God is Not Broke …or Stingy

Just thought I would do a quick post on raising financial support as a missionary.

Frankly, I have a few other blog topics I’d much rather blobble about, namely “Eastern Orthodox”, “Who are these guys faces on Ukrainian Money?”, or “Things to do in Odessa, Ukraine”.  These will all be forthcoming.  However, I’ve been confronted with a similar question twice in the last month or so.  The first one came to me by way of facebook chat where a Christian acquaintance, shortly after I had sent emails soliciting financial partnership in advancing the Gospel through our mission work in Ukraine, asked me, “where in the Bible does it say to ask people for money?”  Duly noted.

I went to a Bible College who’s founder used to criticize Christian radio personalities who were always asking for money.  After they would say, “if you don’t send us some money, we will go off the air,” his response was, “Good!  God is not broke!”  In other words, he believes if God is backing your ministry then He will provide the means for it without you having to ask for it.  He liked to say, “Where God guides, God provides!”  Which is great, I agree, but can we necessarily make the assumption that if something is provided for it is God’s will (speaking here of God’s desired will, not His decreed or Sovereign will)?  If so, then the Mormon church is doing great things for God.  

Often, in churches I used to go to, they do not pass around an offering plate, or bucket, or pastel felt purse thing.  They simply have a quiet wooden box in the back of the building on the wall.  This does have appeal, for it sends people a strong message that you are not after their money, and it sends a perceived message that you are trusting God.  However, the fact remains that giving financially and sacrificially IS A BIBLICAL CONCEPT and often people need exhortation in this area.  Usually people need a little help with motivation in this area.  I know I did.  David Platt said, “we don’t realize what a grip things have on our hearts!”  At risk of sounding like a prosperity preacher, which I am flamingly not, if people are not supporting the Great Commission by giving to God of their lives and their money, then they really are missing out on a lot of God’s blessing in their life!

I’m pretty sure when this church sends out missionaries they support them for one year, then if they become self-supported within that time it is taken as a sign that God is blessing the work.  This is great too, but 1), not all of us have this option, and 2), often God’s missionaries have gone without.  And they were God’s missionaries.  I used to agree with what the people at my Bible College taught me and I like the example they set.  Someone once encouraged me to raise money to plant a church and said they would support me monthly like it was nothing.  I was encouraged, but said I didn’t believe in raising money that way.  I lived this way for years.  I too was bothered and thought it very distasteful for pastors who gave a mini sermonette on the importance of giving to God every time they took the offering at church.  I think this is a little too much.

A second friend, just a few days ago, mentioned that he thought the way the President of our old Bible School dealt with the subject of asking for money was good and I should think about it.  After a thoughtful email response, I gave him a phone call, and after further discussion we are now in agreement on the issue, 100%.

 After the first man had asked me, “where in the Bible does it say to ask people for money?”  I asked him, “where in the Bible does it say not to?”  He said I was shifting the burden.  I assured him that he did have a burden of proof because the Bible never forbids this.  He had convictions it was better to not ask for money, although he was all for missionary funding, but he was imposing his convictions on me.

In my missionary training I read a book and took some lessons from a book called “People Raising”.  I do recommend this book to anyone going into missions.  First they cover George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, and D.L. Moody’s methods of raising support for God’s work through them.  Mueller is known for his faith and many people set his example as the ideal.  It is said he never solicited financial help but only prayed when they were in need.  This is awesome!  1), not all of us can do this, and 2), the guy had an orphanage!  I am not minimizing his faith by any means, but I am sure almost anyone qualified for the job can go start an orphanage and somebody is gonna feed those kids.  Additionally there were plenty of people who knew of his work and knew his need.  Hudson Taylor took a more moderate approach and simply informed people of his work.  D.L. Moody on the other hand was a master at speaking with rich business men, of which he once was, and raising funds for all kinds of buildings and programs to be erected.  He was shameless, aggressive, and good!

The book makes note that none of these ways are unbiblical.  All three are okay within biblical confines and it encourages missionaries by making it clear that it takes faith to ask.  Asking does not mean you aren’t excercising faith.  You see, God works often through very practical means.  If I am evangelizing, I must do all I can to share the Gospel persuasively and clearly in love.  I must use all the arsenal I have in winning a soul to Christ as though it depended on me knowing fully that it is God who gives the increase.  

