matter where you go, you should assume that the people you meet do not like Ameri- cans. You may find the opposite, and it is a pleasant surprise.

3. Master Geography and World History. More often than not Americans are inept in these subjects, but they are the building blocks for international work. When meeting new people from different cultures, you should be able to guess the region they come from and state the capital of the country that they tell you. From a history standpoint, it is good to understand the role the U.S. has had with that country. That information will often shed light on what type of reception you will face.

4. Remember that America does not corner the market on “best practices.” I absolutely cringe when I hear a new expatriate say “In America, we do…”. Any statement starting with “In America” should be barred from your vocabulary. That is not to say that American techniques, processes, etc. cannot be used; the key is how you deliver these tools to a differ- ent culture. My recommendation is that you

not make any recommendations for at least six months so that you can observe and see what works well and what doesn’t. Often, you will find that there are reasons for differ- ent practices or that the nationals do it better than we do in America.

5. If you are opinionated and cannot control your emotions, rethink what you are con- sidering! I am tested on a daily basis about my beliefs, political preferences, etc. You must be prepared for it and know how to handle it. As an American and as a Chris- tian, people will say off-handed remarks just to get a reaction from you. The best reaction, is no reaction. This is probably the hardest thing to reconcile in your mind, but when someone attacks your core beliefs you must learn to diffuse the situation by laughing and avoiding the topic. I have often found that people who “attack” your core beliefs early on will often listen to you in the future if you react appropriately. Remember, you must have “something in the bank” with an indi- vidual before you start defending core be- liefs.

6. Laugh at your Country, your President, and Yourself. As you work abroad, you will start to see why the U.S. doesn’t always have the best reputation. No matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, learn to laugh at our elected government while knowing we still have the greatest democracy in the world. Second, learn to laugh at yourself. I have always tried to put people at ease through humor and through laughing often at my own expense. This builds credibility with nationals and helps them understand where you are coming from.

7. Be Yourself. When I left for my first inter- national assignment, my boss pulled me aside and told me something that I will never forget. He told me that I was not being sent on the assignment because of my technical expertise, management competency, or great sales ability. He said that I was being sent because I worked well with other people. He cautioned me to remain true to myself and to not try to be someone I was not. That advice has served me well. Whenever I go to a new assignment I try to be myself, I try not to inconvenience anyone, and I ask a lot of questions.

As I write, I have tried to think back to where I learned these things. I have realized that is has been a process throughout my life. It began with my childhood, things I learned in college, advice from others, and personal experience. But I tend to go back to two primary sources; the first is my father. I learned so much from how my father dealt with other people and the true success he has realized in ministry. The second, but most important source, is Christ. If you study the life of Christ, you will see that He was all things to all men. Christ could work with Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Arabs, the rich, the poor, unbelievers, and seekers, and He was a true success. What I have found is that the principles that contributed to my father’s success are the same principles that Christ used during his time on earth. Although I can provide some limited insight from my experi- ence, the best advice comes from a thorough knowledge and practice of Scripture.

Philippians 2:2-4

“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

About the Author
Brad McCaleb is a graduate of Bob Jones University. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and has been working outside the U.S. for the last three years. His first international assignment was in Amman, Jordan; he then relocated his family to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he had sales responsibility for Africa and Europe. Most recently his family has relocated to a new assignment in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Biblical Tentmaking: The Importance of Place

“After This Paul left Athens and went to Corinth” (Acts 18:1).

In Acts 18, we have the introduction of Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila in the marketplace. Priscilla and Aquila were not on the outskirts of Corinth like the seller of purple in Philippi, but rather in the well-established market of the cosmopolitan and diverse city of Corinth. These marketplaces can be seen in the ruins of Corinth even today. These tight marketplaces were not exclusive to Corinth, but common across the commercial centers of the Mediterranean. Priscilla and Aquila had lately come from Rome after the Emperor Claudius expelled Jews out of the capital for following a man named Chrestus or Christ. [1] They set up shop in Corinth just as many other itinerant artisans.

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Biblical Tentmaking: Live Among Them

“For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” (II Th. 3:7-8).

In the ancient marketplaces of the Near East, the size of workshops varied as much as the location. However, the average workshop for artisans would have accommodated as many as a dozen workers. Paul ministered through the marketplace, and this is evidenced by the make-up of the congregation in the early churches. “Most Christians were artisans and merchants because most urban people in general were from these groups.” [1]

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Biblical Tentmaking: Use What You Have

“And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3).

For decades and even centuries, studies have been done on the life of the Apostle Paul. However, in most of these studies, his trade has been handled as a peripheral need because of his circumstances and lack of resources. Therefore, for many theologians and Bible teachers, his trade is not central to understanding Paul. However, as you will see in this study, we view his trade as integral to his identity. The fact that he was a tentmaker and a missionary actually penetrated to the depth of who he was and the efficacy of his ministry.Tentmaking was central to his ministry. Paul was a missionary, but his trade was not mutually exclusive or compartmentalized from his ministry. The two roles were intertwined, and he was a tentmaker with the intention of the “Great Commission.” Just as Paul did not wander into the marketplace, he did not simply “fall” into tentmaking desperate to pay for his needs.

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Biblical Tentmaking: Perceived Need

“Those two pioneers of civilization-Christianity and commerce-should ever be inseparable” (David Livingston).

In Acts 18, Paul enters Corinth from Athens and heads into the marketplace. As he entered the city, he must have felt a twinge of entrepreneurial excitement because he would have noticed a need—not just a spiritual need but a physical need.   The city was full of travelers.   Whether Roman soldiers, merchants, mobs following the games, or simple travelers, Paul must have been faced with a city of tents.  Corinth was populated with settlers in permanent houses but there was also a large transient population that would swell the city to large numbers.  Paul was in Corinth for 18 months which means that he would have been present during at least one of the Isthmian Games.  The Isthmian Games were held at nearby Isthmia, which was a city that existed only for the games.  Second only to the Olympic Games among the four great PanHellenic games, the Isthmian Games were held twice as often as the others—every two years.  Another festival, the Caesarean Games, was held concurrently with every other occurrence of the Isthmian Games at a harbor town near Corinth—every four years—so some years Corinth would have witnessed especially large crowds from both events.

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