This is part 2 of a 4-part series.

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it – Winnie the Pooh.

We are continuing the series based upon the research fifteen years ago. Factors in the background, education, training, motivation, life, ministry and work of those serving in the 10/40 Window were identified and related to their effectiveness in serving Jesus Christ. Effectiveness or productivity is defined in terms of evangelism, discipleship and church planting. For comparison, a “worker” includes all types of missionaries, including tentmakers.

The Spiritual Life of Productive BAMers / B4Ters / Tentmakers

The strongest spiritual factor is that those who practice fasting as an important spiritual discipline scored high in effectiveness.

Spiritual Life

I do not remember having even one lesson in seminary or my missiological training on fasting. Could fasting be more important than Bible study? More important than prayer? Yes, and yes, at least when it comes to effectiveness in evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

Workers who consistently set aside special times to study God’s Word, pray and meditate, and workers who regularly read Christian books or magazines or listen to message tapes are slightly more effective. Both issues point to the need to be feeding our spirit regularly. Exactly 85% of all workers have a daily devotional, but having a daily time in the Word and prayer has no influence on effectiveness. Leaders should take note that 39% of the workers expressed a need for more spiritual support from co-workers and leaders.

Social & Personal Life

Workers who said that most of my closest friends are nationals and workers who have nationals in their home (not counting house-help) 3 times a week or more and those who have taken a vacation with national friends are more effective. Over 70% of the workers maintain a higher standard of living than their national friends. Yet, workers who have a higher standard of living compared to their national co-workers score well in effectiveness.

Though my personal experience reflects that living among the people is appreciated by the nationals, the research reveals that living above the level of the people has no negative implications on the worker’s fruitfulness. Laborers who spend their free time with their family or alone are less effective.

We may conclude that the more time we invest with locals, the more effective we will be. Clearly national friends who see our lives up close are more likely to be attracted to what they see. What we eat and how we dress is important but not as important as how we work and how we relate to people.

The importance of being with locals, or “logging hours,” is repeated again in the understanding that workers who visit in nationals’ homes 3 times a week or more are of good effectiveness. Workers who eat the national or local food more than their own cultural food also show a positive effectiveness. And workers who spend more than 20 hours a week with locals are going to see more lives transformed. This affirms that workers who are comfortable with the people, the culture, and their job, are apt to be more effective.

Workers who abstain from foods the nationals abstain from are less effective. Those who usually dress like their national friends or co-workers also scored poorly. Perhaps contextualization is not as important a factor in reaching the unreached as we thought. As stated in the “pre-field” factors, workers who report their marriage is not good (spiritually, emotionally and sexually) are ineffective. Obviously, moving to the field does not improve a couple’s marriage problems. It is essential to teach our workers the value of a good marriage and that our witness begins at home.

A large number of workers (65%) eat local food the way the locals do and abstain from foods locals abstain from and dress the way locals dress. However, these factors did not make a difference in their success in winning people to Jesus. The primary lesson to be learned is that the time a worker invests with the people and the worker’s personal comfort living within the culture are much more important than strategy or contextualization.

Well over 75% of the workers live in homes that are decorated with a mixture of items from the local culture and their own culture. Whether the worker’s home is contextualized like a local’s home, styled after their home culture, or a mixture of both has no affect on effectiveness. Rich and poor workers, Western or non-Western are equally effective.


In summary, these are key factors that are important in preparing to do BAM or tentmaking or B4T:

  • Build close relationships with locals, not foreigners.
  • Field workers want and need accountability.
  • Develop the habit of prayer and fasting. Spiritual disciplines drawer you nearer to God and are a witness of your love for God to others.
  • Set up your home in a way that is comfortable to both yourself and your local friends.

These are key factors that are not as important as you might think:

  • Contextualization is good, but is not as big a factor as we believed.
  • Broad sowing of seeds is not as effective as deep planting of the seed.



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 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.

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