Faith-based Ministry: Whose Faith?
Across all denominations, doctrinally sound mission sending organizations tend to fall into one of two camps:
- those that require their missionaries to raise support before they go to the field
- those that don’t
The Plymouth Brethren traditionally tend to align with those organizations that are in the “don’t” category. Most of our missionaries are sent out without a guaranteed/pledged amount of monthly income, trusting that God will supply their needs as needed.
This article is not to debate the merits of either camp. I’m simply pointing out that this is reality. Saying it’s not so, or that raising support is not Biblical, does not alter the fact that this is the way a big percentage of modern missionaries are sent out.
We tend to simplistically delineate between these two groups:
We pit these two ideas against each other, quoting the following promise:
And my God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
We commend the faith of the first group, and condemn the methods of the second.
Based on my interactions with missionaries in both groups, I’d contend that all missionaries’ faith has been stretched in the area of finances-both before leaving for, and in, the field. Every missionary has the financial expenses of the average Joe, plus the additional costs accrued from living in a foreign country.
Remember that support raising missionaries are not arbitrarily setting amounts for themselves. The mission organizations have considered everything from cost of living, to insurance (health, life), to schooling (including training for the missionary as well as primary, secondary and college education for their children), to taxes, to retirement to travel. Numbers are based on the specific country as well as averages, inflation, and exchange-rates.
It’s not a get rich quick scheme on any level.
That asks of thee
Our family has prayed several missionaries through the process of raising their monthly support.
- It is a harrowing experience, let me tell you. Have you ever tried asking for money from someone who thinks that asking for money is fundamentally wrong? This describes most assemblies, as well as much of the population that subscribes to the philosophy that is commonly known as the Puritan Work Ethic.
- It is a humbling experience. There is a need that you can’t meet yourself.
- It is a long-haul experience. The average timing to raise support is 2+ years.
- It is a faith building experience…trusting that God will provide the required amount in His timing.
Give to him that asketh thee.Matthew 5:42
The ESV renders it a bit less tidily…
Give to the one who begs from you.
Wow. But, must we reduce our missionaries to begging for financial support?
Black and white, does Jesus mean what He said? Is this a random verse taken out of context? Or, is the idea of generosity supported throughout scripture? Is God a generous God? Doesn’t He promise to give without reproaching? (James 1:5 ESV) If God, who knows every thing, every motive, every call, every person, gives generously and without upbraiding, why would we, His people, His instruments, do any differently?
(This does not negate the need for financial accountability, but neither should we assume that missionaries are wasting their resources any more than we are wasting ours. No double standard allowed. Both missionaries and non-missionaries are accountable to God for how we steward what we have received. It all comes from God’s hands.)
Even if we think it is unscriptural for someone to ask for support…even if we aren’t comfortable with someone raising support…even if we think someone should only take their needs to God- does that release us from our responsibility to give?
I wonder if we shouldn’t be embarrassed (and rather convicted) that any man or woman called to the mission field is not there for lack of financial support.
Which begs my original question:
Obviously the missionaries. Every.single.one.
And, just as obviously: my faith and your faith. The faith of the local church.
We need to individually and collectively be before God in prayer, not asking if we should give, but what we should give.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…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. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (ESV)
We need to individually and collectively trust that whatever amount God lays on our heart, however regularly, He will provide, so that we are able to pass it on to the recipient.
Does that take faith? You’d better believe it!
Throughout our marriage my husband and I have given to those who’ve asked, and those who haven’t. We’ve prayed, agreed together, and committed before the Lord to give to various and sundry missionaries on a monthly basis. We have never once not had the money to give. It’s always been there as needed.
We’ve had years where our income was considered “below the poverty level.” But, there was always enough to give what we purposed, and to pay our expenses. There’s been months when we’ve been banging down doors to collect payment for our roofing business, but we’ve never missed giving…not a single gift.
Our faith has grown through this experience. We’ve seen how when we give to God first, through giving to His people, we’ve always had enough, and abundance. Every time.
Whose faith? My faith. Our faith.
We all should have similar stories of being the recipient and conduit of God’s provision.
Faith is the lubricant that greases the wheel of God’s work.
We can’t give to everyone. Individuals and local churches both have limited resources. But, surely we serve a limitless God. I hope we practically realize and live in the reality of that fact.
And so when God brings a missionary across our path, we should eagerly and expectantly ask Him what He wants us to give.
And our faith-based ministry is to watch how God provides what we need so we can give to him who asks (or conversely doesn’t ask) from us.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon