Tentmaking seminar at Hwai En MC

By James TC Wong

Miri – Are you ready to serve overseas? Do you see your present employment as a God-given opportunity to serve Him for the advancement of His Kingdom? Are you willing to explore opportunities using your experience and skills in cross-cultural missions?

These were some of the questions thrown at more than 200 Methodist church members, fellow pastors, church leaders including District Superintendent Rev. Esther Law and Miri District Missions Ministry Chairman Mr. Alex Kuek when they attended a seminar on Tentmaking at Hwai En MC on Sep 4.

Organized by the Miri District Missions Ministry, the seminar was conducted by Dr. Stanley Ling and Rev. Dr. Tie King Tai.

As there is a growing interest around the world to use professional skills and business activities as platforms for cross-cultural ministry, a pastor also shared on his Tentmaking ministry in South East Asia.

Dr. Stanley Ling on Tentmaking. Photo credit – Mr. Alex Kuek

In his introduction Dr. Ling explained the concept of Tentmaking, the know-how and the pitfalls to avoid.

A Ph.D holder in Chemical Engineering now serving full-time in God’s work, Dr. Ling is the current Regional Director of SIM East Asia Ltd., an international and interdenominational missions agency based in Singapore.

Tentmaking, according to Wikipedia, in general refers to the activities of any Christian who, while functioning as a minister, receives little or no pay for his or her church work, and supports him or herself by additional, unrelated work. Specifically, Tentmaking can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a church. The term comes from the fact that the apostle Paul supported himself by making tents while living and preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:3).

Rev. Dr. Tie in one of the lighter moments

Complementing the Tentmaking seminar was the topic “The Role of the SCAC Missions Board” by Rev. Dr. Tie King Tai, Chairman of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) Missions Board and Principal of the Methodist Theological School (MTS), Sibu.

In his presentation Rev. Dr. Tie spoke on the early and present Methodist churches in Sarawak. Recalling the rich history in the formation of the SCAC Board of Missions, the good Reverend reiterated the hope to boost the number of missionaries in the coming years.

Expressing concern on the current shortfall of full-time missionaries, Rev. Dr. Tie encouraged more church members to come forward with new vitality and commitment.

“We only have 35 missionaries in the field; short of 15 as per our 2010 target of 50. Our target for year 2020 is 100 missionaries and this is achievable if every church under SCAC sends at least one missionary,” iterated Rev. Dr. Tie.

On a broader spectrum, Rev. Dr. Tie commented that the number of short term mission trips from the various Methodist churches under SCAC has been overwhelming.

“In future the expenses for Short Term Missions (STM) may exceed the costs of supporting our missionaries. To identify potential improvements the Missions Board has set a key performance indicator (KPI) for all STM teams in the hope that at least one team member will step up to becoming a full-time missionary,” Rev. Dr. Tie added.

Random feedback was obtained from the attendees to gauge their response. When interviewed, Mr. Aaron Hii said he was glad to have attended the seminar.

“Putting faith into action is what we should aim to do. As a Christian businessman, I find the three models presented by Dr. Ling very compelling; a) business-based mission, b) business as mission and c) business for mission,” said the 38 year-old housing developer who also heads the Missions Ministry in Grace MC.

Member of the SCAC Missions Board and Pastor-in-charge of Grace MC Rev. Lisa Ting was invited to close in prayer after the seminar ended.

Mr. Ting Kong Yu has kindly contributed to this story.

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