Top Ten Mission Trends in the 21st Century: How Missionaries Are Sent Out Today Is Dramatically Changing

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010



When we think about missionary support, many of us think about a denominational effort which sponsors and supports missionaries who are working in various parts of the world.  For example, many denominations participate in a centralized support structure whereby the denomination collects money which, in turn, is used to support the denominational missionaries on the field.  For example, the Southern Baptists support their missionaries through the Lottie Moon offering taken up every December.  Likewise, the Christian and Missionary Alliance support their missionaries through the Great Commission fund.  Many such examples could be given.  Indeed, this continues to be an important and vital structure which effectively sends out and supports missionaries around the world.  However, for the last hundred years there has been a dramatic rise of what is sometimes called “faith” missionaries.  This refers to missionaries who raise their own support through direct appeals to churches and friends who, in turn, partner with an organization which often does not belong to a particular denomination.[1] Mission organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators, Frontiers, SIM (Society of International Missionaries) or OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) are providing an increasingly growing proportion of the missionary force.

In addition to the traditional denomination support and the growth of the many “faith” mission boards, there is also an increasing number of missionaries going out as professionals who support themselves through their own occupational employment.  This is known as ‘tentmaking’, so named after the Apostle Paul’s determination at a certain point in his ministry to not take support from the Corinthian church, but to support himself through his trade, which was tentmaking.  By extension, any secular occupation whereby one supports themselves in a strategic location for missionary purposes is known as ‘tentmaking.’  Many countries which have restricted missionary presence are being served through Christians who have re-located to those countries and work in a wide array of fields for strategic purposes.  In the 19th century the dominant ‘tentmaking’ professions were either physicians or nurses providing medical care whereas today one is more likely to meet someone who is an English teacher or who is utilizing their technological expertise in some strategic part of the world.  Nevertheless, this is an important avenue through which many missionaries are being effectively placed around the world.

Church’s today need to be aware of these shifts and realize that the global missionary effort is being extended from a wide range of initiatives including the local church, denominations, para-church organizations, professionals and by a whole range of efforts by indigenous churches throughout the world.

[1] One of the best documentations of the growth of faith missions can be found in Kalus Fiedler’s The Story of Faith Missions:  From Hudson Taylor to Present Day Africa (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 1994).


  • Smeeta Rangwani says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for sharing this vital information. To add to what you have said, In India , there is a growing number of church members working for secular corporate entities who are responding to the calling. They opt for different theological programs and use it to preach God’s love / word among the non believers. These are people not sent by the church, but they are still missionaries and contributing to the Kingdom of God.

    I have learnt a new term today ‘tentmaking’, so appropriate! I am a corporate trainer by profession (Behavioural & soft skills), on the way of being a missionary for our Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t necessarily have to be a pastor to be a missionary.

    Smeeta R

  • Dear Dr Tennent,
    I wish to draw your attention to a rare achievement of missionaries in having produced the first ever ‘High School’ pass girl in India from their school Dehradun.
    If interested to know details you can, please, consult my Dissertation on Missions donated to your Seminary Library in Microsoft Word version recently.

  • Frustrated says:

    I know that one of the important missionary trends of the seminary is to eliminate the use of crosses in any of their official documents. Or in their logo. They’re very Christ centered that way.

  • Kyle Wisdom says:

    Sorry to post a comment not related with the article, but the RSS feed for this blog needs to be updated. For some reason the feed does not include any posts from 2010, but ends in 2009. I can’t figure a way around this and figure there might be something on the back end that might need adjustment

  • […] How Missionaries Are Sent Out is Dramatically Changing […]