Why Raise Support?

Biblical Backing for Raising Our Own Ministry Funds

From time to time we come across folks who don’t fully understand why we raise our own support. The following is a response to some of those questions:

Why don’t we just work at a church and get a paycheck from the offerings?

That would be great if we were called to be pastors. But we are missionaries (Ephesians 4:11 calls us evangelists). Christine and I are confident that since God has called us to be missionaries, He will provide what we need to carry out the mission. You see raising support is not the issue of the missionary being worthy of that support. Raising support is not about trying to convince someone to give money to us. Rather it is about involving people with what is on God’s heart-”to seek and save that which was lost.” It is about what God wants to do in the lives of the givers, the individuals that God has called to support His work.

Is support raising an invention by modern American Evangelicalism?

Once in a great while, we come across someone who scratches their head about us raising support. Well-meaning Christians say, “Paul was a tent maker. Why can’t you work and have a ministry on the side?”

First of all, the U.S. Government won’t allow us to hold a second job because we are part of the United Order of Missionaries. Second, how would we be able to travel and minister unhindered with a boss from another job telling us he needs us to stay here and work?  We have dedicated our lives to “full-time ministry”, not part-time or spare time.

But let’s start with the Old Testament model for how God provided for His people, then look at the life of Jesus, His disciples, and then Paul.

Example of the Levites

The Levites are set apart (Numbers 1:1-3,47-53)

(v47-53) The Levites were to be exempted from the draft. They were to be set apart to meet the spiritual needs of the people. Each of the tribes was given land to farm. The Levites were given no means of support so how was God to provide their needs? Through others.

Giving and receiving are in a vertical relationship with the Lord, not a horizontal one.
What do I mean by that? God would provide for the Levites through the Israelites. Read Numbers 18:8-32 and Deut. 10:8-9;14:27-28;18:1-8. This explains the path of God’s provision. Israel was to present offerings to the Lord. In turn, He would give those offerings to the Levites. You see Israel and the Levites were each in a vertical relationship with the Lord. Israel could not give her gifts directly to the Levites. Each gift had to go through the Lord. Therefore, the only way for the Levites to receive these gifts were from the Lord, not from man. God is the One who gave the Levites their provision. The relationship that Israel had with the Levites was a partnership. Just like the partnership we missionaries have with our financial supporters.

The quality of God’s provision.
They were to be given the “finest.” (Num. 18:12-15). I never feel like I’m begging. The Christian worker is not a beggar. God has called us to a very sacred calling. It is the position called a “missionary.” This calling is not dependent upon our self-worth. He is the one who has set us apart from others who are in secular work. Because this is His calling, it is worth raising funds for. We give people an opportunity to participate in God’s work. I’m not a salesman nor am I trying to negotiate a contract. Selling is a negotiation process where the salesman tries to convince someone that his product is needed. We want people to give to the Lord because they want to see His work accomplished. Our job is to cast a vision so the prospective ministry partner can see what God is doing and maybe become a part of it.

Cru is very careful about making sure there is a cap on the amount of money we are allowed to raise. Each missionary can only raise the amount allotted for the area they live in, amount of dependent children, etc.,. I’ve never seen any of our supported staff living in a mansion or driving limos. It’s just not going to happen.

So what about the worth of God’s provision? Look at verses 20-21…“You will have no inheritance in their land…I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”

Look at a map in your Bibles of Israel divided among the twelve tribes. Notice who is missing. It’s Levi. Levi probably asked his father, “Where’s my land?” He replies, “You don’t get any. Instead, you get a promise that your brothers will give you 10% of what is theirs.” He didn’t allow them to have a job that would enable them to support themselves. The Levites did not receive a paycheck. They received God’s provision.

You see, missionaries and Christian workers do not receive a paycheck. They receive God’s provision. It might look like a paycheck. It's on paper, it’s a check from our headquarters.  But it’s not Cru that pays us. They have no central funds to pay us. The money for that monthly check comes from our supporters who send their gifts into Cru headquarters. Cru, in turn, cuts us a check from the monies that came in that month. Sometimes it’s less than we need because someone forgot to send in the promised gift. So…we eat fewer groceries that month…and spend less time in ministry because the funds are not there to help us with outreach opportunities. But our motivation for being in Christian service is not to earn a paycheck. Our motivation is to serve the Lord by allowing Him to seek and save the lost through us. We don’t receive a salary; we receive God’s provision because He has called us to serve Him full-time.  

