Raise My Own Support
Fundraising Manual from Operation Mobilisation. With kind permission.
"Raise My Own Support?... You Must Be Joking!"
If you are thinking and praying about the possibility of joining Operation Mobilisation, you may have already discovered that this means you need to raise your own personal support. This booklet is meant to help you do just that.
You may think raising finances is a huge obstacle. Not just because you wonder how it would ever be possible, but because you just don't care for the idea. You may have decided, I am not going to beg for money!
This booklet will show you that there is much more to raising support than 'begging for money.' In fact, finding sponsorship is a very special concept, providing an opportunity for many others beside you to have a part in all that God is doing. Their involvement will also allow them to experience his blessings.
Peter Maiden, International Co-ordinator of Operation Mobilisation
Joop Strietman, Director of Training with OM Ships
Obstacle or Opportunity?
You may have only recently learned that you need to raise your personal support in order to join OM. You were, perhaps, surprised. In fact, you may have never before heard of such a thing. The idea does not appeal to you.
Every individual worker within Operation Mobilisation needs a church and/or friends to provide support, both spiritually and financially. Funds are sent to OM to help cover personal expenses. Many other Christian missions work the same way, although not all of them. Some agencies have enough income to provide a salary to staff working with their mission. One method is not better than the other; they are simply different ways.
Operation Mobilisation has changed a great deal over the years. When I joined in 1974, we were not allowed to talk openly or write about our financial needs. We were told to 'pray and trust God without giving a hint to anybody.' If others took the initiative to ask us, only then could we explain how we were living. But we ourselves could not take the initiative.
I remember how I felt during those days. I believed that God would help me somehow, as He had apparently helped a great many others. But which way He was going to work was a total mystery to me. I had never received even ten cents just because I had prayed for it! For that reason my first gift became an unforgettable experience.
At that time I was at the point where you are right now. However, over the years I had managed to save a little bit of money for myself. My thinking went more or less like this: How can I expect God to provide for me through others, if I can help myself? For that reason I took the seven hundred Dutch guilders out of my bank account, to help get the needed support together. I left one hundred guilders behind. I reasoned that I would only be working with OM for one year. After that I would need a bit of money to write an application letter and pay a train ticket home, wouldn't I?
But those one hundred guilders began to bother me a lot. I felt I was being terribly inconsistent. Did I believe that God would only look after me while I was in OM, and after that I would have to look after myself? That was how I felt, and that was the reason why I kept those one hundred guilders in my savings account. Yet I began to feel convinced that it was wrong for me to do so. Surely God would continue to provide for me after finishing with OM!
God, of course, knew what lay ahead much better than I. After thirty years I am still working with OM, so I never really went home! The very day I made the difficult trip to the bank to collect my last one hundred guilders, also became the day that I received my very first gift.
That night there was a film being shown in my church. So many people came to watch The Cross and the Switchblade that the collection to cover the expenses, at the end of the film, brought in far more than the evening had cost. The organisers had to figure out what to do with the extra money. To my surprise and delight, they gave it all to me! You can imagine how that bag of money meant more to me than words could ever express. It wonderfully and powerfully showed me that God would indeed provide for all my needs. I don't say this to make you feel you have to do the same. God leads different people in different ways. I just want to share my own exciting experience with God.
Today OM has changed. We can freely talk about our financial needs. We have discovered that it is not necessarily biblical to be so secretive about finances. The policy was more a reaction to the manipulation evident in some circles, than a biblical way of doing things. After all, Jesus talked more about money and earthly possessions than most other things. There is no reason for us not to discuss finances in a proper way!
But the raising of support is still a problem for most people who want to join OM. It is a big challenge. We should be honest about that. In my country, the Netherlands, we have recently done some research about this subject. We sent a questionnaire to six hundred people who had asked for information about OM, but who never actually joined. We asked them why they had decided against joining.
This research made it obvious that the issue of raising financial sponsorship is one of the biggest obstacles. This is easily understood for several reasons:
- The concept itself is very strange to most people. Normally one expects to get paid for the work they do. This does not happen in OM and in many mission organisations. Not only do the staff work hard, but they are responsible for providing their own 'salary'! This arrangement may appear extremely illogical until you read further, and come to understand that it is also based on a sound biblical concept.
