Tentmaking in 2011?

It is human nature judge others based on their actions. Words and actions simply cannot be separated. A corporate visitor that enters a foreign culture with a sense of entitlement will erode trust before he or she even has a chance to earn it. People will observe and note where the executives stay, where they eat, who they talk to, and how they treat others. If you watched the movie Inside Job, you will understand that perception is everything. Who didn’t feel angry when the cameras showcased the lavish perks of the infamous executives? A leader’s expectations and entitlement will eventually catch up to him.

Paul understood this, and he intentionally worked a trade while building one of the fastest growing organizational structures the world has ever seen. His tentmaking gave him additional opportunities to evangelize and build relationships with people his upper class status would have initially created barriers to. He also ensured that he differentiated himself from others by not “owing” any favours to those around him. As Socrates said, “Who among men is more free than I, who accepts neither gifts nor fee from anyone?” In Paul’s own words amidst his discussion of rights and tentmaking, “do we not have the right to our food and drink?” (1 Corinthians 9:3).

Paul experienced more issues than global leaders currently face (few modern corporate leaders have been beaten and left for dead multiple times). Paul knew his rights, and by forgoing them, was able to lead more people and gain more influence. If only more leaders would have been able to do this. Would the economic crisis of 2008 still have happened?

A perspective that gives up rights and focuses on intimate personal relationships will paradoxically position global leaders to lead amidst the complexity of the emerging global society.