Planting house churches or making disciples who make disciples?


At our tentmaking courses, which we have been running since 1997 in over a dozen countries, our focus has been to train Christian business people, professionals, and students in the steps of planting house churches, especially where the name of Jesus is not yet known. All of our teaching sessions were designed to point to this end result.

However, about a decade later, we had heard back from returned tentmakers that planting house churches was hit-and-miss; mostly, it just wasn’t happening. This led to personal discouragement and a feeling that they had failed.

As our training program was always evolving to line up with reports from the field, we realized a change of focus was needed.

I have never been more proud of our international training teams than when they were able to shift the focus to making disciples that make disciples.

Thus our training program became all about teaching regular, everyday Christians about sharing their faith and making disciples who themselves would make disciples, even long after the tentmakers had returned home from their job contract abroad.

“Intentional discipling of disciplers leads to self multiplying house churches.”

We were excited to notice that this focus led to house groups being born, almost as an automatic result of intentional discipleship of fellow workers and neighbours.

Do you want to learn how to make disciples where you are planted, whether abroad or at home? Let us help you get started by attending our next tentmaking course in Germany, October 28-31, 2017. See you there!



This is a question tentmakers hear from time to time. The wrong answer could have serious consequences and most likely end up with a not-so-polite demand that they return home.

Perhaps to their church back home, they are definitely seen as missionaries. Bless their hearts, as this definition probably reminds them to pray for their missionary.

If they are with a mission agency, then by definition, they are missionaries.

Can a Christian ever lie? Can they be evasive? Can they simply ignore the question? I like Greg Livingstone’s response to this question.

” I have come to help you do better on judgement day”

Authentic Lives

Thomas Hale, GO Equipped Tentmaking course alumni, has written a thoughtful and timely book called Authentic Lives, on this subject.

Are you concerned about unreached or unengaged peoples? You probably know that their countries do not welcome missionaries, and that followers of Jesus who serve there via traditional sending organizations do not publicize these organizational ties or their church based funding sources. But have you thought through the consequences of keeping that information hidden? Authentic Lives will help you do that—and more. And if those consequences trouble you, Authentic Lives suggests ways to minimize them in traditional organizations and also suggests other options for service altogether. The challenges these other options present are also discussed—going without a sending agency is not easy but is sometimes best nonetheless.

Introduction: The Problem of Hidden Identity

PART I: Hidden Identity versus Integrated Identity

  1. Governments and Their Guests
  2. Secrecy and Privacy, Honesty and Integrity
  3.  Preparation
  4. Finances
  5. Support Groups

PART III: Theological and Conceptual Foundation
6. Key Concepts That Led to the Hidden-Identity Approach
7. Theological Foundations for a Modified Mission

Click here to buy


I recently spent time with Hank, a returned tentmaker from North Africa with a passion for music. During his time there he realized that new believers did not have home grown worship music, but were importing modern western songs with a very different style and beat compared to their heart music. It just sounded wrong.

He shared a story of another tentmaker who had been asked to teach his new underground church worship songs from the west. The tentmaker was horrified at this idea, since his vision was to plant a church of the culture, not a western import.

He had suggested to the musicians of his house church to set psalms to their traditional style of music. Thus a series of scripture centered songs, with a culturally relatable music style, was born. The new believers “owned” their songs which reinforced to them that the music of their culture is approved by God.

He also emphasized that bringing songs from the west was a form of imperialistic arrogance that led the host nation believers to think that their music was second class and not worthy. Hearing this made me cringe.

His suggestion to new tentmakers going to unreached areas was simply to learn the host culture music style first and then adapt scripture to this music and enjoy making beautiful God honoring songs together.

Hank is now researching ethnomusicology with the intent of teaching the new church of North Africa how to develop and compose music that is culturally acceptable.

This brought back memories of our time as tentmakers in Taiwan, when I wrote a song for the new believers in our home called “We ask for Taiwan, in Jesus name”. It inspired the young new believers to not only pray but also to see that their culture was valuable and loved by God. Years later, this song is being sung as a prayer for their nation.

