Forever and always people have avoided going into missions because they have to raise support. Just recently I saw a thread where men with PhDs in biblical studies were lamenting the lack of employment opportunities in American Bible schools and seminaries. Someone commented on the thread saying, “There are plenty of opportunities overseas.” One of the few responses to this was (paraphrased), “Yeah, but then you will have to be raising support for your entire life!”
I understand the hesitancy to raise support. Stacey and I drove all around the country in 2011 speaking to churches, friends, and (at times) total strangers. We did a Talent Show, Bake Sale, Silent Auction, and at one point sat in front of a Lifeway Christian Bookstore for a day trying to raise money. That last one was the most awkward day of my life (and I was a quite awkward middle schooler, so that is saying a lot). Basically most people did their best not to make eye contact and we only raised $40 (take note future support-raisers, don’t sit out in front of Lifeway, it doesn’t work).
That said, our ministry is now fully supported (at last count) by five churches, and 112 individuals/families that give on a monthly basis (not to mention the various one-time gifts we receive). Our family has been exclusively living and ministering on the support of these churches and individuals since 2012. In that time we have lost the monthly support of three churches and a number of individuals and families. I have had more awkward conversations in that time. I still would not say that I like talking to people about money, but I am more comfortable with it. And over this Thanksgiving holiday I reflected on the fact that I have many things to be thankful for, and one of them is support raising.
So, here are three reasons that I am thankful for support raising:
1. It Blesses Us
This is probably the most obvious, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking. Sure, we receive a financial benefit from this situation. And we are so thankful for that. But we have found that we receive so much more. It turns out, when you are investing money into a ministry you think about the ministry more. I think this is the outworking of the principle: “where your treasure is, there your heart is there also” (Matthew 6:21). When you think about a ministry more, you tend to pray more. And we receive the benefits of not only financial support, but prayers. And even more than that, we receive the benefit of fellowship. I have heard of missionaries who have gone to the field and have essentially been forgotten. And while I know that can happen even when you have done support raising, that has not been my experience. I receive emails, comments on our blogs, care packages, and even letters often enough to know that we are not forgotten.
As a side point, we also receive through this the blessing of accountability. We are not lone rangers out doing whatever is right in our own eyes. We have a host of supporters that care not only about our ministry, but about our theology and methodology. We have sharpening conversations, we have people to turn to when we do not know what to do. We are well supported, held accountable, and so blessed.
2. It Blesses the Bakoum
This is probably also obvious, but good to think about. While the problems that the Bakoum have cannot only be resolved with resources, they cannot be resolved without resources. Let me explain what I mean by that. Many of the problems that the Bakoum have are deeply spiritual. When we had a young boy with a compound fracture in his leg, we were willing to give of our own resources to see the boy taken to a hospital for surgery. The people rejected this offer not because of a lack of resources, but because they trusted in the power of the village magic. The root of their problems is not merely a lack of resources. The real issue is that they need Jesus.
However, the vast majority of the Bakoum do not know him. And we know that everyone who calls upon Jesus will be saved. But they cannot call upon him if they do not believe. And they cannot believe unless they have heard. They cannot hear unless someone is preaching. And we cannot preach unless we are sent out and supported (Romans 10:13-15). Further, when Jesus told us to go to the nations, he said “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 18:19). In order for this to happen, they don’t just need preachers. They need the words of Christ in a language they can understand. Then, they need to learn how to read. They also need leaders that are trained in exegesis. None of these things are going to happen without resources. Your giving supports us, so that we can support them, so that they can know Jesus, so that they can find the solution to their deepest problems.
Your giving also serves as an example to the fledgling Bakoum church which needs to consider their own role in supporting ministry. I tell them about you, about your faithfulness to give every month and I encourage them to think about how they are using their resources to further God’s kingdom in Cameroon and abroad
3. It Blesses You Most of All
Were you expecting this one? I have been convinced more and more throughout the years that when Christians support ministry it blesses them most of all. How can I say that? Well, the idea comes from something Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Jesus did not just say that those who give are blessed, he says they are more blessed. Another verse to this point is Proverbs 11:25, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”
There are many awesome examples of generosity that I find as further affirmation of these principles. One such example is the best selling Christian author Randy Alcorn. Alcorn gives away all of the royalties from his books and is able to support many different ministries. He wrote a blog entitled “Why I Love Not Receiving a Cent of the Royalties from My Books.” In this blog he writes:
I don’t go to bed at night feeling I’ve “sacrificed” that money, wishing somehow I could get my hands on it. I go to bed feeling joy, because there’s nothing like giving. For me, it is like the joy of leading someone to Christ.
I love the fact that our ministry is supported by churches and Christians all around the world. Though certainly not as much as Alcorn, I know the blessing of contributing to ministries that further the Kingdom of God. There is a joy that our supporters know which cannot be experienced apart from giving. And I am thrilled that we are able to provide them with an opportunity for greater joy.
So this holiday season, I am choosing to be thankful for support raising. I pray that this will be a helpful corrective for those who consider such a way of life unthinkable. It is hard, it is humbling, it is awkward. But at the end of the day, I believe many people are more blessed because of it. And the truth is, awkwardness is a small price to pay for such blessing.