Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Christian Fund Raising

Fund Raising, ( i.e. support raising & "friend raising"), is a challenging responsibility most missionaries face.

Most missionaries would prefer to invest their time and energy into the work that God has called them into. We would like to be like George Mueller who never sent out an appeal letter - he simply prayed and God miraculously provided. We also realize that sharing what we are doing can have many positive effects. It can bring increased awareness and involvement into our particular mission field. It can also garner the prayer of multitudes, which is the foundation of any truly spiritual work. Sharing our mission can inspire others to take up the torch and become missionaries themselves.
I can remember as a little boy hearing a missionary speak and it really touched my heart. That night when my parents put me to bed I said, "mom, dad, when I grow up I think I want to be a missionary." The next day the missionary spoke again and also showed pictures of natives running around with machetes and it really scared me. That night when I went to bed I said "mom, dad, I don't think I want to be a missionary - a guy can get hurt that way, I think I just want to be a pastor like dad." I ended up doing both - I was pastor of an urban church for about 18 years.
Anyway, a missionary sharing his mission can help open the eyes of people to see the great need of getting the gospel out to the lost. It can awaken their hearts and stir their spirit. Christ said to the disciples, "open up your eyes, the fields are ripe ready for harvest." Hearts can be stirred and challenged by a vision. A missionary sharing his ministry can inspire Christians who have been living in their Christian ghetto to open up their eyes. There is a big world outside the sphere of our Christian friends.
We, as missionaries, must foster and encourage others to a closer personal relationship with Christ. Out of a passionate relationship with Christ comes a desire to make Him known: a desire to share one's faith and to support mission efforts. Any witnessing or mission giving that comes from other motives will soon fade away. I received a wonderful book in the mail today from the EFCA. It is entitled, "Growing Giver's Hearts - Treating Fundraisng as Ministry", by Thomas H. Jeavons and Rebekah Burch Basinger. It is a great book both for missionaries and for donors. It explores the dynamic interplay between encouraging spiritual development of donors and raising essential resources.
While we share our mission, there are at least 6 pitfalls we as missionaries are tempted with and should avoid:
1. We must not manipulate others into giving. Using guilt or other motives to inspire someone to give is not right. Share what God has called us to do and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.
2. We must not sell our ministry as being better than all other ministries. We must not have a scarcity mentality. God has enough resources for all that he has called into ministry. We must not look at our fellow missionaries as competitors. There is a wide variety of spiritual needs and there needs to be a wide variety of ministries to minister to these needs.
3. We must not promise anything we can not deliver and we should not twist the promises of God for our personal benefit. I've seen some ministers promise if you give money to their particular ministry that you would get 100 times that amount back, or that any prayer request you make would be answered. I've always wondered if they truly believed that why don't they give all their money (including their Mercedes and Lexus) to another Christian ministry and receive 100 times back what they gave. Why if they did that a couple times they'd have enough money to buy the private jets etc. that they need and wouldn't have to beg senior citizens to give $25 dollars.
Giving from a grateful heart is a personal expression of love to our wonderful savior - it is not a guaranteed slot machine. It is a way to participate in the mission of getting the GOOD NEWS to the lost and we will be rewarded. Jesus said, "Lay not up for yourself treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, ... For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." (Matthew 6: 19 -21) . Giving affects our heart - it is an act of faith of trusting in and operating in God's ways and not the fleshly, lustful ways of this world system. It is in this context that Christ says in verse 25 that, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other ... You can not serve God and money."
I like what Paul said to his faithful supporters in Philippians 4: 14 - 20. "But it was right and commendable and noble of you to contribute for my needs ... I do seek and am eager for the fruit which increases to your credit...They (the offerings) are the fragrant odor of an offering and sacrifice which God welcomes and which He delights. And my God will liberally supply your every need according to His riches glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. - Amplified Bible.
4. We must not exaggerate but portray the truth. There is a tremendous pressure put on missionaries to produce and to be judged by modern business standards of success. There is an emphasis on numbers and statistics. It is important for a mission organization to be transparent in its ministry efforts. It is also important for donors to use wisdom and the spirit's guidance while evaluating. Jeremiah was so "unsuccessful" for a while that not only were the people not heeding his message but they also put him in a pit.