“I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made  me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Eric Liddell, gold medalist in the 1924 Olympics, on whom the movie Chariots of Fire was based, said this:

Eric went on to be a missionary in China and I doubt that he would have stopped running when he got there.

Have you ever felt God’s pleasure when pursuing your activity?

I remember riding my bicycle across the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It was ten days of enjoying God’s splendor up close and slow. After climbing to yet another summit, stopping at the top for a much needed break, I suddenly felt His pleasure. What a feeling that was!

The memory of that moment still makes me smile.

What are you passionate about? I don’t mean your church or your family, but what do you enjoy doing in your downtime? What would you like to be doing but are not finding time to do it? Take a moment to think about it; perhaps make a list including the things you have always wanted to do but have not gotten around to doing.

Then think about how you might be able to include those who don’t know Jesus like you know him into that past time.

             The Lesson: Your Passion – His Glory

When we are enjoying our interest, we are also very true to being ourselves. It’s pretty tough to fake it with a bunch of people who are also enjoying their interest. At our tentmaking courses we encourage people to bring their interests with them and allow God to use it for His glory – Your Passion – His Glory!

First century power couple of missions

I have always been intrigued by Paul’s tentmaker team members, Aquila and Priscilla. We are not privileged to a lot of information about them.

What we do know is that this power couple (Prisquila?) was among the earliest known Christian missionaries in the first century.

Aquila and Priscilla were business people who made tents, and Paul was one of their workers and ministry partners. They had been among the Jews expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the year 49 as written by Suetonius, and they ended up in Corinth. After Paul had lived with them for approximately 18 months, they set out to accompany him when he proceeded to Syria, but they stopped at Ephesus, now part of modern Turkey.

They are mentioned six times in four different books of the New Testament and are always named
as a couple and never individually.

Of those six references, Aquila’s name is mentioned first three times and Priscilla’s name is mentioned first on the other three occasions, which shows them as equals; however Aquila, as the man, is mentioned the very first time, thus being consistent throughout Scripture – the man is usually mentioned always first.

Let me introduce you to a missionary power couple!

  1. Acts 18:2-3: There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.
  2. Acts 18:18: Paul stayed a while longer in Corinth, but then it was time to take leave of his friends. Saying his good-byes, he sailed for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila with him.
  3. Acts 18:26:When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story.
  4. Romans 16:4:  Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus. They once put their lives on the line for me. And I’m not the only one grateful to them. All the non-Jewish gatherings of believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the church that meets in their house.
  5. 1 Cor 16:19: The churches here in western Asia send greetings. Aquila, Priscilla, and the church that meets in their house say hello.
  6. 2 Tim 4:19: Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila; also, the family of Onesiphorus.


With their ability and expertise in making tents, a much needed trade in the era, they did not have to raise funds to do missions. A tentmaking business was also quick to pack up and move to another location, which they did more than a few times.

This strategic plan allowed them to spread the Gospel quickly to various regions. I am sure they did not hunker down at work, (which apparently was done night and day according to Paul), and then plan their crusades for after work.

While at work, they undoubtedly shared their faith with co-workers, suppliers, customers and anyone who happened to drop by to hear of this Jesus whom they represented in word and deed. They did not separate their business from ministry, but integrated them into the rhythm of everyday life and work.

Aquila & Priscilla are my favorite BAM heroes in the NT. Here is another slant to their story.



We are Christians. Of course, our faith is important to us and we love to share it with others, but what else do we bring to the nations? Something tangible, perhaps something that will make life easier?

I  once visited a missionary high up on a mountain where she had started and built a church. Propane had to be brought up by motorcycle and it was expensive. Hot water was a luxury for dishes and for showers.

I quickly noticed that it was hot and sunny most days, so I went for a walk to the village shops. There was a man selling all kinds of irrigation hoses for the farms and individual gardens. I bought 200 feet of two inch black hose, laid it on the flat roof in a circle and ran the cold water into one end and the other end to the sink and bathroom area of the building. Apparently there was never a shortage of hot water again in that building during daylight hours – a simple two hour solution that was soon copied by others in the village.