- Nobody likes to ask for money, and that's how many view the raising of support. 'I won't beg, so I will never join OM,' may be your own simple conclusion, even now. As you read this booklet you will hopefully begin to see that raising support is not about 'begging for money.'
- You may consider the amount required for support in many countries to be too much. I don't know where you are from or your standard of living. From one person's perspective the cost of living in another country may seem reasonable; for another it seems exorbitant!
Although we can fully understand your difficulties as you are faced with these obstacles, we would like to encourage you. We want to advise you and pray for you and help in a practical way. Raising support may well prove to be a 'training ground' of immeasurable value for you. It will be an exercise in trusting the Almighty. If you cannot trust God to look after you in all such tangible and earthly matters, then the question arises as to whether you can trust him for all the mighty spiritual breakthroughs that will be needed in your life and ministry to come. Because, from my own experience, it is not easy to bring people from non-Christian backgrounds to the point of embracing Jesus Christ. It's a tough job.
For many people, the way God has looked after them in this area has been a big encouragement. His provision has proven more personally satisfying than any Bible study on God's provision could have been. When other problems hit them hard at a later stage, the memory of that miracle helps them push on. I know a young person who joined one of the OM ships at the age of 18, who said: These two years have been the best years of my life, but they were not easy. Sometimes I wanted to go home, but then I was reminded of how God had brought in all the support I needed in only six weeks' time. That miracle of his provision helped me to realise that going home was not an option. He wanted me on that ship, and I just knew it.
In this booklet we want to help you look at raising your support from a different perspective. We want you to see it not as 'begging for money,' but as a step in trusting God and experiencing him in ways that you have never done before.
Where Does the Idea of Personal Support Come From?
Raising personal support is not just a way of getting money so you can fulfil your ministry. Look at it like that, and it will always be a burden. And let's face it, that's how many people do see it, both among those who are asked to give and those who are doing the asking!
How often do you hear complaints from Christians about the number of appeals for money they receive through the mail? I have heard Christians referring to these appeals as ´begging´ letters! We need a new understanding of raising support. We need to understand why this process can be a great ministry opportunity in itself, and one of the greatest blessings in our lives. I really believe that it can work this way for you.
Support-raising is a spiritual ministry. Very sadly, we all tend to divide life into the spiritual and the secular. A ministry of church planting or our service in the 'home office' is clearly 'spiritual.' But what about the budgeting we have to do, and the actual process of raising the needed funds to meet that budget? Is that less spiritual?
It's so wrong to divide our lives that way. It is equally wrong to see support-raising as inferior to other ministries or only a 'necessary evil.' It is a ministry that can lead to blessing for us, blessing for those who give and indeed blessing for the whole world.
Some of the ways I have seen the intervention of God most clearly in my life over the years has been through financial provision from his people. This has caused me to praise God and to rejoice in his faithfulness. But when I've written to donors, describing how timely their gift was, this has also resulted in praise and rejoicing on their part.
I've known a number of Christians who began their real interest and involvement in missions through a small gift to me. That small beginning has opened their eyes in a big way to what God is doing in this world. In a few cases their giving to me has expanded. They are now supporting many missions and missionaries.
Many of my deepest friendships today are with those who give to me. Their giving is an expression of their partnership with me. We see a calling in which we are involved together. But we need to change our understanding of support-raising, and the way we go about it. Our attitude must be to regard the establishment of a support base as an essential part of our ministry. The approach must be to form partnerships with individuals and churches that will benefit both the cause of world evangelisation and our own spiritual development.
No wonder some Christians feel a bit abused with the constant flood of impersonal, computer-generated funding requests they get through their mailboxes. Support-raising is all about partnership and friendship. If we look at people who have the resources to give to our ministry merely as donors, we've got it wrong. We must consider them partners, individuals whom God may lead to us for our mutual benefit and for the blessing of Christ's Kingdom.
We must pray that God will lead us into deep relationships with our partners. This is going to take time. Are you ready to give this time? It's going to mean prayer and intercession for your partners. You expect them to pray for you; after all you are the missionary! But are you ready to commit serious prayer to their needs?
It's also going to take communication. If you are really in earnest about praying for your partners, you will have to get to know their needs and their joys. This will require regular personal notes, phone calls and visits whenever that is possible. Perhaps they can even visit you on your field.
