“Tentmakers can have a tremendous impact on the country where they serve. As successful businessmen, they have credibility with the locals and often have access to the true leaders in the country. God can use their business success to open many doors that are closed to other missionaries.”
In the April 2017 issue of MinistryTech magazine, I introduced Jason Fisher, entrepreneur and tent-maker. This is the original draft I submitted to the magazine.
In my March 2015 column, I quoted Jason Fisher: “Tentmakers can have a tremendous impact on the country where they serve. As successful businessmen, they have credibility with the locals and often have access to the true leaders in the country. God can use their business success to open many doors that are closed to other missionaries.” Jason believes in the tentmaking model and has been living it for the past 20 years. This month, I’d like to share his story with you.
A Tentmaking Vision
Early in life Jason felt called to ministry. While in high school, his study of the Bible and church history, specifically the apostle Paul and the Moravians, inspired him to pursue “tentmaking.” Practically, God gifted Jason with an analytical mind and computer skills. While pursuing a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Memphis, Jason found time to serve on staff with Youth for Christ and to take on software development projects to help pay for school.
As demand for his development services grew, Jason hired friends to keep up with demand. One of their projects for a local church became the EventU/ServiceU event management platform used by churches and other organizations around the world. But in his heart, Jason wanted to be sharing the gospel overseas and in his mind he thought God was calling him to a closed country like Russia or China. At twenty-five years old, he had no idea how to make that happen.
One day Jason went to meet a customer. When he came out, he found that his car had two flat tires. The man who helped him was Warren Creighton, a very successful Christian businessman who was in Memphis for a board meeting. As they worked together to resolve the tire issue, the two men got to know each other and Jason began to understand why God had arranged the encounter.
In the midst of his business success, God had saved Warren. In some respects that radical turn led to several crises in his life. Warren used his influence to begin to take the gospel to the nations and found himself in Romania in the days following Communism’s fall. His business success in the country provided an open door to the most powerful men in the country. In business meetings, Warren would often share his testimony, and he always opened business meetings in prayer, sometimes praying the gospel for 10 minutes or more if he felt that there were unsaved people in the room that needed to hear it. He started the Romanian National Prayer Breakfast and initiated Bible studies in Parliament. Warren was having an impact at every level of government.
Warren invited Jason to join him in Romania for a month. Bucharest’s Politehnica University was turning out thousands of talented programmers who had few opportunities to use their skills. During Jason’s visit, Warren and Jason met the dean of Computer Science at the Politehnica, Dr. Trandafir Moisa. Over dinner, they sketched out the details for a new business, Cornerstone Technologies. According to their back of the napkin math, the business would break even if there was enough work for 8 programmers, and would be profitable at 9.
The only issue was that Jason was engaged to be married. He shared with Warren Deuteronomy 24:5 “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Warren agreed. Jason returned to Memphis and enjoyed the bliss of marriage.
Almost exactly a year later, Warren called with the news that he had two customers ready to sign two-year contract with Cornerstone Technologies, one needing four programmers and the other needing five. Jason and his wife, packed up and moved to Romania. Providentially, as Jason was arriving, Warren’s family situation required him to leave. Jason had to step into some very large shoes, but the Romanians looked at Jason as Warren’s right hand man, and, by God’s grace (but not without some stumbles), Jason grew into the role.
During the dot com boom, Cornerstone employed 120 developers working for large multi-national companies. When the dot com era came to an end, Cornerstone spun off several software companies. When Jason meets with companies anywhere in the world, even in the U.S., he doesn’t hesitate to use the methods that Warren taught him to share the gospel with customers, vendors, and employees.
More than Bits and Bytes
Although Cornerstone has been Jason’s tech startup with the greatest impact, it’s not his only focus. Jason completed his Masters of Divinity while overseeing one of the spin-off software companies. After leaving that business, he reconstituted Cornerstone and began helping others start kingdom businesses. His LinkedIn profile lists seven other startups that he’s currently involved in as founder, co-founder, board member, or chief technology officer.
An encouraging example of the tentmaker model is Highland Harvesters, an apple orchard in Ethiopia that Jason co-founded. After acquiring 150 acres of land, God amazingly provided 28,000 seedlings at the perfect stage of development in August 2016 and the orchard expects its first harvest in 2017. Already the business has provided employment for 100 people, most from unreached people groups who have been very closed to the gospel. Local evangelists have consistently been turned away from these villages.
Each workday begins with prayer and scripture reading. After a few months, the workers asked if there was some way that their families and friends could come and hear these “stories.” The orchard hosted a special event and brought in a local evangelist to tell the “stories” – sharing God’s Word with the lost. Six hundred people came to the event, and it went so well that they invited the evangelist to come and live in their village. God is good!
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)
In this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he or she does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture. Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business, or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career. Are there Christian startups I should know about? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org