Beggars and Choosers

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.

 

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In the beginning… A Genesis story.

Ages after the Lord created the heavens and the earth and millennia since the Word, who was with God and was God, became flesh, my God continues scripting beginnings for His children. This is one such story.

Ever since the summer after my freshmen year at Texas A&M, God has been developing in me a desire to serve in vocational ministry. When I graduated, the doors that I believed I should walk through were shut, one by one, as God directed my steps to Dallas.

At first I was disappointed, a bit angry, and even distrustful of His purposes, but as I began to pray honestly and tell him about my fears and frustrations, He provided me with a growing sense of peace and patience. Soon I was plugging in to a church in Dallas (Watermark Community Church) serving with their children’s ministry, meeting weekly with a community group, and attending leadership training classes. I began to see how much maturing I needed to do, and how much of my own passions God needed to reveal to me.

Suddenly, it was the time of year when applications for ministry internships appear online. Much like last year, I applied with a sense of certainty and eagerness. And much like last year, the opportunities I most wanted slipped away. This time I was wiser for the ware. I knew God would direct me perfectly regardless of how closely my plans matched up with His. The next thing I knew, an old friend and former manager from my days rolling fatties (burritos, y’all…) contacted me about an opportunity that was God ordained in just about every sense of the phrase.

Brendan, I knew, had been interning with Austin Stone Community Church for the past two years, but due to busy schedules and different cities, we (to some extent) lost contact over the years since we forged our friendship in the fires of the Freebird’s grill. When he emailed and asked me what I was up to, it was more than a coincidence that I’d been looking for a job in children’s ministry and he’d just been invited to join up with Austin Stone as the West Campus Kid’s Director. I was excited, but also nervous. We scheduled time to talk, and soon I was filling out an application for a very unexpected opportunity.

When I visited Austin about a week later over the first weekend in June, I had already been informed that I was a bit late; most of the other interns had been interviewed and accepted and begun raising support. Before the interview, a multitude of anxieties settled in my heart. What if I wasn’t accepted and had to continue working a job that I find asinine and boring? What if I was accepted and couldn’t raise support fast enough? What would I do without my community group? Would the amazing girl I’d just started dating be willing to “do long distance”? What would my family think about me leaving Dallas again? As I shared these insecurities with Brendan and also with Stephanie (see “amazing girl I’d just started dating” above) and submitting them to the Lord (by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, of course) I truly did have waves of peace flow over me to guard my heart and my mind.

A few days (and hundreds of prayers) later, I was listening to a voicemail from Brendan inviting me to join their team as a Level 1 intern! I accepted almost immediately, and now the adventure has begun!

I’m starting this blog to share the vision God has placed in my heart and to communicate what I am learning, what I am doing, and how I am growing as I pursue this calling.

Stay tuned! This is the first of many posts, and I am hoping that those of you reading it will be blessed by seeing how God is humbling me and rebuilding me to be more and more like Christ.