Despite suffering and chaos, spiritual revival spread among young people across China during WWII and the Civil War that followed. Brave bands of evangelists felt called to reach the poverty-stricken Northwest. Without knowledge of each other, they went out from Shanghai, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong and Shaanxi.
China’s Back To Jerusalem (BTJ) missionaries in the 1940s were tentmakers by necessity, unaware perhaps of the legacy of tentmakers before them.
“You go to church because the foreigners pay you!”
“You’re a pastor because you receive money from America!”
These are common accusations from Muslims against Christian converts and pastors in Central Asia.
In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) plan to connect Asia and Europe with a 21st Century Silk Road by land and sea (One Road) to create an expansive Silk Road Economic Belt (One Belt) involving 65 countries and 4.4 billion people. Instead of inviting foreign investment into China, she now seeks to influence global trade by investing outwards.
Every day we read disturbing headlines from around the world: radical factions escalating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from both sides; IS jihadists massacring Christians in Iraq; Islamic terrorists kidnapping school girls in Nigeria; militant Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Myanmar; the government taking down crosses from church buildings in China … and the list goes on.
Recently, the Chinese government is further tightening its control around the country. As churches prepare for the challenges ahead, it is important for us to know how the leaders see their needs, irrespective of the political pendulum swing that occurs from time to time.
So you have heard the opportunity and challenge of tentmaking missions. You realize that God may be calling you. You know it is time to take action or at least to seriously explore. But where do you begin?
Is tentmaking missions just about being a self-supporting missionary like Paul, who financed his pioneering work at Corinth through his trade? Is it just about having a work visa so you can stay and serve in a certain country?
Even though traditional missionaries cannot go into most of the 10/40 Window countries where the gospel is most needed today, tentmakers can.
At the 2010 Lausanne III, Tim Keller of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church made a case that if Christians want to reach the world, they must reach the cities. Christianity won the 1st century Greco-Roman world because it won the cities. Today, half the world’s population is urban.
Since the Arab Spring more than two years ago, the Muslim world continues to make headlines—civil war in Syria, violence and bloodshed in Egypt, continued unrest in Tunisia and Libya, unrelenting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan even as the U.S. and her allies struggle to pull out. Large populations of displaced refugees now threaten the stability of neighboring countries. As age-old sectarian and tribal hatreds rage across the region, one CNN journalist sadly concluded that there seems little that outsiders can do but wait for the volcano to finish erupting.
On Feb 15, the video titled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nations of the Cross” went viral. 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers from Egypt were led like sheep along the Mediterranean coast of Libya by masked terrorists. They lined them up along the beach, forced them on their knees, and beheaded them. This was supposedly IS’ revenge for the alleged kidnap and torture by the Coptic Church of two Egyptian Christian women who had converted to Islam, a claim denied by those involved in the story.
For over a year, many are speculating on what Beijing would do with China’s Christian movement as the Zhejiang provincial government continues to take down crosses from church buildings—over a thousand by now, and counting. There are also reports of increased suppression of church activities in other provinces. Is this part of a systematic ideological tightening across the country that may step up in the days ahead?
GLS strives to realize its vision for missions mobilization in partnership with churches: For every tentmaker we send out in partnership with a church, we hope to work with the candidate and his church to raise up several others to take his place locally.
September 11, Japan announced plans to “nationalize” three islands that are part of the Diaoyu-Senkaku territorial dispute with China since 1971. This came one week before the 81st anniversary of Japan’s occupation of N.E. China in 1931, which was the first step to full-scale invasion of the country as part of WWII in Asia. In terms of cultural trauma for a nation, 9-18 to the Chinese is what 9-11 is to Americans.
It has been said that the graying of America is a God-ordained phenomenon unique in the history of the world and of the church. Never before has any country had so many retirees who are Christian and suited to invest their best years to make strategic and meaningful contributions to God’s kingdom around the world, especially in tentmaking missions. The same is true for Canada where social benefits are excellent and the Canadian dollar is getting stronger all the time.
In the old days, “going overseas to save the lost” might simply mean putting our careers “on the altar” and going to seminary to study the Bible so we could preach to the heathens.
If career is an integral part of a tentmaker’s life and witness, and not just a “passport” to get to the field or a “platform” for ministry, then getting the right job is important. But what constitutes the right job? How do you find that job overseas?
The current global economic malaise has made it more challenging for donor-dependent missionaries and job-dependent tentmakers to stay on the field. While there is a place for short-termers, the work of missions to impact lives and transform culture requires long-term investment. There is no short cut to building relationships and gaining influence. So it is important to consider what it would take for workers to serve on the field beyond a few short years.