I call it “value added tentmaking.”

Most if not all English speaking expatriates are at one time or another asked to help locals with their English. Whether they do this formally or informally, it brings a tangible value to the community. This is why we urge everyone to take even a short certificate course in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). We recommend a minimal 60 hour course, that can be taken over four weekends to fit in with your work week, before leaving for your overseas contract. It is our recommendation that you do not teach English for free, but charge a reasonable fee to maintain a level of professionalism.

What kind of skills, experience, or hobbies do you have that can be used to help locals improve their situations?

ESL is the most obvious and commonly used bridge to make friendships with your co-workers, neighbors and business people. Make yourself available even if it seems like a lot of extra work.

Here are some ways you might explore in becoming a “value added foreigner” to the local people:

  • ESL
  • Computer training
  • Cooking classes
  • Small business loans
  • New ways to grow vegetables
  • Recycling
  • Solar cooking
  • Solar power
  • Teaching your favorite board game
  • What else can you think of?

Now that you’ve given this a passing thought, what can you do here at home – at your workplace, school, or in your business? Start small and see how God can use your servant’s heart for His kingdom purposes.




The four most common questions that expatriate workers are asked by neighbors, coworkers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and those they come in contact with are:

  1. What is your name?
  2. What do you do here?
  3. Where are you from?
  4. Do you believe in God?

Everyone can answer the first three questions in a few short minutes, perhaps even without thinking about it too much. The fourth question requires thought, preparation, sensitivity, gentleness, respect, divine inspiration and a time out.

Check out Peter’s advice on this – 1 Peter 3:15,16.


In one short, to the point sentence, we learn much about Paul. Having established his persona and reason for being, we can assume that he then began passionately sharing his faith in ever creative ways.

How you answer the fourth question will either open the door for future faith discussion or perhaps close the door to potential friendships that lead to faith talks. It is vital that we get it right, as we only have one chance to make that critical first introduction of our faith.

If it were up to me, I would make every future tentmaker spend at least 100 hours preparing themselves for this one question. It is that important. Getting that answer wrong could raise suspicion and make you an object of unwanted attention or it could simply set the foundation for future dialogue and perhaps even give you status as a man/woman of God.

For those of you considering tentmaking business as mission, or those of you out there already doing it, I urge you to do some homework so you will have the best possible answer to question number four.


At our tentmaking courses, which are designed by former tentmakers and updated by current tentmakers, we discuss the challenges tentmakers face today. These are frequently updated as we debrief returning tentmakers and learn from them.

One of the challenges is being a part of a tentmaker team (if one exists). These teams can be put together before leaving. We call them “out country” teams, or if they are made up of tentmakers who meet in country, we call them “in country” teams. These “in country” teams are often put together through divine appointments and tend to be less problematic since they meet mostly for prayer, worship and encouragement.

We have heard of “out country” teams spending up to 75% of their team time dealing with personality issues and conflicts between team members. If this is true, that would be a terrible time loss to the Kingdom – Christians focusing on their own issues instead of being focused on the real reason they have come.

Thus, the need to invent the “gracemeter” was born. Please take this with a grain of salt!


We all have a different understanding of grace. Some believers are very legalistic while others are living a life of total grace. A firm belief in hyper grace if you will. Neither is right nor wrong, but their place on the gracemeter is also an indicator of their understanding of ministry, their understanding of scripture, and their frustrations with those whose understanding of grace is different than their own.

Do you see the problem this could bring to a team working in a very difficult country or region, perhaps one that is hostile to Christianity?

So when looking at the gracemeter, you can visualize where your needle might stand. Once you figure that out, try to evaluate where your team member’s needle would stand (perhaps the member you have most difficulty with).

The further apart you are from each other on the gracemeter, the more challenging your relationship will be.

The hoped-for result would be that you could step back and just accept the other person where they are, without trying to move their needle toward your position.