A real relationship, a dynamic partnership, will lead to God's blessing on both of your lives, and on your ministry. Such partners stay with us for years. They continue supporting us when we change our ministries, and often become so committed that they find other partners for us. It's all about friendship!
It Was Like This in the Old Testament
Financing God's work has always been a team effort. Look, for example, at the building of the tabernacle in Old Testament times. In Exodus 25, verses 3 to 9 we read:
Here is a list of items you may accept on my behalf: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; fine linen; goat hair for cloth; tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense; onyx stones, and other stones to be set in the ephod and the chest piece. "I want the people of Israel to build me a sacred residence where I can live among them. You must make this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the plans I will show you."
Later, we read in Exodus 30:11-16:
And the Lord said to Moses, "Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord. Then there will be no plagues among the people as you count them. His payment to the Lord will be one-fifth of an ounce of silver. All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this offering to the Lord. When this offering is given to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves, the rich must not give more, and the poor must not give less. Use this money for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring you, the Israelites, to the Lord's attention, and it will make atonement for your lives."
This is followed by Exodus 31:1-6:
The Lord also said to Moses, "Look, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, intelligence, and skill in all kinds of crafts. He is able to create beautiful objects from gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in cutting and setting gemstones and in carving wood. Yes, he is a master at every craft! And I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the naturally talented craftsmen so they can make all the things I have instructed you to make."
After the tabernacle came the temple. That temple was built in exactly the same way as the earlier tabernacle. In 1 Chronicles 29:1-9 we can read the story:
Then King David turned to the entire assembly and said, "My son Solomon, whom God has chosen to be the next king of Israel, is still young and inexperienced. The work ahead of him is enormous, for the temple he will build is not just another building---it is for the Lord God himself! Using every resource at my command, I have gathered as much as I could for building the temple of my God. Now there is enough gold, silver, bronze, iron, and wood, as well as great quantities of onyx, other precious stones, costly jewels, and all kinds of fine stone and marble. And now because of my devotion to the temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy temple. I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and over 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings and for the other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will follow my example? Who is willing to give offerings to the Lord today?" Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king's administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the temple of God, they gave almost 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, about 375 tons of silver, about 675 tons of bronze and about 3,750 tons of iron. They also contributed numerous precious stones, which were deposited in the treasury of the house of the Lord under the care of Jehiel, a descendant of Gershon. The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy.
When the first temple was destroyed, another was built. That was done after some of the Jewish people returned from Babylon. In Ezra 2:6-11 we read:
Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them vessels of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many choice gifts in addition to all the freewill offerings. King Cyrus himself brought out the valuable items which King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord's temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah. These were the items Cyrus donated: ... In all, 5,400 gold and silver items were turned over to Sheshbazzar to take back to Jerusalem when the exiles returned there from Babylon.
Well, what else can be said? This was, indeed, a team effort. Nobody could have done such a big job all on their own.
Many People in New Testament Times Lived On What Was Given to Them
Please don't have the misconception that when you start raising your support, you are getting involved in something new. And don't ever believe that you will be doing something demeaning. You are following a long and amazing tradition. Even better, you will actually be following the example of Jesus! Three women named in Luke 8, verses 2 and 3, along with 'many others' contributed to the support of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus could bring fish out of the ocean with coins in their mouths, but he most often chose to support himself and his followers through the generosity of others, rather than a miracle. So much for those who say they could never 'stoop' to living this way!
But Jesus wasn't the first. The model of God's people serving others in special ways and receiving support was established centuries before Jesus came to earth. When the Promised Land was divided up between the twelve tribes of Israel, only eleven divisions were made. There was no land given to the sons of Levi. As descendants of one of Jacob's twelve sons, this tribe might have gotten a little upset about being dealt with differently. But in place of the land, the Levites received a promise of the tithe (one tenth) of the income that the others received. This gave them time and freedom to do other things. With no land to care for, the Levites were released to teach the law of God and to look after all the temple duties.
