Believe it or not, its been a month since the last post in this series from Jamie Arpin Ricci who gave what were for me, some really insightful answers in the question of Missions funding. Here’s the second in the series from my good friend John Gillespie who interestingly enough, is also working for YWAM (you may see a pattern emerge soon) in Kona staffing Discipleship Training Schools and generally being a good guy, he is also getting married later this year to Miss Jenni Larsen.
John used to blog here, but we wont hold that against him:
In considering financial support for missionaries to what extent do you think it is important for both the supporter and supported to think about the support as theological endorsement?
1) I would venture to say that the emphasis of support should lie not so much in theological endorsement as missional endorsement. People tend to support all kinds of initiatives that are subjectively ‘good causes’, though the actual faith or religious views of the supported person or organization may be very different to that of the supporter, or even non-existent altogether. If we look at this concept on a grand scale, it would surprise me if anyone could actually say they shouldn’t support an organization doing a seemingly very good work just because the ethos came from a differing religious standpoint or worldview. No, sometimes it’s true that people choose to support a cause because of theological or religious agreement, but I would argue that it’s rare that a good work will be unsupported because theological or religious disagreement. For examples of this you only have to look as far as the decidedly non-religious NGO and charity organizations supported by Christians, and the many ‘religious’ NGOs supported by public funding the world over. I would argue that the main reason for supporting an individual or organization seems to be whether or not the cause is deemed by the supporter to be valid.
How much more should those in the Body of Christ choose to support others in our family of believers even in spite of all but the most fundamental of theological differences. If a work is believed to be furthering the cause of Jesus Christ, and his Kingdom’s gain here on earth, or fulfilling the mandate of Micah 6:8, then it’s my feeling that all but the most glaring of theological differences can be overlooked for the furtherance of the Gospel, that the mercy and love of Christ would be spread further in the world. I therefore believe that it is not important that both the supporter and supported view the support as a theological endorsement, though that may often be the case on one or both sides of the support relationship.
• There is an increased awareness in Churches today that the mission field is also their local community, some are saying this is resulting in a drop in financial support being directed to International missions? To what extent do you think this is a good or bad change?2) For a start, I personally haven’t noticed a drop in support given to international missions. At least in my neck of the woods there seems to be financial release being seen by my colleagues through gracious provision of supporters and our heavenly Father just the same as always. He takes care of us!
It is a wonderful thing that the Church across the globe seems to be waking up to the truth of the call of Christ to "go into all the world" – inclusive not only of their local community but also of their workplace, tennis club, local pub, and mailman. It’s certainly an exciting time to be alive, and I hope few would dare to call this a bad thing for the sake of a few extra dollars in a few ‘missionaries’ pockets. This is actually a time when we may just begin to see what it is to have God’s kingdom come "on earth as it is in heaven"! Wow! This isn’t a good thing – it’s a great , necessary, very-long-time-in-coming thing.
As a footnote, I also believe that as churches begin to wake up to the fact that all of life is mission – that to follow Christ is to be a missionary, in any and every sphere of life, many will also feel called to other places – to the world. Along with that I believe that this true Holy Spirit awakening births a desperation in the hearts of Jesus Christ’s church to see ALL come to hear of and know of this Christ, this Saviour, and therefore generosity is released as people partner not just with their hearts but with their pocket books. A more missional attitude should always lead us to the lost, and it just so happens that people are lost everywhere! In Jerusalem (your community), Judea (your nation), Samaria (your neighboring nations), and the ends of the earth (insert interpretive explanation here).