Although we may ask God’s people for funds, in the long run, we never need worry when God says, “I am your share and your inheritance”?

So that I remember the importance of God’s provision, I have verse 31 underlined in my Bible.  “It is your wages for your work.”

Example of Jesus

Did Jesus always divide up the loaves and fishes to provide for his disciples? How did Jesus come up with the money for food? How did He feed His disciples? Luke 8:1-3 says women were helping to support them out of their own means. While Jesus had the authority and power to provide miraculously, He still chose to allow Himself and His disciples to be supported through the generosity of others.

So why did Jesus allow Himself to be supported in this manner? Jesus was a carpenter. He could have repaired wagons and made furniture and witnessed to his customers. But giving money to Jesus gave the women a genuine way to be a part of His ministry. It gave them a way to tangibly demonstrate their love and commitment to the Lord. God the Father wanted Jesus to use all of His time for ministry, undistracted with making furniture. How much less would Jesus have accomplished if he and his disciples continued to work 20 hours a week?  When God the Father called Jesus into His full-time earthly ministry, Jesus never went back to carpentry.

Let’s look at how God provided for His called out people in Jesus’ time.  Read Luke 10: 1-16.  This tells us about the sending of the seventy. The thrust was to send out workers in the harvest. He tells them how they should be supported and to not take any provision. Do not take a bag and find someone who will provide for you. Pretty aggressive eh?

What about Paul?

Like Paul, our financial need isn’t our primary concern. We still trust God for whether he had plenty or little. But Paul followed Jesus’ principle of having others involved in his ministry, so his time was not tied up in making a living unless absolutely necessary.  His practice (from II Corinthians 11:7-9) was this:

1. To those whom Paul ministered to he did not seek support.  For us, that would be the unbelievers here or abroad…that’s who we minister to.

2. In order to be freed up to minister, individual Christians and some churches supported him. But he never demanded his rights to be supported (and neither do we) even though the Lord commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel. This is the norm. It is the Old Testament pattern.

At one point Paul, in order to offer the Gospel free of charge decided to take up tent making. 
There are three possible occasions where Paul supported himself through tent-making:

1. Thessalonica: (Acts 17). This was a young church that had many Greeks. It wasn’t a good idea for Paul, a Jew, to seek support from this young group of Gentile believers.
The Thessalonian church became lazy and idle waiting around for the Lord to return. Paul did not seek support from because he wanted to model physical labor to them. II Thess. 3:8-9, “… with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to do this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model.”

2. Corinth: (Acts 18) On this occasion Paul worked instead of receiving support from the church.  Corinth was a problem-filled church with a moral, theological, party spirit and legalistic issues. Paul probably felt that it would be improper to receive support from them. But look at verse 5. Why did Paul stop making tents when Silas and Timothy arrived?  Because they brought financial support from the Macedonian Church.   Philippians is considered to be Paul’s thank you letter to the Macedonian Church for this financial support. He immediately stopped work when the money came.

3. Ephesus (Acts 20) “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes … these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.” Why did Paul choose to support himself here? Silversmiths and others made their living by selling idols of Diana. They felt Paul was trying to put them out of business. New believers stop buying the idols. They were losing business. It would not have been a good idea for it to look like Paul was taking money from the believers, which otherwise would have gone to buying of idols.

So you see the reason Paul was involved in tent-making was that he did not want to be a burden to certain people. But Paul’s preferred mode was being supported by gifts from God’s people…because that’s what Jesus taught.  He urged others to participate in the Gospel through their giving because he knew how badly people need to give (Philippians 4:10-19).  The Philippians wanted to give to Paul but had no opportunity to have their gifts credited to their account in heaven. Paul helped them find the outlet to give. Sometimes I have found people are more willing to give than I am willing to ask. Especially in a town where there are few opportunities for folks to give…they are eager to give to missions. It’s important for me to remember that giving is an act of worship and many folks are longing to worship.  Our missions work provides them an opportunity to do so. 

As the Philippians gave, their ability to trust God grew. We have seen our trust factor go way up as we, in turn, give from the money God supplied.  We give to the local church, other missionaries living overseas, and those around us in need.  It's fun!  Many of our supporters give because it is fun to see God use it for His glory.

I hope this was helpful for you.  Our ministry partners are chosen by the Lord. God has already selected those whom He desires to be involved with us (I Kings 17:1-16). In faith, we trust Him to guide only those who are called to join with us. May the Lord lead you to know if He is calling you to join with us as a financial partner in furthering the Gospel.

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