Don’t Muzzle the Ox

Young_oxen_Wikicommons-001

I’m in the middle of raising the funds needed for my mission trip to Swaziland this October. A number of exceedingly generous people have contributed to my church account, but I have a long way to go. I admit, I’m struggling.

It’s not that I doubt God’s ability to provide. Pete and I have a long track record of God meeting our every need, even when things looked humanly impossible. My God is a God of miracles.

It’s not that I doubt my “call” to go on this trip. God clearly told me to go. I hadn’t even considered going to Swaziland before I heard his prompting, so I know I wasn’t confused by my own desires. The way he has put his motivation into my heart confirms his direction.

No, the problem is that I have a hard time asking anyone for money.

I bet most of us struggle with fundraising. It’s completely against our cultural norms. It’s embarrassing; we feel awkward. We worry that those we speak to will feel coerced, even though we don’t intend to coerce them. I’d rather go sit on a street corner with a sign reading, “Anything Helps, God Bless.”

I keep asking God, is this your idea? Isn’t there another way to fund missions? Is it really necessary to solicit funds from our friends, relatives, neighbors, hairdresser, delivery man, and the unfortunate person we happened to sit next to on the bus the other day? I certainly don’t have the resources to completely pay for this trip (I have made a substantial contribution, however), but even if someone can afford to pay their own way, our church still wants us to raise support. Why?

In reading through the New Testament, I see Paul thanking others for their financial support, but I never see him asking for money. I see clear justification for others supporting our missionary work (Luke 10:1-7 and 1 Timothy 5:18, for example) but no explanation of how to go about asking people to support me.

I was relieved when our mission department sent us their guidelines for mission trip fund raising. Maybe they would dispel some of my uncertainty. The letter made several points:

  1. Fundraising “allows others to be part of spreading the gospel through their financial support.” I understand that not everyone is able or willing to leave the U.S. and travel to Africa. By contributing to my trip, they are partnering with me in ministry.
  2. Fundraising “builds team unity as you raise finances together.” Yes, I’m starting to get to know a few teammates as we work in the church café together, slicing fruit, rolling burritos, and grilling paninis. However, most of the team isn’t participating in this fund raiser. At this point, I think there are more productive ways to “build team unity.”
  3. “Team leaders can relate to the team by sharing in the fund raising process.” I’m not convinced. There are easier ways our team leader can relate to us. How about sharing meals, mission training, and praying together?
  4. Fundraising teaches us “to trust for God’s provision.” That is absolutely true. There’s nothing like an empty bank account to prod us into prayer, and while God has our attention, he can be preparing us for the trip ahead.

The letter makes one final point:

Asking for financial support may be outside of your comfort zone, but even Jesus had financial supporters for His ministry. Luke 8:1-3 says, “After this, Jesus traveled from one city and village to another. He spread the Good News about God’s kingdom. The twelve apostles were with him. Also, some women were with him. They had been cured from evil spirits and various illnesses. These women were Mary, also called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, whose husband Chusa was Herod’s administrator; Susanna; and many other women.” These individuals provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples.

I guess if Jesus had financial supporters, I can too. But I wonder—did Jesus have to send out support-raising letters?
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Exen photo by Anne Norman, Wikicommons.

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