5. We must not cry "crisis" with every communication. Several years ago I evaluated my quarterly newsletter. I noticed an emphasis on the various crises we were facing. I realized partly through the post traumatic stress of going through about 100 murders of people I knew and various dangerous and high pressure situations - the majority of my newsletter was focusing on all these terrible things and the various crises we were facing: How we didn't have enough money to provide activities for poor children while some local drug dealers were spending $5,000 a pop for activities for the area youth. Very little space was given to the souls that were being saved and to the kids who were making the right choices in life. I've tried to make the adjustment.
Everything is a matter of perspective. I have been raising support as a missionary (http://christcares.org) for 20 years. It has been especially difficult the past couple of years. It looks like adding Internet Evangelism as major component of our ministry is causing concern with many of our key supporting churches. Either God will raise up new supporters soon or it looks like I will need to find a secular job in order to provide for my wife and two girls. I do believe the best investment of my time is in full time ministry for my savior.
I am praying that God will touch hearts of individuals and churches to partner with our ministry. It is my prayer that this strategic ministry would get my full time efforts and that we would be able to develop a mighty team of Christians sharing their faith online (while still continuing some strategic urban ministry).
I want to do God's will whatever that may be. I have sacrificially ministered to the poor all my adult life and now I am excited about adding another strategic endeavor for the kingdom. I have a B.S. in Pastoral Theology and a Masters in Ministry. I believe I have valuable experience, knowledge, and gifts that can be used for God's glory but I need to be willing to follow HIM whatever the cost.
I also realize that in the whole scheme of things that my desire to raise funds is not a crisis. Those Christians who live in places like Sudan, Indonesia, etc. who are being persecuted and even killed for their faith - they are in crisis. The majoirty of the citizens of the world who make less than $50 a month - they are in crisis. The majority of the world who have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel - they are in crisis. Although it is not a crisis I would deeply appreciate your prayers.
6) We must ask God to keep our motives pure. Christ said in Matthew 6 that when we do our good deeds not to "sound the trumpets" to be seen and praised by man. We should do them in secret unto the Father who sees in secret. There is great pressure to grab the camera and printing press to proclaim to our supporters the good deeds being done. Prayer for wisdom is needed to find the right balance between the important need for donors to see what is happening and also the need to not take personal credit for the good works being done. When ministering to the poor there is also another issue that is hard to describe but it is sometimes demeaning to a person to photograph them while they are in the depths of poverty and depression.
We need to share past victories and yet not put ourselves on a pedestal. At the age of 13 I began to aggressively share my faith in poor gang filled communities. God has worked many miracles and has changed many lives.
We started a church in a government housing project living room without any outside support. One of our first pulpits was a chitlin bucket with a towel over it - yet our mighty God blessed in powerful ways. Some years later God provided us with a facility with a replacement value of over a million dollars. We got this building for only $25,000 - it included a full court gymnasium, large auditorium, kitchen, dinining hall, and about 16 classrooms and offices. They (the Midwest Baptist Conference) gave us a no interest loan and allowed us to make monthly payments of whatever we could afford.
It is important for donors to know that for over 30 years I've been faithfully sharing the GOOD NEWS to the poor. It is also important as I share the highlights of the past 30 years that I don't give the impression that there hasn't been any "lowlights" that I'd rather not share. As a missionary we can build our identity around our calling.
For myself personally, I got to the point where I saw myself as a very strong and brave individual. I went through a difficult burnout stage where the LORD pointed out to me that in reality I was weak and fearful. Yet praise be to God, in our weakness HE can become our strength and refuge. In our weakness we become strong as we give GOD the glory due him. "Through God we shall do valiantly." As missionaries, we must openly share that we too are frail and have moments of despair or panic. I believe some are intimidated from pursuing Christian work because the Christian leaders they know are not transparent and they feel they wouldn't be able to measure up to this awesome piety.
Next week I will be sharing the exciting vision of internetminister.org and various ways you can team up with us and support this strategic ministry. In preparation for this I thought it would be good for me to prayerfully evaluate how to make such an appeal and also put it in print - maybe it could be a help to some of my fellow missionaries.
God bless you all - Scott Reese - web evangelist & internet minister. Internet evangelism, internet ministry, christian blogging, missions, ministry opportunities are all terms that will help people find this article.

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