Rethinking Missions Part 1 – Funding
Disclaimer: I understand the new concept of missions, where we see see ourselves as missionaries wherever we go. The missional life in Christ is not restricted to people who travel overseas. But this role doesn’t have the problems that the more traditional one has. This is a discussion on problem-solving the traditional role. So for this discussion, I’d like to focus on missions which involve international travel, because it’s this one that creates the biggest headaches for us.
I recently asked my Facebook friends what their biggest problem is with the way missions are currently being done. I got a lot of good responses, which can be sorted into a few categories. Some people hate the fact that it’s so hard to raise money to pay for expenses to go overseas. Heather Goodman is a great example. She’s been trying for years to raise money to minister to people in the middle east, mostly by asking friends for help, but it’s like pulling teeth. Funding is one of the major problems people have with doing missions.
Another concern is how the money is actually spent. Many people complained that administrative costs take up too much money, leaving little left for the people doing the work.
A third complaint was the fact that many times the people we’re evangelizing are the same ones who were evangelized three years earlier by another group and 6 years earlier by still a different group. I was surprised at how often this observation came up.
I also heard the complaint that once missionaries go back home – the food and faith they provide leave with them, forcing people back into poverty and a return to their old lifestyle until the next group of missionaries visit. I’ll touch on a few other complaints along the way, but these were the most common complaints I heard.
This is going to be a hard message for some of you to read. I don’t want to seem like I don’t appreciate the work and sacrifice you make when doing missions. I sincerely appreciate what you’re doing. But like everything else the church does, it seems like there is always room for improvement. By the responses I received to my discussion question, it’s obvious we have some problems that need fixing. And that’s what this series of messages is about. I think there is a more effective way to do missions. I’d like to suggest a few ideas that we might try that could make things go a little smoother.
By far – the most frequent complaint was about how we pay for missions. Many of you know someone who went to YWAM that had to raise somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to pay for their mission trip. YWAM’ers frequently end up begging their parents for money and some parents go into debt to pay for their kid’s trip.
For those who have been overseas, many went on a wing and a prayer having no idea where the money would come from to pay for the return trip.
Some people teach that leaving on a mission trip without having enough money to complete the journey is showing that you trust God to provide for you. Well, maybe that’s true. But by the end of this message, you might think differently.
Who really wants to sweat for every dollar and beg everyone they know to donate a few bucks to their mission trip? Let’s admit one thing – obtaining money to pay for missions is a colossal headache. Last year, I was introduced to a different way to pay for overseas missions.
Last spring I was contacted by a fellow in Australia who read my blog and saw something he liked. He thought I could teach healing to his circle of friends so he offered to pay my expenses to fly to Australia. I took him up on the offer and it was a great success. His friends learned how to operate in healing and I made some great friendships – without spending any of my own money or asking for donations.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that mine was just a rare case. You see me as a fortunate person who just happened to stumble upon a benevolent benefactor with some money – but you could never be so fortunate.
Well my friend, I would tell you that part of your problem is that you’re seeing missions (and it’s funding) through the traditional eyes of a dirt-poor church instead of through the eyes of an ambassador of the wealthiest kingdom in the universe. The problem is your perception. That, and the fact that the church has a long history of doing missions on a shoe-string budget and we can’t envision doing it any other way. We’ve even gone so far as to spiritualize poverty, so that we don’t feel like failures.
The Person of Peace
The gospel first came to the Gentiles through the home of wealthy, powerful and well-respected man named Cornelius. For Peter, Cornelius was the ‘person of peace’ that Jesus told the disciples to find as they went out to spread the good news. (See Luke 10:5-6)
The meeting between them did not happen naturally, through friends, relatives or work. These two were strangers who never would have met had they not been instructed by an angel what to do. Peter’s part was difficult. God asked him to do something he had no grid of understanding for. Peter assumed his calling was to Jews. God told him to take his message to Gentiles. Peter didn’t understand and argued with God about it. (I’ve argued with God myself over some of the things He’s asked me to do.)
God chose Cornelius because he was a man with a significant sphere of influence. Peter’s message would impact the entire sphere, because of the respect Cornelius was given. A person of peace provides a gateway for us to minister to people we would not otherwise have access to. But they not only provide access, they can provide money.
The mistake many of us make is ignoring the instruction of Jesus to do our ministry through a person of peace. My person of peace happened to be a businessman from Australia who had the ability to completely fund my trip there.
Many Christians are uncomfortable around business owners and wealthy people. Some of us believe that they’re too greedy to care about giving money to missions or that they’re shallow and unspiritual. We tend to avoid them, which is a huge mistake. They are the very people we should be trying to connect with.
Business owners are usually smart people. They understand the way the world works – sometimes better than we do. They understand the principles of investing. To invest in something is to take something of yours and give it to someone else to use. Generally, investing pays some kind of return. A smart business owner is always interested in receiving a return on their investment.
When a business owner partners with us, they should be able to expect some kind of return on the time and money they invest in us. As people of God’s kingdom, we have access to the riches and the wisdom of heaven.
My friend has already received unexpected favor in his business since he and I became partners. I receive dreams regularly about projects that he’s working on, which provide confirmation and direction for him. He’s helped me by funding my travel for ministry. It’s a win for both of us. And it’s a model that anyone can use, if we’re willing to re-think the way missions are funded and the way we interact with people who have wealth.
I would encourage you to ask God to connect you with a person of peace and when they show up, no matter how unlikely the partnership looks, let God fund your missions through them.
In my next message, I’ll discuss why some cultures show no evidence of transformation as a result of our missionary trips.