The apostle Paul used this example when he appealed to the Corinthian church to help Christian workers. He said they had the right to receive support from other Christians who did not share their full-time calling. Don't you know that those who work in the Temple get their meals from the food brought to the Temple as offerings? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way the Lord gave orders that those who preach the good news should be supported by those who benefit from it (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
Paul himself lived this way. Some might argue that the apostle is in fact the opposite of an example of raising support. He was a tentmaker, making tents so that he did not require support from those he ministered to. Certainly on occasions and for particular reasons, Paul did work as a tentmaker. When he ministered at Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus this was the case. But there were good reasons for him doing so on each occasion. Equally, there are good reasons today why some Christian workers should practice ´tentmaking.´
But on other occasions, Paul received support for his ministry. He also asked for it. In Philippians 4:10-20, Paul thanked the Philippians for their giving to him. This is a beautiful passage packed full of teaching on the issues of giving and receiving funds. Again, please notice that while Paul is clearly personally encouraged by their gifts, the fact that they will be blessed through their giving is an even greater motivation for him.
In 1 Corinthians 16:6, Paul is writing about his travel plans. Perhaps I shall stay with you or even spend the winter that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.
Commentators make it clear that the words translated 'send me on my way' refer to Paul being given the necessary resources to continue his travels and ministry. The phrase 'helped on my way by you' in Romans 15:24 and 2 Corinthians 1:16 are probably also encouragements to provide practical support.
If you want to read one of the most powerful fundraising letters ever written, then just turn to 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. Raising support is not new. It has had a long and respectable history!
Many different forces drive western society today. One of these is 'individualism.' People in the western world want to be independent of others. For that reason they insure themselves against every possible calamity, and make sure they earn so much they don't need anybody's help. They like to look after their own affairs without another person's control. They decide for themselves and look after themselves. They don't even need God! The result? Society is falling apart. Families are breaking up. And people are more and more lonely.
In the Netherlands, the government is encouraging younger women to study. They use the slogan: A smart girl is well prepared for her future. The reasoning behind this is that so many marriages are breaking up; an increasing number of people need to be able to look after themselves.
It is a sad reality that Europe is the only continent on earth where the church is in retreat. In Asia, Africa and Latin America the church is growing, but this is not the case in Europe. Perhaps the reason is that people who feel they can look after themselves, no longer experience a need for God. Of all the differences between the western and the non-western worlds, this may be the biggest. When I worked with OM in India I came to realise that in the western world we put an incredible emphasis on achievements, and very little emphasis on relationships. In India it is exactly the reverse. Indian people value relationships highly. If you are about to do something or go somewhere but meet a friend along the way, you ought to stop and give that friend your time.
The more I think about this difference in attitude, the more I have come to realise that the individualistic approach to life in the western world is really a terrible curse. First of all, it ruins community and family life. Secondly, it is a fantasy, because none of us are truly independent and we never will be. People seeking independence are really seeking something that simply doesn't exist. We are totally and utterly inter-dependant in all areas of life. As believers we know how dependant we are on our heavenly Father, our almighty God. Paul argues with the Greek philosophers in Acts 17 that God gives us the air in our lungs as well as everything else. Scientists talk about inter-dependency, too. If we touch one thing in the environment it has a ripple effect upon many other things, because all matter enjoys a beautiful, harmonious unity. How can we be so foolish as to think that there is such a thing as independence? It does not exist.
Against this backdrop it is clear that it does not honour God when we take the road of extreme individualism, believing that being independent is the highest state in life. Our God is a God of community. He made Adam...and Eve! He invented marriage and families. He chose the people of Israel. It is God who commanded that we should love each other. He initiated the church as a community of worshipping people, living a different kind of life. For this reason our lives should not be aimed at seeking independence as the ultimate goal. We should rather aim at finding our place in God's community and in his world.
It is interesting that while in many western churches the service must last a given number of minutes and then conclude; in many other countries people don't keep an eye on the clock. As one African pastor put it, 'In the West you have watches, but we have the time!' Fellowship is a priority, with time for talking and strengthening relationships.
Having said this it must also be clear that we have a responsibility for ourselves and our families. It is not a good testimony for Christians to be lazy or sloppy, so that others will need to help us out. When we are able we should live in a responsible way, looking after ourselves but helping others who may be in need. It is important that people coming from a western background realise that the extreme individualism that is generally advocated is, in its root, very anti-God. We are not independent but totally inter-dependant. We rely upon God, upon our environment and upon each other.
