This article is designed for those who believe that God has called them to serve in missions, either part-time or full-time, and either in the USA or abroad.
As the term “missionary” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek “apostello,” meaning,
“I send out for a purpose” the missionary is not “one who goes” but “one who is sent.”
The “sender” is in heaven: the Holy Spirit of God, in the name of Jesus! But down on earth, missionaries are “sent” by others – that is, supported by others. These others might be a church (or group of churches), a denomination, or a network of financial supporters – and – not to be neglected: prayer partners!!
One who goes and funds his own work might simply be a “Christian worker,” but one who is “sent and supported by prayer and finances” is truly a missionary.
Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” (Luke 10:2).
He didn’t say, “There’s not enough money,” He said, “there are not enough laborers!”
The truth is, there’s plenty of money in this country, and much of it is in the hands of people who will give to help you carry out your mission if they can just catch your vision and understand your plan. So if you’re reading this blog book, and are sensing a call to serve in missions, but you don’t see how you can pay for it without divine intervention, grab your “highlighter” pen and let’s go to work.
In the 1700s, The first “modern missionary” was an Englishman by the name of William Carey, a shoe cobbler by trade (and a mighty man of prayer by calling). He used to make maps out of leather scraps and ponder them with a burden for how God might use him to go to other parts of the world to proclaim the gospel. Once he knew God had called him to the then-pagan land of India, Carey said to his friends, “I will go down into the well; you hold the ropes.” Those rope-holders financed his voyage and work, which resulted in a whole new approach to modern mission funding (and countless people in India hearing the gospel and coming to Christ. Many Indian churches trace their founding back to Carey.)
This article is an introduction to some basic core values of fundraising that you can use to enlist others to “hold the ropes” while you go “down into the well.” These are proven procedures I have utilized over the years in different kinds of projects.
1)THIS IS FAITH IN ACTION.
Trust God as if it all depended on Him, and then work as if it all depended on you. This appears paradoxical, but it is a spiritual reality. Check Matthew chapter six, “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap… yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” A quick lookup in a tree will show you that while the birds’ food does come from the Father, those birds aren’t sitting in their nest all day waiting for supper– they’re out there working like mad to catch their worms and bugs.
In fundraising full-time missionaries, faith and work aren’t opposites, they are partners. James reminds us in his epistle that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (faith).” The implication is that “faith accompanied by action” is VIABLE, LIVING, FRUITFUL faith.
So, trust in God, yes. But give Him your total cooperation by doing your part.
2) CLEAR COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY.
Believe in this approach: “Trust God and tell the people.” Be sure you don’t get those backward (where you whine to God and trust the people). And make sure you communicate the Why, What, Where, When, and How.
God is going to be the source of your financial support, just as surely as He provides those worms for the early birds, but part of your job is letting the people know about your vision and your plans. “Ask, and you shall receive,” said Jesus.
American people love information and will evaluate and prioritize a request for help according to both the quality and the quantity of information given to them. I believe you can find a balance between faith and “corresponding actions” by “trusting God and telling the people.”
3) FUNDRAISING IS A FORM OF DISCIPLE-MAKING.
You must believe strongly in what you are doing. You must believe that when people give to your church plant, they are acting as good stewards and are doing something that is pleasing to the Lord. They are not really giving “to you” as much as they are giving through you to the mission’s project.
You must believe that by giving to your project, they are going to be blessed by God in return (in some way, not necessarily financially). Realize that some of the people who give to your project will be people with lower economic situations than your own. This feels weird and unnatural to most of us, but you must permit them to give. If it humbles you to accept help from them, so be it. After all, God wants to bless those who give.
Above all, you must understand that you are helping these people to become better disciples – and that IS our Great Commission- to make disciples. God WILL reward people who give to legitimate missions projects – He does it in different ways
4) ALWAYS INFORM, NEVER BEG.
Surely you detest those high-pressure TV evangelists as much as I do, and I would never suggest that you raise support by begging, by emotional appeal, or by any means of motivating by fear or guilt. My counsel is simply to tell people what you’re up to and help them catch the vision of how they can help. Be truthful and positive. Share as the Spirit leads you and leave the results in His hands.
Most Christians are going to invest in a mission project because they have “caught the vision” of the good things that can happen (and not because they want to prevent a missionary from starving to death). They are hoping their dollars will result in souls saved and lives changed. They want to “be a part” of this effort to love in the name of Jesus.
There’s a story told about a west Texas rancher who was out riding with his foreman when they came upon the carcass of a dead horse. The rancher asked, “Aren’t you paying attention to this ranch?”
“Yes, sir,” replied the foreman, “But I don’t pay much attention to dead horses.”
I actually heard that story from one of the major donors to my ministry at the time. Her point was that she wasn’t interested in investing money in “dead horse” ministries!
Don’t you feel the same way? As an example, read these two appeals from missionary church planters that might come in your mail, and see which one works for you:
Appeal #1: Greetings from the Last Hope mission. We have now been on the job for eight months, but it is proving hard to meet people in this town. It cost us more to rent the facility than we thought, but we had to have it to accommodate all the children. The band has grown but we need to pay the worship leader or he won’t stay with us. Without another $350 per month, I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue. Please help.
Appeal #2: Things are going well here at the New Hope mission. Our core group is about to split and become two groups. The new worship leader has found some musicians to help him on Sunday mornings. However, our children’s leader says she is out of space. We know of a bigger place, and as soon as our support increases by only $350 more per month, we can grab that space and fill it with children on Sunday mornings. Please be in prayer about helping us.
Okay, it’s the same church !!! But wouldn’t you rather give to the second appeal? Try to cast vision like that in all your communication, without resorting to hype or overstatement. The key is in the focus: let the message be centered on what God is doing and what you’re envisioning to do next. Focus on goals and challenges, not on problems and obstacles. Tell the truth, the whole truth, but frame it within the vision.
5) RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING.
At colleges and universities, fundraisers are now known as “development officers.”
This is an honest term because their real work is developing relationships with people in order to help them become donors. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that people give to ministry causes they know about, believe in, and trust. Nothing builds trust and confidence like a personal relationship, and relationships take time. For you as a “missionary,” the time spent in developing relationships with supporters before you begin, as well as the time spent keeping up those relationships once you are on the job, is time well spent! You are ministering to these people- it’s part of your mission.
It is important to understand that “support raising” goes beyond mere fundraising. Prayer support and personal emotional support are two important resources you will need to tap once the work gets going. If somehow you had been able to raise the funding you needed from total strangers, who would give you the personal support?
You need help from your supporters, but they need help from you too. That’s why you can honestly call them “ministry partners” if the relationship goes beyond the finances.
You don’t want to simply “use” your supporters, but rather you want to be a positive influence on them, encouraging them in response to their support of your work. Their partnership with you may be a vital part of their own spiritual growth, as they become more committed and more involved in kingdom building.
The apostle Paul was a master at this. Understanding that ministry was a two-way street and that by encouraging believers to give to worthy causes, he was actually helping them grow in grace. Paul said to the Philippians, “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
When you can view support-raising in these terms, it ceases to be an odious task and becomes another element of your ministry of “making better disciples.”