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:7

“And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  Romans 10:14

How will they know unless they are told?  If I want a job, I fill out an application, pray and trust God with the outcome.  If I want a promotion, I pray, work as hard as I can and do as good a job as I can, even ask for it and leave the outcome to God.  If I want to date a girl, I ask her out.  If she says, “no,” I can be sure God decided the outcome.  I know that God is infinitely wise, good, and all-loving so I trust Him.  It’s not about the outcome, it’s about me and God and whether I’m trusting Him or not.  

Proverbs 16:33 says,“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”  I do my part and leave the decision up to God.

This applys, I believe to every area of life.  If you would like more examples, or biblical references, please write and I would be glad to supply them.  It is not easy for me to ask people for money.  It is awkward, humiliating, uncomfortable, and just hard.  I am not trying to buy a house or a 4×4 SUV.  I don’t need anything.  We are not hoping for ministry, merely training for ministry, or being hypothetical about ministry, we are doing it.  And while doing it we are being personally mentored in it, both being discipled and discipling others ourselves.  We are making many sacrifices and prepared to make many more.  The only desire is for stability to serve God and be free to do that without financial strain or preoccupation.  This does not mean I am not aware that there will be times I just have to buckle down and trust God tooth and nail.

Continually, I have to preach to myself that support raising is a ministry.  And it is!  Consider some of the things it accomplishes:

~It reminds people to pray for you and the country you are in

~It raises awareness of missions and the Great Commision

~This in turn may play a part in mobilizing people into missions or ministry

~It encourages people to take inventory of their heart and what they are doing with God’s money

~It advances us in the Great Commission and what can be a more glorious “job” than that?!

~It provides an opportunity for people to participate in the Great Commission if they have obligations at home.

~It allows people an opportunity to receive God’s blessing upon their lives!

Once I am reminded that asking people for money is a ministry and helps them towards all these benefits, how can I not do it wholeheartedly, assertively, diligently, and tactfully by the grace of God?  I ask, and leave the results up to God.  I throw the dice and God causes them to fall.  Still the maxim remains true, “where God guides, God provides!”

The bottom line in the discussion isn’t what well meaning people think, however good their intentions, what people think of me, or what George Mueller did.  It’s not even about what Athanasius did! (That’s a bad joke about Church Tradition — holler if you get it), it’s about what the Bible says when interpreted, as Martin Luther would say, with “sound reason.”  

Below you can find a list of some verses in the Bible on the subject, with some brief comments by myself.  Please put on a meek and teachable spirit and read the whole thing objectively before bombarding your mind with all those distracting presuppositions.  Thank you for your time, your prayers, and your enthusiasm for truth!

These were taken from our course on People Raising:

+Why raise support?
1. Provides a base of prayer support.
Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

2. Stretches missionary’s faith

Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

3. Confirms your calling.

Reminder that it is God that brought us here.

Romans 11:36 ESV  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

4. Stimulates and encourages missionary vision in the body of Christ.

Average American believer keeps 97%-98% of God’s money.  You can help get the other 7%-8% that God deserves!

American church spends 95% of “God’s” money on itself.

You provide an opportunity for people to participate in God’s plan.

Psalm 67:4-5  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah  (5)  Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Mark 16:15  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

+Is raising support biblical?
O.T. Pattern –

Numbers 18:21-24 ESV  “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,  (22)  so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.  (23)  But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance.  (24)  For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

God called Israel to give a tithe to support their “full time” spiritual leaders.
N.T. Pattern –

Luke 8:1-3 ESV  Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,  (2)  and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  (3)  and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Other people supported Jesus.

People Raising/Support Raising

Seaside Missionary Training Center

1. Read the following verses about fund raising.  Write principles or observations about support raising from each passage.

Exodus 25:1-2; 35:4-5 _____Moses spoke for them to give and they gave as their heart moved them.  __________Moses commands the people to give.

