Tentmakers Target the Zero List
Special Report: Adventist Frontier Missions (AFM)
Jesus wept over Jerusalem, but what about Mecca? And how might He feel about Pyongyang, North Korea and the other 39 cities on our globe with populations of 1 million or more that have no Seventh-day Adventist presence? These cities comprise the Zero List, a mission goal compiled by the General Conference Missions Department.
Consider the utter tragedy of life in Hengyang, China, a city of 7 million, with not a single Adventist disciple of Christ in residence. What would it take for that city to be removed from the Zero List? One Adventist individual or family to move there.
Last year, my family settled in a Zero List city in Turkey. This year, that city is no longer on the list! By God’s Spirit, we baptized one woman, found another Adventist at a university, and brought a young man to an appreciation of the three angels’ messages. He is now teaching other people. As a result of our four months in that urban area, a small Adventist group now meets, and there is one less city on the Zero List.
The challenge we face is that most Zero List countries refuse visas to people who state their vocation as “missionary.” However, almost anyone can get a visa to work as an English teacher, engineer or scientist. Doors that are closed for missionaries swing wide open for skilled, educated professionals who are willing to share their occupational talents (as they carry the Gospel). This approach to missions is called “tentmaking,” after the Apostle Paul’s method of supporting his itinerant missionary ministry with his very practical tent making skill.
My wife and I now believe that tentmaking is such a promising direction for mission expansion that we are spearheading a new AFM ministry to train tentmakers for the most neglected places on earth. In a real sense, our mission is to eliminate the Zero List.
In the coming months, I will recruit, train and coach individuals and families who are willing to commit their secular careers to a Zero List city for the glory of God. Their salaries will come from their employment at secular companies. These will be unusual jobs for people willing to live unusual lives. They can never call themselves missionaries, but they will speak often of their love for Jesus. In lands where there is no tolerance for overt church work, AFM volunteers will turn their homes into secret churches. Their lives will bring the aroma of Christ into places where the Gospel fragrance has never been smelled before.
In 1960, then-Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave a speech on the steps of the University of Michigan Union in which he said, “How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! . . . But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”
Less than a year later, newly elected President Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Kennedy’s call rings in tandem with the heart of AFM’s new tentmaker initiative: professionals doing real jobs, commiting to sacrificial service, and bringing the freedom of eternal salvation to those who don’t know they need a Savior..
A few months ago, AFM President Conrad Vine visited three Adventist tentmakers working in the war-torn Middle East who:
1) Live within 100 miles of ISIS battle lines.
2) On their own have found professional work with secular corporations.
3) Do not receive remuneration from the Church or donors.
4) Labor daily during their off-work hours to plant the message of Jesus’ peace in the hearts of local people.
I believe many Seventh-day Adventists are looking for a new depth of meaning in their lives and the satisfaction of using their God-given expertise to create something of eternal value. The AFM tentmaker initiative seeks to empower engineers, teachers, computer specialists and myriad other professionals—any man or woman who feels called of God—to serve in urban frontier mission work.
AFM’s tentmaker program demolishes several barriers to service:
1) Long service cycles: Instead of the traditional five- to ten-year terms of service, tentmakers will go for one to three years. Because they typically work with educated nationals who speak English, shorter service bears fruit.
2) Limited missionary-sending budgets: Instead of drawing church salaries, tentmakers earn their own support on site.
3) Fundraising time and effort: Tentmakers can launch within weeks of landing a job overseas.
4) Limited Church Division, Union, or Conference support: While local church leadership may lack manpower and funds to target new areas, tentmakers are free to go wherever God provides them employment.
The AFM tentmaker program aims to draw on the diverse group of professionals that have been educated in Adventist schools around the world—an immense, untapped pool of talented individuals on fire with mission passion. While it’s hard to find traditional mission calls for the broad range of majors our universities offer, the Zero-List foreign job market is brimming with employers eager to recruit talented graduates for interesting, edifying work.
It is clear that lay workers can penetrate Zero List cities to establish beachheads in Satan’s last major strongholds. We can take courage from the fact that places like Seoul, Korea and San Paulo, Brazil were on the Zero List not too many years ago. But when the Lord called, tentmakers entered those huge cities, and it has made all the difference.
The initial reaction we’ve seen indicates that great numbers of people will be interested in tentmaking. We hope to see our first wave of tentmakers launch in the fall of 2015.
If you would like to find out more about AFM’s tentmaker training or potential Zero List locations, send an e-mail to GoTential@gmail.com.
AFM’s Tentmaker Ministries Coordinator.