We have had encouraging and sometimes humorous reports from tentmakers who have struggled with team issues, and then found solace in drawing a picture of the gracemeter during a team meeting.

One recent email said: “The gracemeter allowed us to move forward as a team and it has been a tremendous blessing for all of us, we were able to laugh and bond after discussing where each of us had our needle”.

Where does your needle sit on this meter?

When was the last time yours moved?


Jim a tentmaker to India was used to seeing a man sitting by his weigh scale all day long. For a few cents, anyone could weigh themselves.

One day Jim decided to sit down beside the man to simply get to know him and have an opportunity to practice Hindi. He learned that Ashok was actually renting the scale and was paying up to 90% of his days take to the owner of the scale.

While Jim sat there, suddenly there seemed to be more people wanting to weigh themselves than usual. Ashok suggested that Jim’s presence was bringing him good fortune.

Jim started wondering how he could help Ashok earn a bigger slice of the pie? Each day, Jim would make a point of sitting down beside Ashok, which always brought him more business. They became fast friends.

Jim learned the complexity of Ashok’s business. The scale was owned by a man who had many scales in the city. He paid his workers a measly amount of the earnings. If the scale broke, the worker would in debt for months and perhaps years until repayment with high interest was made.

One day Jim went and bought Ashok a scale. But not before doing his homework.
If he had just gave the scale as a gift, the renter of scales would simply take it away from Ashok, who would have no recourse nor police protection.

Before presenting the scale to Ashok, he went to the local police station and asked an officer to come with him to verify the business transaction between himself and Ashok. The policeman watched as Jim gave the scale to Ashok. A business plan was developed by Jim that allowed Ashok to repay the loan in about six months. Then the loan paper was fingerprinted by Ashok. Having the policeman present afforded some protection for Ashok, and having a foreigner involved added a bit more.

Before the six months was up, Ashok had saved enough of his earnings of 100% to pay back the full amount of the loan. Jim once again called on the policeman to witness the full repayment of the loan, had him sign the “paid in full” receipt together with Ashok and Jim. Then Jim made a few copies of the receipt and even had one copy laminated which Ashok could keep as proof of ownership.

Today Ashok keeps 100% of his daily earnings and is proudly able to show everyone that he has paid back the loan in full. Imagine going from keeping 10% of your daily earnings to 100%. Jim continues to disciple Ashok and members of his family…

Principle: Do not be too quick to help, seek wise counsel from locals so that your gift of a loan does not cause difficulty or dependency. Real help requires getting to know people and involves discipling.


10 Reasons tentmakers do not join mission agencies.
– from a survey by Ari J. Rocklin

  1. They don’t want to do fundraising
  2. They don’t see the value in paying for agency services
  3. They don’t think agencies understand genuine tentmaking
  4. Agencies often do not allow tentmakers to maintain ongoing businesses or to fully work in what are perceived as their “non-ministry” jobs.
  5. They can’t commit to long training programs and retreats. Getting time off work is not easy.
  6. The application process and forms are too long and complicated.
  7. In closed countries, mission agency membership creates identity issues.
  8. Agencies don’t provide appropriate member care for tentmakers whose work and life situation is different from career missionaries.
  9. The mission agencies do not seem to be interested in tentmakers signing up nor have they carefully thought through how to best utilize them.
  10. Mission agencies seem old-fashioned and do not fit in (out of sync with) today´s world.

“Although we encourage future tentmakers to connect with at least three mission agencies before going, only 3% choose to do so”.  Global Opportunities Research

Our research also shows a positive trend by many mission agencies who are making tentmaking a top priority and are working hard at getting it right.

I am excited at this trend and offer our services to any mission agency who is interested in doing this well. We already have a track record of having worked with traditional mission agencies since 1998 in developing their tentmaking divisions or tracks.

One of the oldest mission agencies in Europe recently stated that they are making tentmaking their main strategy.

Connect with me! Check here on how I can be of help to your mission agency.


We are increasingly being asked to evaluate BAM companies for Mission Impact. There are reports of loans not being renewed as no evidence of Mission is seen. BAM investors want a financial return but not without proof of a Mission advancement. Fair enough!