Numbers 8:14; 18:21-24 ______The Levites were set apart to do God’s work and have their needs provided for by the other people.____________

Deuteronomy 14:27; 16:17 ___The Levites were not to be neglected_______”Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”_______________________

1 Samuel 9:7-8 ___Saul and his servant gave to the man of God for his service.__________________

1 Kings 17:1-16 ___Elijah asks for watwer and bread from a widow.  Then he tells her to go bake more for Him and that God bless her and provided for her more than she had._________________

Nehemiah 2:1-8; 13-14 __Nehemiah asks the king for permission, protection, and materials to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.__________________

Proverbs 30:7-9 ___A prayer for God to provide just the right amount according to His wisdom.___

Matthew 10:5-15; 11:18-19 __Jesus told the disciples not to take any money with them on their journey but to LOOK FOR some worthy person to house them saying, “the worker is worth his keep.”___

Luke 8:1-3; 10:1-8; 16:10-12; 21:1-4; 22:35-38 __Three women were supporting Jesus and the disciples from their own means.__Jesus tells the 72 to find a house on their journey that will receive them and, “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.”  ___God tells us to be faithful with His money.  I believe this involves giving.___Jesus teaches that it’s not about the amount that is given, but the heart behind it._____There are times when we are supposed to bring money with us on our mission.___________________________

John 12:3-8 ___Lady pours her expensive perfume on Jesus feet._________________________

Acts 10:2-4; 18:3-5; 20:33-35 ___Of Cornelius: ” He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”_____Paul was a tent-maker, for awhile.  However when his ministry partners arrived he began preaching full time!______Paul models an example for working hard and helping the week, and remionds us, “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”___________________

Romans 15:20-24 ___Paul says to the Romans, “I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”____________

2 Corinthians 1:16; 8-9; 12:13 __”I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.___”And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in yousee that you also excel in this grace of giving.”_____Paul apologizes to the Corinthians for not having had them give him more._________________

Galatians 6:6 __The Bible teaches to give to your Bible teacher._________________________

Philippians 4:10-20 _”Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”________________

1 Thessalonians 2:9 ___Paul is not afraid of workin to supply his needs.  He is not seeking to burden anyone although it sounds almost wrong of the church to have him have to do this.______

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 ___Paul says why he worked hard, “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”  Now he expected them to follow his example._____________

1 Timothy 5:17-18; 6:17 ____Paul says the elders of the church are worthy of double pay, especially if their job is preaching and teaching.  “For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.””__________________________

2. What is the biblical basis for Christian worker’s being support by others?

Numbers 18:21-24 __The Levites would do the Lord’s work and the rest of the Israelites would support them.__________________________

Matthew 10:5-15 __People would provide for the Disciples out of their hospitality and service.___

Luke 8:1-3 __The three women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases cared for Jesus and the disciples out of their own pockets._____

Acts 18:3-5 ___Their is a time to work as a missionary to support yourself, but it is more beneficial for the work of the ministry when you don’t have to. (I also believe Timothy and Silas likely brought a gift for Paul from the Macedonian church)._________________

1 Corinthians 9 __”Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?”_____”whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?”_________________________

3. Is there a biblical basis for asking for support or making needs known?

1 Kings 17 __Elijah asks the widow for bread.____

Matthew 10:11 ____”Whatever town or village you enter, SEARCH THERE for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.”______

Romans 15:24 ___Paul tells the Christians in Rome he plans on receiving aid from them when he comes through.  He says this expectantly.____

2 Corinthians 1:16 ____He repeats to the Corinthians what he said to the Romans._____

These are not all the verses on money and giving but they are some interesting ones.  I would be happy to hear what you think of them.

Beryl says:

Jacob, I don’t get on facebook much but receive notifications of postings to me personally via e-mail. I was a bit hesitant to read this because I preceived the title incorrectly and thought the contents would be condemning.
I was wrong and was glad I read most of what you posted. I did not read through the references at the bottom, although I may in the future.
I too had to learn to raise support recently and struggled tremendously with the idea. Most people don’t have to struggle with raising financial support the way you have chosen to so it is difficult to understand much less look at objectively. Your response is well-worded. Thank you for really thinking this through.
I am now struggling through all of the liturature we get over the holidays about the tremendous need that there is for financial support and how it is presented. It is important to ask in a wise way. May you continue to ask the all-wise God for what you need and for wisdom and knowledge as the Holy Spirit gives you the words that you need for life and for godliness today, in the name of Christ amen.
Beryl