With this in mind, our opinions about raising personal support may need adjustment. We need to admit that the stubborn and ungodly streak inside us does not like the idea of being financially dependant upon others. Caring for each other in a Christian community brings glory to God, who himself is a God of community, relationships, church and family. Some leave the community in order to be a blessing and do things that others cannot do. Others provide support, and deal with responsibilities that the one who leaves cannot do. In this sense we take advantage of each other's gifts, and we compliment each other. We work together as a godly team!
Out with individualism and independence! Welcome to community and relationships! Let us honour our God and allow him to break us and humble us. We want to take his way and not the anti-God route of extreme individualism, seeking a lifestyle which cannot truly exist. If we love God and follow Jesus we will find that we need to head in a different direction than the rest of society.
The Blessing of Giving
A pastor tells his congregation, 'Let's worship God as we sing;' then it's time for the collection. Does the worship continue? When Paul received gifts from the church in Philippi this is how he described those gifts: 'They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).
The Bible encourages givers to give for their own advantage. This is not to be the motive for their giving, but it will be the result. In 2 Corinthians 8:10, Paul urges the Corinthian church to give because Christians in Jerusalem are really struggling. Obviously, the Jerusalem Christians will benefit from their gifts. But Paul writes. It is to your advantage.
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul develops this message. 'He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly.' Spiritual blessings and generous giving go hand in hand. We need to be wary of extremes. We can give from the wrong motive as the Pharisees did (Matthew 6:1). So we are not saying that spiritual blessing is the automatic result for everyone who gives; but Paul is clear that generosity and spiritual blessing are closely tied.
This gives rich Christians a particular opportunity. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 says that if the wealthy use their money well, they can really look forward to the future. That is the Bible's promise for givers. Riches have advantages for the present, but they also guarantee a future treasure for those who worship God daily by their giving.
J.C. Stribling was a wealthy Texas rancher. He owned a great deal of land, thousands of head of cattle and a fortune in stocks and bonds. Amongst many other donations, he gave US$150,000 to build a girl's dormitory on the campus of Mary Harden-Baylor College, a Baptist College in Texas. Then came the depression, the 1929 stock market crash, and Stribling lost his entire fortune. He was reduced to virtual poverty.
One day in 1933 a man went up to Stribling's old rundown Ford and spoke to him and his wife. Pastor Brandon explained that he had just returned from driving a group of girls to enrol at Harden-Baylor College. He'd spent the night there and wanted to thank Mr Stribling for his gift to the college. Stribling was silent for a few moments as his eyes filled with tears. Then he spoke. 'That was all we saved out of a mighty fortune. It was what we gave away that we were able to keep forever.' Then he added this challenge: 'Preacher, tell people to give all they can to the Kingdom of God while they have it. I wish I had given more.'
Michael Griffiths, in his excellent book Take My Life, gives this personal testimony: 'Our personal experience as a family has been that we've so far never been allowed to part with some substantial donation over and above our normal giving, without it being abundantly returned from some other source and often multiplied into the bargain. So that even down here, we seem to get our share of heavenly treasure too. God is no man's debtor. His giving to us (which is not to be measured merely on a financial scale) is always evident on a scale which makes our giving to him seem utterly puny by comparison.'
So don't ever get the idea that when you enter into a partnership resulting in peoples' financial support for you, this will mean loss for them. It can only mean blessing both now and eternally.
Let's be honest. The task for the church to be a blessing to all people is enormous. It is so big that we can't even begin to imagine the true, total size. The spiritual, social, physical, emotional and other needs of our world are beyond anything our limited minds can grasp. How can we as followers of Jesus ever accomplish all he told us to?
One thing is clear. Not one of us can do it on our own! Every Christian must play his or her role using their particular gifts, talents and means. Some may not be able to give much financial support, but they can offer other service, like prayer. Some may not be able to go, but they can send and support others who can go. Nothing is as fulfilling and satisfying as the privilege of being personally involved with someone who has gone out to make known the gospel, helping to build the church amongst the least evangelised.
