Every man is as lazy as he dares to be.
-Emerson

Emerson had it right. People do not do what is expected; we do what is inspected. Phil Parshall, after forty years of serving among Muslims, said to me, “I have my doubts about tentmaking … most tentmakers I know start out doing business and ministry, but in the end it is all business and no ministry.”

Everyone receives gratification from accomplishing tasks. Whether we are building a bridge or cleaning out the garage, we enjoy seeing the fruits of our labors. Productivity makes us feel good. It gives us value and a sense of worth. Those people groups which are still without a church in the 21st century are unreached for a reason – they are difficult to reach! Missionary work among these peoples has produced precious little fruit. Tentmakers, by definition have two tasks to do. If one task is producing fruit and the other is not, it is easy to gravitate toward the more productive, fruitful task. Therefore, it is important that every tentmaker is under some structure or relationship which provides the needed accountability to keep us growing and active in fulfilling both of our callings.

Harold, a BAM facilitator with OM, shares his experience.

The major concern of those working with workers in the Middle East is not recruiting them. We praise God for the upswing in prayer and interest in the Muslim world. No, our major concern is on-site effectiveness! On a recent visit to Morocco, where there are an estimated 80 B4Ters with 10 different orgs, one ‘expert’ said that he estimated that less than 10% of these were having any impact on people’s lives.

How do we do better in keeping our focus? In a word – accountability. B4Ters need to find mentors who will hold them accountable to their ministry objectives. Many churches and workers believe that if a B4Ter joins a reputable mission organization, the organization will hold the B4Ter accountable to doing ministry. Unfortunately, as I’ve shared the past few weeks, often this is not the case. Organizations claim to provide accountability but don’t. Too often leaders and workers alike have a philosophy of you don’t ask me and I won’t ask you. In addition, regular missionaries have no “box” for B4Ters. If the B4Ter pleads s/he is too busy starting the business to do language learning or too busy doing year end accounts to log hours with the people, her/his supervisors back off as they know they do not understand the stresses and strains B4Ters face. As a result, we pretty much get to call our own shots. No wonder many believe B4Ters do not impact lives for Christ. Once you learn the teacher does not collect the homework, you stop doing the homework. No one likes homework, but a lack of accountability, like a lack of homework, only increases our potential for failure when the real test comes along.

Phil Lundman, Chairman of Petersen Automotive Industries, accurately points out, “Every organization needs support, accountability and imposed consequences. But biblical discipline is lacking, if not invisible in most mission organizations.”

A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody. -Thomas Paine

There are two fundamental factors for improving our accountability structures: godly mentors and godly goal setting. Next week we will talk more about these, but meanwhile each of us must consider ways we can strive for more accountability.

The research tells us that 67% of the workers are being held accountable quarterly or less. This is encouraging, but less than 50% of all workers set goals. If we have no measurable goals, how can we be held accountable? How can we be walking in faith if we are not trusting God for specific things? It is a Charlie Brown approach to ministry – whatever we do will be a bull’s eye. In setting goals, there should be imposed consequences for not meeting the goals.

Your thoughts?

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PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.