One of the most challenging and yet rewarding aspects about serving as an overseas missionary was the fund raising that was involved. Michelle and I both lived off financial support for a total of about eight years (Michelle served on the staff of our campus ministry in the states for five years before we moved overseas). We have memories of how the Lord provided for us in remarkable and often unexpected ways. And we are grateful for all those who partnered with us in prayer and in financial support.
One of the most frequent comments I heard from friends and supporters alike was, “It must be really hard to ask people for money. I could never do that.” While it can be challenging at times to raise support, I never viewed the process as asking people to give me money. It was my conviction that the Lord had led us to this work during that season of our lives and we were to trust him to provide for us from his infinite resources. In fact, it was often the case that our supporters would mention to us just how much of a blessing it was to them to be a part of our ministry to college students half way around the world. Many of these people never had the opportunity to move to a foreign land and preach Christ to the lost. But through their partnership with us they were able to have an influence in a place they would never be able to visit on their own.
Now, this article is not about how to raise support as a career missionary but I think it helps to put things in perspective when we are able to put ourselves on the other side, to place ourselves in our missionary’s shoes. The reality is that everything we do has a cost attached to it. Driving a car, eating dinner, reading a book, even having a conversation; everything we do bears a financial cost. In order to drive a car we have to buy a car, purchase insurance, and keep it maintained. Eating dinner requires purchasing food. Reading a book requires us to buy the book (or at least drive to the library to check it out). Even having a conversation has a cost attached to it. If the conversation is on the phone then we must pay the phone bill. If it is in person we have to be properly dressed to carry on the conversation and that clothing also has a cost. Likewise, if we are going to be involved in the work of gospel ministry, both at home and abroad, there is a cost. This should not surprise us nor should it cause us any distress. On the contrary, we should be filled with confidence knowing that the Lord will accomplish his purposes and will provide the resources to do so.
Basis for Generous Giving
The matter I wish to address in this article is the great privilege and responsibility we have as the church to be involved in the work of gospel proclamation to the ends of the earth. God has promised in his Word that he will draw to himself a people from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). In Psalm 67 we have a magnificent hymn that celebrates that truth. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Ps. 67:1-4a). According to the Scriptures it is the church that has been commissioned to take up the work of gospel proclamation. When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 he was specifically addressing the Apostles when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Today this ministry of making disciples, which consists of preaching, teaching and baptizing, is accomplished by the church through her ministers and elders. It is the ministers who have specifically been charged with preaching, teaching, and baptizing. This is why we make it a priority as a church to support church planting missionaries. Our prayer is that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would penetrate the stone-cold hearts of lost people in every land through the ministry of preaching. And in order to see this happen as a church we seek to give generously.
The manner in which our congregation supports gospel missions is through something called Faith Promise. Some of you may be familiar with Faith Promise while others may have no idea what it is. At its core Faith Promise is about supporting the work of gospel ministry through sacrificial and generous giving. The Bible models this kind of giving in numerous places. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul exhorts the church in Rome to give with generosity and to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Again in 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul instructs the Corinthian congregation to follow the lead of the Macedonian churches by giving with cheerful hearts. He encourages them to excel in the grace of giving and to remember the great price that was paid for their salvation. He promises the Corinthians that the Lord will bless them through their giving. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10-11). We must be careful not to interpret this promise of blessing as meaning that God will give us more money because we give to missions. That would be a terrible conclusion. Rather, the blessing you receive from generous giving that flows from a thankful heart is itself spiritual blessing.
Paul expresses overwhelming gratitude to the Philippian churches for their partnership in gospel ministry. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Philippians were the model of sacrificial, cheerful giving. They were not the wealthiest church on the block but they were the most generous church (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-2). Paul praises them and thanks God for their outward demonstration of love.
Brothers and sisters, let us imitate this attitude of sacrificial, generous, and cheerful giving. God has poured out his richest blessings on us through Christ. We have heard the good news of the gospel proclaimed to our ears and have been given the gift of faith that we might believe this good news with all of our hearts. In turn, we have the wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our thankfulness to God by giving to the work of gospel missions that men and women and boys and girls in Africa, England, Germany, Japan, Belize, Cambodia, France, and the ends of the earth might hear the gospel preached to them and believe. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14-15, 17).
Our missions committee works very hard to support our missionaries and encourage and educate our congregation regarding missions. They also determine their annual budget for supporting missions through Faith Promise pledge cards. So how does Faith Promise work? Here is the way we should think about it: If you are married you should get together with your spouse and take a look at your budget. You should look at your current giving to the church and your other expenditures. Then you should take the matter to the Lord in prayer and ask him to show you areas where you can trim your spending. Maybe it’s one less lunch out per week. Perhaps it’s a less expensive vacation. It could be having a family game night at home rather than going out to the movies. For many of us there are a number of ways that we can cut back on our spending in order to fund the work of gospel missions. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Am I willing to make those sacrifices?” One area of spending that should not be trimmed in order for you to contribute to faith promise is your regular offerings. Faith Promise is something that is over and above your regular giving to the church. If we are to support the work of missions we need to carefully monitor our spending patterns, pray for the grace of generosity, and seek to live sacrificially. After going through these steps you should have a measure of clarity in determining your Faith Promise pledge.
Two final notes: Should you desire your giving to go to a specific missionary that we support you should indicate that in your giving. Simply designate which missionary you want to receive the funds. Secondly, we want you to know that the amount you pledge for Faith Promise will never be made public (either to the missions committee, Session, or anyone else) and no one will hound you to make sure you give what you pledged. Again, at the heart of Faith Promise is the biblical principle of generosity and cheerful giving…giving out of the abundance of a thankful heart. Please consider how the Lord will use you and your family to support the work of gospel missions in the coming year.