Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Tentmakers International Congress 2007 - Part 4

In my earlier posts, I have been sharing some of my reflections as a delegate participating in the Tentmakers International Congress 2007 (for my earlier posts, see Part 1; Part 2 and Part 3). In this final post, I will briefly highlight what I personally perceived to be the positive developments in the tentmaking movement.

It seems to me that the tentmaking movement has been maturing over the years. One key emphasis that I have been hearing throughout the Congress is the need for marketplace ministry to be incorporated in the tentmaking movement. While marketplace ministry is mentioned numerous times in the Congress, it was not defined or further explained by the speakers. I can only safely assume that by suggesting the incorporation of marketplace ministry, it means that tentmakers are to reconsider the role faith plays in work/business and to affirm the intrinsic value of work/business as a legitimate expression of doing God's mission.

In the past, work/business is simply seen as nothing more than one of the legitimate means in gaining access into a country. There was no emphasis on the intrinsic value of work/business. This was reaffirmed when I was researching on the tentmaking movement as a Mockler Scholar in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I could not find any materials, manuals or resources on tentmaking that placed emphasis on the value of work/business. My subsequent conversations with R. Paul Stevens and Pete Hammond further confirmed my findings.

But that was about 8-9 years ago. With the current emphasis on marketplace ministry, I hope that the dichotomy between faith and work will be removed. In this respect, work/business is no longer seen as simply the means of gaining access into a country to enable one to do evangelism but it is seen as part of God's mission in itself. This is certainly a step in the right direction for the tentmaking movement. I am glad that over the last 5 years or so, there is a proliferation of books on the value of work/business (something that is almost unheard of 10 years ago) and seminaries are also offering programmes and courses on marketplace ministry (e.g., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary offers an MA in Leadership and Business Ethics and a DMin in Workplace Leadership and Business Ethics. Of course, Regent College has always been in the forefront of promoting marketplace ministry. In STM, a course on Vocation, Work and Ministry is regularly offered).

This recent development is a very encouraging sign for me as over the past many years, I have been promoting the marketplace ministry, and challenging Christians in the marketplace to rethink about seeing their workplaces as mission and mission fields as well. I hope the Malaysian church is able to catch this vision as well.

Apart from the emphasis on the marketplace movement, three additional positive developments are worth mentioning. First, the emphasis on transforming communities also takes central stage in many of the discussions in the Congress. This is another very encouraging sign, as the tentmaking movement is now progressively making its shifts into holistic mission as well. The emphasis is no longer simply "getting people saved and sending them into heaven" but in transforming the communities - how to create maximum impact and transform the community through strategic development projects so that the gap between the poor and rich could be narrowed, and the standard of living of the local communities could be raised.

Secondly, the driving force behind the tentmaking movement has now gradually shifted to the two-third world. The "receiving nations" in the past are now the "sending nations." With globalisation, many professionals from the two-third world are now taking up strategic positions not only in developed nations but also in other developing nations. This group of professionals are naturally considered as "tentmakers" as well. While this is an encouraging development, this phenomena naturally raises another set of questions concerning mobilisation, training, equipping and resources of this particular group of tentmakers. This is an area that has been identified for further discussion and deliberation.

Finally, greater cooperation among the mission agencies, local churches and various denominations is also reported. This is crucial as no single person, agency or church is able to carry out the task of the Great Commission alone. At the same time, because of the greater dominance of the tentmaking movement by the two-third world, the voice of emerging scholars from this part of the world is also given its rightful hearing and can no longer be ignored by the West.

Overall, I think this Congress has largely achieved its objectives. Much has been said and discussed. But the question that remains is this: "Where do we go from here?" Will the churches unleash the talents in their midst? Will the churches adopt both a global and local missional framework? Will the churches and mission agencies work together with the seminaries to train, equip, and empower both existing and potential tentmakers?


Lee Chee Keat said...

wish there's more courses offered in STM on marketplace ministry, besides Work, Vocation and Ministry. Besides that, lately, juz felt GCF had already tone down their activities in promoting marketplace ministry and for some reasons, it seems there aren't enough people to promote like in the past during the 90s. I still remember in the past, they have seminar like Spiritual formation for marketplace; work& leisure...etc. The only one I knew that had been successful was Integrity conf in 2005 - the 1st one and that's it. the rest are small scale and somehow, not so relevant I feel. However, I noticed megachurches like DUMC, City Harvest, New Creation are promoting marketplace ministry aggressively to a certain extent they depending on it to generate income to run their megachurches. Anyway, wish there's a community we could form to revive the marketplace ministry where there's research and sharing resources esp on this marketplace ministry in M'sia.

Kar Yong said...

Chee Keat,

Thanks for your comments and concern. There are communities/organisations like The Agora and Kairos that strive to promote marketplace issues. In STM, we are now toying with the idea of a marketplace conference next year - but it's still in a conception stage. We are also thinking of offering a TEE course on marketplace issues and business ethics. Your further input would be crucial when you come in STM next year. I look forward to engage further some of these issues with you.

The Hedonese said...

:) "community we could form to revive the marketplace ministry where there's research and sharing resources"???

Look no further, visit the Graduate Christian Fellowship or The AGora at http://theagora.blogspot.com

Kar Yong said...

I think Chee Keat's just pointed out that GCF is a bit inactive nowadays...I don't seem to receive anything from them for along time already. Perhaps I'm wrong too - anyone care to enlighten us?