This way of working as a team, with one helping another, is how the tabernacle and the temple were built during Old Testament times. This is how people supported the apostle Paul in his missionary enterprise, and churches were planted in areas now known as Turkey and Greece. This is how so much has been accomplished in missionary work through the centuries, all around the globe. It is all because one person strengthened the other and believers worked together in godly teams! It is because of a wonderful, generous, giving and sacrificial spirit among God's people. What a blessing it is to be able to give, and in so doing become part of what the Lord is accomplishing! What a joy it must have been for those Jews that knew their money went into that temple! What a thrill for the Philippians to realise their gifts to the apostle Paul were bearing so much fruit among the Gentiles.
OM needs a lot of money to keep its army of thousands of workers in one hundred countries, plus two ocean-going ships, on the move. Interestingly, about 70% of all this money is received by way of personal support for individual OM workers. These are funds given by friends and churches. It is money representing many precious relationships. For those who give, each donation also represents a wonderful, real opportunity for partnership in the gospel; a worthwhile investment.
It is important to understand what the quantity of individual support actually means. Imagine that each worker has twenty-five supporting friends (and many have more) who believe in them, pray for them and stand with them by means of their personal support. This would mean a total of more than ninety thousand personal friends forming an invisible 'net' around all OM's missionaries. They are part of one huge worldwide team, all aiming in the same direction, giving and praying for the same goal. This is an awesome reality, and without question a major factor in the way God chooses to bless his work. All of these partners are working together to help mobilise and train people for building his glorious church amongst the least evangelised. It is all about relationships, relationships and, again, relationships.
This truth is a tremendous strength in times of trouble. All Christian organisations are vulnerable to economic ups and downs. That is a given fact. When people have more, they can give more. When times are hard economically, people cannot give as much as they would like to. But this does not impact the work of OM as much as it may some other organisations. Even when times get tough and the economy is in trouble, people don't often drop their support of a friend. An organisation's funding may slip, but friends usually remain firm.
Personal relationships are reflected by friendship, love, encouragement, letters, phone calls, e-mails, personal concern, prayers and other forms of support. Workers are surrounded by a wonderful global team of friends with a high level of personal motivation to stay involved. Someone once said, 'The people's prayers will follow their money.' If friends give on a regular basis, they will also pray on a regular basis.
In the church where I grew up, missionaries were financed in a very different way. Once in a while the church took up a collection for missions. Like the pastors, the missionaries were paid good salaries from the collection money. I know that the average church member did not know any missionary by name. There was no relationship at all, and due to that lack of personal touch there was not much motivation to give sacrificially. In comparison to the salaries the people in the church earned, the people gave very small amounts of money. They were not motivated to give. That fact also led to the denomination as a whole having few missionaries, especially if one compares their number to the total number of denominational members. When one considers the huge potential of my church, only a token was really given to missions. I don't want to be critical but this was the situation.
In the light of such facts it is not hard to see the many advantages of missionaries operating through personal supporters, as OM workers do. We would not want to loose such benefits. The blessings that come with all of our personal relationships far outweigh the problems.
The attitude for each of us must be: I am willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. Our priority must be to carry out the command of Jesus to go to the ends of the earth and proclaim his gospel. The assignment of blessing the nations must be completed, whatever the cost. Missionaries paid extremely high prices in centuries past to bring the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. It is our conviction that simply pulling out a bag of money so workers can be paid salaries and not be bothered with raising support, would not accomplish the job a better way. Not at all!
The bottom line is that sacrifice remains essential for anybody in missionary work. Without the credo of the apostle Paul, 'not I but Christ,' whatever method we choose will be impossible. The 'I' must be bent into the 'C' of Christ. I have to bow. There is no other way. Maybe a bit of that bending also needs to take place where 'I' don't like the idea of raising my own support and involving others in my going. Maybe I should obey out of a deep desire to honour and serve the Lord. His command must be so important to us that we will go, whatever it takes. Refusing because 'I don't like the idea of raising my own support' will not result in blessing the world or helping a lot of people. How serious am I about getting the job done? That is the question we must each answer in all honesty! If we are serious about it, we will not be that easily derailed.
1. What about heroes like George Muller and Hudson Taylor? They never mentioned money!
Muller's story is amazing. He lived in Bristol, England, in the late 1800s. He raised significant amounts of money by, to use his own words, 'relying on God alone.'