• Many are suggesting that the traditional conception of missionaries and those who ‘Go’ and are financially supported needs to be revised to a more self sustaining bi-vocational model akin to Paul’s tent making enterprise, Is this a realistic model in all contexts? What would be the grounds in your opinion for advocating an approach to missions which is based entirely on financial support?3) Unfortunately I can’t logically or biblically give grounds for a missions movement or individual based solely and entirely on financial support. I’m not smart enough or a knowledgeable enough theologian. The key that seems to be best to live by, as with anything, is what is the Holy Spirit saying to me, now, and in this situation. If the Lord calls someone to live entirely based on relationship based, love filled, well communicated financial support, then that is definitely better than trying to work it out through a job or other means. Similarly, I believe that condition is one which is called, and not everyone is called to that situation.
If there’s one thing which I’m learning in my life (albeit slowly), it’s to always ask and follow the Holy Spirit in every situation. It’s even biblical. Again, sorry for my lack of biblical prowess but wasn’t there a time when David (the king) went out to battle against those uncircumcised Philistines, and just a few verses later the EXACT same situation was happening, and both times he first went to inquire of God the tactics for the punch up. Now, why inquire again of God when the tactics worked the first time? Obviously, because God’s ways are not ours, and he has things for us that are far more spectacular and wonderful than we could see otherwise.
It’s all about listening and responding. You speak – we obey.
• In your opinion what claim does a financial supporter have on a missionary, in terms of communication, accountability, and authority?
4) It’s a tricky thing. How much claim should a financial supporter have on an individual missionary in terms of communication, accountability, authority, etc. Tricky, because I know people who have very different views on this. Not ever polarized are the views though. They verge on extreme control by the supporter to absolutely irresponsible.
The answer may lie in relationship. It would seem in all the biblical models of support, that support sprang from and fed into a growing and increasing relationship between the supporter and the supported. It was a two way thing. Paul several times thanks individuals and churches for their care and support, and even as his communication with them was powerful and inspired by the Holy Spirit, his prayers for them were fervent and continual. It seems that the blessings and support of all kinds flowed symbiotically in both directions. If this good relationship is a model for us, then it is obvious that some measure of accountability and communication is vital to the growth and increase of both parties. On the measure of authority, however, I believe spiritual authority is very different from that of a business partner to his employee. In the Kingdom of God the right to speak into someone’s life comes not from financial prowess or economic grandeur, but from love and a humble heart. Relationship, based on humility and love, gives the right to speak into a life, and the application is the same in this instance. Pennies don’t buy much in God’s kingdom. It’s all about the heart.
• Is there a particular individual, book or school of thought which has been formative for your understanding of ministry and it’s relationship to the things you have spoken about in your answers?
5) One good book that I’ve read (and pretty much the only book) was Daring to Live on the Edge by Loren Cunningham. While not exhaustive, Mr Cunningham brings up some fantastic points, and obviously has honestly looked at the biblical context of relationship and faith based support.
The Bible’s pretty good on the subject too. Look at the ministry of Jesus and of Paul. Check out the Widow’s Mite. I guess that’s a pretty good perspective on the value attached to money in the Bible.
• What are the foundational concepts which effect the way in which you ‘raise’ financial support? Do you ask for financial needs directly? Or do you not make people aware of financial need and trust that God will provide?
6) As I was saying in answer to an earlier question, I truly believe that the main issues in all questions of ‘How’ should really be submitted to the Holy Spirit. We can trust the leadership of our God!
That being said, there have been particular times when I’ve felt that it’s been right to ask directly for financial support, and other time when I’ve felt very particularly led to NOT ask, and just trust the Lord. In both cases, as I’ve walked out this process with the Lord and with the people around me, I’ve seen relationship built with my friends, and God spectacularly provide. I like to communicate my need and at times ask people directly for money. It certainly is better than hinting at a need, and I think it honors a friendship to come and ask for support. At the same time I hope finance never ever becomes my reason for relationship, and by the grace of God it never will. Other times, the times where I’ve felt led to not make any needs known, are times where I’ve learned huge lessons about the Matthew 6 provision of my heavenly Father, his greatness, and his great love for me.
Bottom line. What is the Lord asking you to do?
Thanks John, I’ll be posting up some further questions for John later on, if you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
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