On the ground.

Our team member spends quality time with locals as well as those directly involved with the BAM company.

In a nutshell, this is what our research on site and an an evaluation includes, usually done in about one week at the expense of the BAM company. It is by no means an exhaustive list as there are too many to list here.

  • Community views of Jesus followers?
  • Business partners understanding of being a follower of Jesus?
  • Suppliers knowledge of your Business Principles?
  • Workers knowledge of your Business Principle?
  • Workers family understanding of your Business Principles
  • Local shops, restaurants, service industry relationships with your company.
  • Your relationship with your competitors. Are you fair with them on a business level?
  • Local religious leaders understanding of your business and your faith. Measured from 1-5.1. Antagonist
    2. Suspicion
    3. Willing to look the other way as long as you stick to known perimeters.
    4. Supportive
    5 Acceptance

Daily while on the ground.

During our evaluation time a short briefing is scheduled each evening for the BAM team. This is a time for Q&A and for some fun with good food!

Final report & action plan.

At the end a full evaluation and action plan forward is drafted and sent to the BAM team. It includes practical suggestions for individuals and for the team as a whole.

References from companies who have used our service are available on request but are highly confidential and thus not available until we have verified the request and checked with their sending church.

Contact us!


A young tentmaker couple from the US had recently arrived in a very restricted Muslim country. To their amazement, they were immediately invited to a local wedding of a government official’s daughter. They gladly accepted.

Once the ceremony was over, the dancing began. Now the tentmakers came from a denominational background where dancing is frowned upon and of course they had never danced before.

Their gracious hosts kept asking them to join in on the dance floor and it got increasingly difficult to make them understand that they simply did not know how to dance. Their hosts did not believe that a young American couple would not know how to dance.

After a while, the couple realized that there was a suspicion and mistrust building between them and their hosts. Not a good start to a tentmaking ministry.

Eventually they decided to give it a go, after all how hard could it be, they had seen dancing in movies.

Once they got to the dance floor everyone, about 100 people, gathered around them in a circle and started clapping to the music. The young couple thought they had done a decent job of gyrating to the music and sat down.

Their host came over and apologized. I am so sorry, you really don’t know how to dance!
When the tentmakers came home for a summer vacation, they promptly went and took some dance lessons as they never wanted to go through that scenario again.

What would you have done?

God has a sense of humor, since this wedding opened many doors to new friendships and even offered them some protection as foreigners and gave them access to high government officials.


I have helped hundreds of tentmakers get ready, equipped, and launched to go to unreached and often unsafe countries. As I track with them, I’ve come to realize where tentmakers are in the most danger, but you would be surprised to learn that it is not out there among unstable nations and hostile people. I’ve been doing this ministry full-time since 1998, and since then four tentmakers have died in car accidents upon returning to their home countries.

Why do you think this is? We don’t know, but one reason could be simply that they are used to vastly different road rules, or no rules at all and have mastered driving in those conditions. However, upon coming home there are strict rules – like red lights, which actually do not mean “slow down and look”, but that you must come to a full stop. Driving on the left side of the road for a few years and then coming home to drive on the right side and hitting another car head-on was one of the accidents that claimed a tentmaker’s life only a few days after returning home. He was on his way to his church to share his story.

Yes, there have been deaths while serving out there. Local terrorists have targeted and killed tentmakers while going about their daily lives in Mauritania, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. We are not sure if it was for political reasons or being martyred for their faith. We do know they were indeed targeted.

At our intensive 4.5 day tentmaking courses, we spend time learning about working in sensitive areas. By the grace of God, no one who has taken our course has died out in the field as a martyr, although some have come very close. It is our focus to train people to be safe and to make disciples, not to become martyrs themselves or to have their disciples die as martyrs. It is hard to grow a church if people exceed known security and safety parameters and then die in the process.

Jesus did not promise us safety but he did promise us eternity in His presence. Let us delay our departure from this earth as much as it is humanly possible.