HISTORY OF WORLDWIDE TENTMAKERS
23 years. 1 vision.
“God doesn’t call any of us to part-time Christian service,” said Worldwide Tentmakers founder and former board president Tom Stultz. “We all – lay people and vocational ministers alike - have an obligation to be a witness and to reach the most people with His message.”
Spreading that message became the burden of Stultz immediately after his salvation in January of 1977. Assuming God would have him in some form of traditional, vocational ministry, the newspaper professional moved his family from Kentucky to South Carolina, where he planned to attend seminary. Doors closed, however. Stultz began to understand that God’s plan was for him to be a vocational businessman.
“I kept wondering why God would keep me in the business world, instead of preaching,” he said. He began to understand why in 1984. While teaching the College & Career Sunday school class at Oakwood Baptist Church in Anderson, SC, Stultz came across Acts 8:4 –
“Therefore, they that were scattered abroad went everywhere, preaching the Word.”
Digging deeper into Acts, Stultz came across the account of Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila in Acts 18. Paul, by trade, was a Tentmaker. Priscilla and Aquila were, as well. Working together and living together, these three also ministered together. The Scripture says that Paul “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).
From this, Stultz and his wife Pat began to envision a new form of missions. The Lord brought many individuals into their path and used them to crystallize their thoughts regarding Tentmaking. Professionals, they imagined, would “scatter abroad” as self-supporting witnesses of the Gospel.
A year later, the Stultzes’ path crossed with that of Tom Kweder. Tom and his wife Selva had served for over a decade as New Tribes missionaries in Indonesia. While there, they met many US expatriates. Hearing about the people these expatriates were able to reach through their jobs reinforced the idea that this was an important mission. The Stultzes and Kweders decided to join forces.
The first board of Worldwide Tentmakers, Inc., was formed in August of 1987, and included Ralph Gruendling, Russell Rice, Bob Whitmore, Doug McCaleb, Mike Smith, Tom Kweder, and Tom Stultz. Nearly a year to the day from the formation of the board, Worldwide Tentmakers (WTI) placed its first professionals overseas when an American couple left for new jobs in Yemen. From there, God continued to give the increase. Others were soon placed in countries including Turkey, Italy, Spain, Russia, Poland, Canada, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, and others. Stultz said. – “It is difficult to quantify how many have found jobs through WTI. There have been many, however.”
“Our mission was always to promote the concept, to help prepare people, and then to help place them,” Stultz said. “
WTI expanded its resources for likely Tentmakers when they purchased InterChristo’s international jobs database. With that acquisition, the WTI board elected to launch the International Employment Gazette in the summer of 1988. The Gazette quickly became the #1 source of international jobs available in the U.S. As a result, its proceeds provided a large amount of WTI’s operating expenses until the publication was discontinued in the late 1990s.
With the agency up and running, they began to explore even more venues for spreading the Gospel. Ralph Gruendling, a board member, was particularly burdened for China. Along with Stultz and Kweder, he visited another group who had been sending teacher teams for summer stints in Asia. They each agreed that this was a perfect ministry opportunity for WTI. The agency’s first group – two teams of four teachers – left in the early 1990s. Over the next several years, more than 400 short-term teachers reached Chinese ESL students via WTI.
In January of 2009, Stultz passed the leadership of WTI over to David Nunnery. A sales and marketing executive, Nunnery brings fresh ideas to the agency and has already overseen an overhaul in the operating procedures of WTI. Instead of only sending Christians to work in businesses overseas, he envisions sending them to start them.
“The thought process here is that, if an individual Tentmaker working in someone else’s business can have an impact on a community, imagine the impact that a Tentmaker’s business can have on a community,” he said. “The vision is to establish businesses as a conduit for getting the Gospel out. Our belief is that we want to set up real businesses, making a real profit, and using that business to promote and spread the Gospel to the people that are the most influenced by that business, namely the employees, vendors, and the customers.”
WTI’s first foray into establishing businesses overseas is expected to launch in January of 2011. Under the leadership of field director Kris Kolt, a Polish national, the agency is developing a chain of Preschools. Not only will WTI meet a practical need of the Polish people, but, as Nunnery adds, “Preschools are a great way to reach a family.”
In addition to this work, however, WTI remains committed to assisting Christian professionals in finding employment overseas. The jobs database can now be accessed via their web site, and professional / ministerial counseling is available from board members.
In spite of these recent changes, the vision of WTI remains the same as it was 23 years ago.
God doesn’t call any of us to part-time Christian service. We’re all called to full-time Christian service. We all have an obligation to be a witness and to reach the most people with His message.