Every Man is as Lazy as He Dares to Be

by Patrick Lai

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. Business as Mission Practitioners (BAMers)/Business for Transformation (B4Ters) need to find mentors who will hold them accountable to their ministry objectives. Many churches and workers believe that if a BAMer/B4Ter joins a reputable mission organization, the organization will hold the BAMer/B4Ter accountable to doing ministry.

Unfortunately, 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 BAM/B4Ters. If the BAMer/B4Ter pleads he or she is too busy starting the business to do language learning or too busy doing year end accounts to log hours with the people, his or her supervisors back off as they know they do not understand the stresses and strains BAMers/B4Ters face. As a result, we pretty much get to call our own shots.

No wonder many believe BAMers/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. 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 or else we live in the way Emerson described: Every man is as lazy as he dares to be.


Patrick Lai first and foremost describes himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. During his thirty-two years in Asia, the Lord enabled his team to gather four groups of Muslim believers and start several small businesses. He authored Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions, Business for Transformation as well as numerous articles on BAM. He founded the OPEN Network and Nexus B4T, a network of over 700 B4Ters, BAMers, and tentmakers. Currently Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach B4T workers in unreached areas and teach extensively around the world on this new paradigm for doing mission in a changing world.

Material first published on Patrick Lai’s blog here. Reposted with kind permission.