Whether you call it support raising, fundraising, ministry partner development, or some other name, the process of inviting people to invest in a ministry is daunting. Sometimes I want to sit back and exclaim the immortal words of Inspector Gadget: “Wowzers!” Sometimes that exclamation would be out of frustration or stress, other times out of sheer awe at what the Lord is doing in my life and the lives of others though this process.
When I first started raising support, I think my attitude was that I was begging others to give their hard earned money to a ministry they knew little about. I was, by my flawed view of things, asking them to provide for me financially so I could chase a dream. I felt like a beggar. And there are many days when I still have those thoughts, and I’m sure that many people who know what I’m up to see it as that. But when I search scripture and open my heart to the truth of God, I remember that what I’m really asking people to do is trust in God with every aspect of their lives, including their finances, as I do the same thing. I’m asking people to see the importance of loving children and teaching them how to love and to help me do those things.
Jesus, when He sends out the 12, and when He sends out the 70, commands them not to take their own provisions, telling the 12 that the worker is worth his keep. Paul takes a similar stance on the idea, reminding Timothy that the ox is not to be muzzled while working and that the worker is worth his wages. When I read of the way the church supported Jesus and the disciples, and then Paul, and the way the Levites had their provision from the tithes of the other tribes, I realized that as I seek to become involved in “full time” ministry, there is nothing wrong with asking others to support the ministry, in fact, an approved workman is not ashamed, Paul wrote.
However, the way I ask, and my expectations of the responses I will receive, matter greatly. My attitude is not to be one of arrogance or manipulation. I am not entitled to anyone’s support. I am free to ask, but those I ask are free to deny. And their choice to give or to refrain from giving doesn’t change my attitude toward them. The love I have for others is dependent only on God’s love for me. I love because he first loved me. My love flows from an overflow of God’s love to everyone I come across, not from material wealth to those willing to provide said wealth.
When describing to a good friend of mine the support raising process, I compared it to any other charity; people believe in the mission and thus are willing to support it, knowing their money will not be returned to them. And to some extent that is accurate. Just as Aggies support the Association of Former Students because they believe in the mission of the organization, my ministry partners believe in mission of the Gospel to seek and save the lost, to make disciples of all nations, but there is more to it than that. I fully believe that giving to ministry is an investment. No, you won’t be leveraging God; giving to support my vision for ministry will not obligate God to return more to you. He may do that, but He may not. However, I am firmly convinced that as we seek to view our possessions as God’s possessions on loan to us, and as we seek to offer them to Him, He will return to us a multitude of blessings. I have seen this in my own life as I supported friends in ministry over the last year. Countless times I would be at work, having a terrible day, frustrated with life in some way, doubting that God was working in my life, only to have a notification on my phone that I received an email from one of the friends I was supporting. Each and every time, I would be uplifted, encouraged and reminded that God works in all circumstances, even the bad or frustrating. I can imagine God reveling at my marvel when I read about the way my small gift was helping His message of grace and truth to spread through east Asia.
I don’t just want my supporters to believe that what I’m doing is important, I want them to understand that what THEY are doing is important. I don’t want them to feel like an observer of the ministry, but an active participant, because they are. I went them to feel like choosers, not obligated to donate to a charity cause, but electing to involve themselves in God’s work in places they can’t physically be.