But we must not go overboard with examples such as this. Muller teaches us vital lessons about raising support. It's an absolutely key lesson to learn to rely on God and not people. Therefore, we need to make support-raising a regular issue in our prayers. The stories of God's provision for Muller should be a challenging stimulus to our faith. Are we praying for enough support? Should we be praying for much more than our personal needs? Should we be asking the Lord for more income for our ministry or the ministry of our field?
But we should not have the idea that spiritual giants like Muller and Taylor never made their needs known. Muller sent out annual reports of his orphanage's finances. At public meetings, hundreds of people heard the exciting stories of answered prayer and God's provision. Audiences were therefore made aware of needs. People knew that they could be involved, and God used them to meet the needs.
2. Some people who give seem to have a lower standard of living than I do.
Well, it's always wise to check our standard of living! This should not be entirely dependent on our income. Our living standard is a decision we should make before God, and it shouldn't automatically rise just because our income rises.
But we also shouldn't have the idea that those who don't have much should be robbed of the opportunity to give. If you see those peoples' gifts as just a transfer of money from them to you, then again you've missed the truth of biblical giving. Remember, a person gives primarily to God; it's part of their worship and discipleship (2 Corinthians 8:5).
The Bible says that every Christian should give 'as they are able,' in line with the way God has blessed them in that area of their lives. Jesus could have stopped the widow giving her mite. He could have said, 'Go home, you need to spend that money on yourself.' But he actually praised her act of sacrifice.
3. But I have no potential partners.
I often hear this, especially from those who may not have a high-profile public ministry. But I just can't accept it. It makes me wonder if people are really excited about what they're doing. Do you believe that the service you have to offer is essential for the growth of Christ's kingdom? If the answer is 'yes' I believe you can present it enthusiastically to friends. If the answer is 'no' then I think you should reconsider your ministry!
Start with your mailing list. If you don't have one because you are just moving into Christian ministry, then begin work on it now. Start with family and friends, those you know in your church or in other churches you've visited. Build up your personal prayer letter mailing list. Some Christian workers always seem to be trying to 'cull' their list. I advise you to build it up.
Make that list a real issue of prayer. It may be God's will for many on it to be real prayer partners but not financial partners. Those prayer partners are essential to your ministry and deserve regular, good-quality prayer communication. However, God may well want some of those people to become financial partners as well. Write a personal note to some who are on your list. Take time to visit them. Suggest that they ask a few friends around to their home when you're visiting them, so you can share with others about your ministry.
Every time you have the opportunity to speak about your work, whether it's a small or a large meeting, offer to sign them up for your personal prayer letter mailing list. Be hospitable! I often find that people who I invite to my home for a meal, or people I stay with when I'm travelling, become prayer partners. Be creative! There are so many ways to broaden your partnership team.
4. The amount I need seems so big...!
All support gifts for individual OM workers are used for ministry on the field where the individual is working, especially to cover their insurance, personal travel and living expenses. A small percentage of all gifts (around 10%, but this fluctuates a bit from one field to another) is used for support ministries. This is to help the international organisation function well, to communicate to prayer partners and to expand the work. Workers who come from wealthier countries are generally asked to find a bit more support than people from developing nations.
Your sponsors may in fact be doing a lot more than helping you! They may be assisting others to serve, too; helping the ministry by building the international framework and mobilising a new generation of workers.
Government Rules & Laws
Today OM has men and women serving the Lord in more than one hundred countries. The way the mission operates with the governments in these countries varies greatly.
Some governments make it very clear: 'Your money is coming through OM (even though it may be being sent to OM by your supporters). Therefore, OM is paying you a salary.' One consequence for OM in these cases is that administration becomes much more expensive. As an employer, the taxes OM has to pay increase, often quite dramatically.
In other countries, the government sees things quite differently. Because of local circumstances, some OM teams work from a 'pool' system. This means that all the money received goes into a central pool or account, and is then divided between the workers. Other fields just pass on the amount each person receives. Whichever way the money is distributed in the field, it is vital to understand that in all cases the raising of personal support is crucial to the financial health of OM.
