I think most of us would agree that trusting God often involves taking steps of faith in areas where we feel uncomfortable. It’s just too easy to hunker down in places where we feel adequate and shy away from those things that may expose our weaknesses. But as we are on our way to the mission field, we are faced with what may be our toughest challenge yet - asking people for money. It’s what Christians call “raising support” and it’s not easy, even for someone who raises funds for a local non-profit for a living. I’m raising those funds “for the kids,” not for myself…
Of course Jordan and I wholeheartedly believe we should invest in helping the gospel go to all nations. We have supported a number of missionaries and initiatives over the years that have done just that. But now we have to invite others to consider whether the Lord is calling them to invest in US. It feels like a whole different ballgame.
And stepping into this new role has really made us think, and pray, and ponder over these past six months. Here are some of our thoughts on this whole idea of “support raising.”
1. Talking about money quickly exposes who (or what) we actually worship.
Money almost always seems to be an awkward conversation topic because money, in a mysterious way, often represents our life. As I mentioned in my last blog post, Jesus lived a simple life marked by generosity and underconsumption. He tells us that life involves much more than our possessions (Matthew 6:25), but his words challenge a powerful and invisible assumption: that our money, our wealth, gives us our meaning, our life.
Money makes better promises than almost anything else. It represents safety, security, pleasure, and self-worth - all things our culture places a very high value on. The more money we accumulate, the more blurry the line gets between our life and our wealth. We start living for money, instead of using money to live. Our hearts are so prone to idolatry that wealth quickly makes us slaves without letting us know. If God took a spiritual X-ray of our hearts as modern Americans, I think we would all see more dysfunction than we would like to admit.
That’s one reason asking for money can be awkward. We have to confront our own messed-up hearts. Have we been as generous as we are asking others to be? Are we anxious about this process because we are trusting money to make our ministry go forward? At the same time, we cannot be tempted to say, “Give because it’s easy” or “Give only if you have extra you don’t need” or to guilt people into giving. That would be asking for counterfeit generosity, generosity so small and light it does not demand us asking who (or what) we worship.
When our worship is directed at the Giver of all Life, it changes the way we look at money, changes the way we look at asking others for money. After all, money is just our servant, not our master.
2. Grace changes everything.
At its core, grace is giving what others don’t deserve. When grace changes our hearts, our love deepens to something stronger than emotions or friendship. True love stands on the bedrock of grace: we want to love others by being willing to give what will bless them. This is why the lack of a generous heart reveals a poverty of grace. In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul rebukes the wealthy Corinthians for not giving more. He casually reminds them of the need (verses 1-4). But then he speaks to their hearts: “For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ” (verse 13). A lack of generosity proves we are obedient to the “bad news” of trusting our money. We let it call the shots in our lives. But generosity announces we are obeying good news: news of grace that God is working in us.
3. Asking people to partner with us is actually giving them the opportunity to invest in something eternal.
How many of the things we invest our money in are eternal? Really. Think about that. We invest our money in our houses, our cars, our temporal needs (food, clothing, hygiene), our pleasures (going out to eat, movies, concerts, vacations). But imagine investing in something that would not pass away, or die with you. Imagine if you found a field where whatever was planted in it would grow to last forever. And what if you had friends who had barns full of seeds, much of which was sitting on the shelves or going into soil that produced plants that only lasted for a few weeks? It would be a no-brainer. You would ask your friends for the seeds. Not because you are needy, but because you had discovered such amazing soil and you cared about your friends. Africa is full of rich soil where gospel seeds will grow forever. It’s a privilege to be able to plant in this soil. And it’s a privilege to challenge others to give their seeds to plant in this soil.
4. God provides through people.
God’s mission depends on him, not on us. That’s incredibly encouraging. Our real “asking for support” is when we pray to God. If he has called us, he will provide. And he will provide through real people - people we know, people that hear about our need, people who are our friends and family. But because it’s his work, we don’t need to pressure others or be stressed out. We get to walk with him through a new adventure of trust. Veteran missionaries often say “It’s surprising how God provides. The people you expect to join often don’t and those that you least expect often do.” Isn’t that so often how God works? It’s another reminder we are not in control. But we live with vision and gladness because our heavenly father is in control. He loves us enough to shape us by teaching us to trust in him and the adventure story he is writing with our lives. And ultimately, (even though some days it’s hard for us to believe this) we are glad our life will have a support raising chapter in it.