Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts on missions

I am still contemplating missions.

I grew up in a world of faith-supported missionaries. In other words, they earned no wage and just lived on the gifts of people who wanted to support them and their work or vision.

There are good and bad things to being supported. Shouldn't we all work to earn a wage, the way Paul talks about? Is being faith supported any different than being a charity case that goes around begging for money? It certainly should be. Someone who is living on the support of others for their ministry should only be doing so because they are so passionate about doing something that makes a difference and earns no wage that they believe they should do it regardless and that others can join in the mission through whatever financial support they can give.

It's better, in a way, than the ministries that pay wages. If you are paid, you are working for money, and the temptation is to work for the money and no more. People are drawn to the wage over the passion of the work sometimes. You end up with a institution that is draining of its heart.

But... what about us? We wish to train and counsel. That's pretty basic stuff. It's the kind of stuff you DO earn a wage for in the US. If we go overseas we will most likely not find a place that can pay us, at least not doing what we are most passionate about and what we think is most needed. . I'm distinctly uncomfortable with raising funds from people. What right do I have to take their money? I'd much rather find a normal job overseas that earns a wage and allows us to invest in the people around us simultaneously. That's limited, though. We'd be taken up with our jobs and unable to do the level of training that Isaac would be able to do if his whole career was dedicated to leadership training for the church overseas.

It makes me sit back and really think. Do I believe that where we may be going is in enough need of trained leaders and counseling that a whole lot of people should join in funding our way to go there and fill those needs?

We don't know yet where we'll be going, so I can't answer that question.

I guess I'm struck by two things.

First, instead of simply by default entering the same support-based missions work that I was raised around, we need to investigate innovative options that might allow us to work in "normal" jobs and earn a wage.

Secondly, we better be passionate and sure of our calling and its importance before we decide to ask anyone to take part in our vision financially.

*sigh*. I am loathe to do it even if it does end up being the only way to do what we're called to do.


Jaimie said...

Yeah, I would be the same way. Whenever I went on missions trips, I never asked for money from people either. Some people do. I know it's a different category, though.

the wonder that's keeping the stars apart said...

Hey Kacie! Well, I've been in a season of support-raising for the past six months, and so really have wrestled through these issues. I grew up on support, and it seemed natural for churches and people to give my parents money because that's just what happened!

But it was definitely a journey to do it myself. Couple thoughts:
~It is extremely encouraging to search the Bible out on the theology of being on 'support.' It's definitely there! So is tent-making (earning a wage while in ministry). Paul did both.

He also very directly asked for gifts from several churches and was frank about money (Phil 4, II Cor 8...there's more, I forget)

There's also powerful precendent in the OT for asking for money. The Levites were an entire tribe of people ordained by God to live off tithes and offerings.

Also David asked his people (first giving himself) to generously give to the building of the temple (I Chron 29).
And those verses about a worker is worthy of a wage...

There are a lot of misconceptions about missions, and I've definitely struggled with a poverty mentality. But what I've come to is that God does call people to be in full-time ministry, and He is faithful to provide more than enough (not just enough to scrape by in poverty) for the PROFESSION of ministry/pastor/missionary, etc.

It does cut directly against the grain of the Western do-it-yourself, provide for yourself mentality, but the truth is I am no more dependent on God if people partner with me financially than I am if I was drawing a paycheck from IBM. It is ALL God's money, and God's talents that he has given me and the grace to do what He's called me to do.

Support-raising (or partner-development) is truly all about relationships. It's living in such a way as to be connected and in community with people, whether they ever give you a dime or not. When you invite them to partner with you, you really are inviting them into reaping and sowing right alongside with you. Every part of your ministry, they have a part in (a person who sends a prophet has a prophet's reward...Jeremiah?). They get to be a crucial part of your ministry. It is actually a huge privilege and source of deligiht for people who are called to be an executive but yearn to be part of what God is doing in, say, Indonesia.

It's also God's heart--intimate community, the body functioning in different parts.

And the bottom line: it's all God's money. One thing that has really stuck with me is the phrase: Never be ashamed to ask God's people for God's money to do God's work.

Please let me know if you have any other questions/comments or resources! Grace and peace to you.

Kacie said...

Okay, for some reason I have in my head that I'm replying to Stacia but then I'm also feeling like I have your name a little wrong. So... forgive me if I'm wrong. :) It's been so many years already!

Your comment is fantastic. Love it. The conviction that supported church leaders is a biblical concept has been there the past years, and I need to remind myself of that. Knowing whether or not that is us is a difficult thing....

Bob said...

I don't see "working for your wage" and "raising money for missions" as opposing statements. In a sense, missionaries ARE working for their wage. Their wages are coming in a different form than "normal," I guess.

Normally, people are given money in exchange for a product or service. However, people also pay other people to do things that they are unwilling, unable, or not gifted to do. A CEO, for example, may pay someone to do their laundry, or clean their house, or track their email. Another person may have someone do their shopping for them.

In the case of missionaries, if I sense that there is a need for a skill (i.e. counseling overseas, or evangelism), and I'm not gifted to do that, I may pay you to go and do that.

In that sense, you are being paid for what you're doing, if not in the conventional sense.