Tools To Build Your Support Team
As we have pointed out, we must first be sure we have changed our thinking and attitude. We have seen that to simply object that we don't want to beg for money is not really fair. Even the term 'raising support' is not completely accurate. We need to do away with the term 'support raising' and think more of it as 'team building.' The team is not just for bringing in finance---it should do much more than that. Ideally, the members of your team will stand with you in supportive prayer and faithful intercession. In that sense you work together with them in your ministry. They pray and pay, while you go and work. For that reason I like to call the people supporting me and my family my 'share holders.' They really do have a share in all our activities, and we can only accomplish God's purposes through their help.
A team also indicates a relationship that goes two ways. I need people that want to make a commitment to me, but I also need to be clear that I intend to make a commitment to them. That is what a relationship and real friendship are all about. It's what it means to be all on the same team. What is the commitment? To esteem our partners, to communicate with them and to pray for them.
It all comes down to some big adjustments in the way we approach 'support.' These are the facts we need to be aware of:
- Many people love the Lord just as much as you do, and they also want to be involved in global missions. You are not alone in your desire to be a blessing to the world. Many others share the same love of being involved in one way or another. I still remember meeting a man who, during our conversation, repeated many times: 'Make sure to let me know if you need anything! Will you do that?' His attitude did something for me. It made me realise that we in OM are not the only ones with a heart for missions!
- It is more blessed to give than it is to receive. These are Jesus' own words! He wants us to understand that if we offer people the opportunity to share what they have with others, we allow them to experience great blessing. It is vital to keep this concept constantly and firmly in mind.
- We need to make sure we present our requests in the best possible way. This means being personal. Probably the best method of appeal is a personal visit or phone call. Letters, especially computer-generated letters with a printed signature, are probably the least effective. Often a combination of two approaches can be used. Phone someone to ask if they would be willing to consider becoming a partner in your new enterprise. (Note that you ask only for their consideration, not for support!) Then add: 'If you would like to think and pray about it, I could send you a letter with more detailed information. What do you think?' Sending a personal letter after such a phone call is a very good follow-up. You don't need to explain everything in detail on the phone, and you don't push people to make a decision then and there. They will have space to give the idea some thought and prayer.
Also be very clear in communicating the details of your circumstances. Ultimately, many will decide to help you come up with the amount you are asking for. If you need monthly support for a period of two years, then explain this exactly. If you want to know how much they plan to give, add: 'Can you please let me know whether or not you feel you can help? I would love to hear from you by such and such a date. Is it OK if I phone you around that time? Or you could fill in the enclosed card and send that back to me.' Make it clear what you want, and when you need it.
Remember that you are drawing supporters into your ministry. Don't just explain your needs and ask your questions, but give friends a chance to ask their questions about the work you are committing yourself to. Send a newsletter from your field every few months, or e-mail an item for prayer of praise every week. Provide a photo of yourself and a list of ongoing prayer requests. Be sure to pray, in turn, for your partners.
Don't pressure people for a response. Give them time. They will want to pray and consider what God wants them to do. This is why it is advisable first to phone, and then send a letter with more detailed information about your request. Your friends should not feel rushed into making a decision.
- Continue to communicate through newsletters, postcards, e-mail and telephone. It is very important to plan ahead. What is the best way to stay connected with those who will be supporting you? You could perhaps make it your goal to send a postcard every half a year, along with newsletters every two months. In that case you need to put the dates in your diary! If you don't plan ahead your dreams will most likely remain dreams. You need to keep the communication flowing. 'Out if sight out of mind' is a true saying, so give adequate time and thought to your plan.
- Consider the idea of appointing a group of friends to look after your interests. In Holland we call this a 'Home Front Committee.' This consists of four to six people who help to communicate your activities and needs to the church and other friends. One person may choose to take on responsibility for producing and distributing your newsletter, another could deal with church relationships, another with all financial matters and another with family contacts. Every once in a while the team would meet to pray for you. A committee could be extremely valuable in handling a great many practical aspects of your work, especially while you are away. Perhaps an OM staff member can attend the first meeting of your group to help you make a good plan and answer any questions.
- Finally, remember that the biggest change of all must come from within. Once you start looking at support the way God looks at it, building a foundation of caring people for you and your ministry only makes good sense.
So it is now up to you. Will you accept the challenge of forming a support team, and developing the worthwhile partnerships that can be yours? It's a choice that I guarantee you will never regret.