Is raising your support just a means to an end or a necessary evil? Have you considered the implications of support raising from a big picture / macro standpoint? Let’s talk about it for a minute.
The difference between a missionary who raises their funds verses a missionary who is paid is simply that – one raises their financial support and the other is paid to minister. Right? Right. Typically missionaries who raise their financial support are the norm. However, there are a denominations / sending agencies such that pay their missionaries. Though being a paid missionary sounds awesome, as we found out late summer of 2015, this method of funding can have it’s own set of challenges and downfalls.
If you think about it from a macro viewpoint, a sending agency / denomination that pays its missionaries / workers by design is limiting the amount of missionaries it can send out to the nations. I don’t know this as hard fact, but I can surmise that there simply isn’t enough money divided up amongst all of the sending agencies in the world to pay enough missionaries to finish the task of the great commission.
Hence God’s good idea — calling us all to be a part of the Great Commission. Yes, all of us. This is where the brilliance of God and raising support comes in. Throughout the Bible (the Levites, Elijah, Nehemiah, Jesus, Paul, the Apostles) you find examples of ministers being supported to do the work of ministry the Lord has given them. It doesn’t just start with modern missions, raising finances has been God’s design all along. I venture to say it is His idea not only because it works, but because we are all called to take part – either as goers or senders – as I mentioned above. Mark 16:15-16.
Let’s talk about some major pros and cons from a macro (big picture) and micro (smaller picture – your perspective) standpoint of a missionary who lives off of support versus one that is paid.
Benefits of a Missionary Raising Support:
- Macro: Provides the opportunity to inspire others into missions in congregations that you travel to speak at (missions simply wouldn’t be as prevalent without this type of advocacy – around 80% of the missionaries I work with say they were inspired to go to their mission field because of a conversation they had with another missionary or hearing another missionary speak)
- Macro: The opportunity to invite and inspire friends and family to be a part of the great commission in a direct way
- Micro: Raises awareness of your ministry
- Micro: Preparation for the field before going to the missionary field
- Micro: A team of individuals and churches who are likely to carry you in prayer, provide emotional and spiritual support, and are invested in what you are doing
Cons of a Missionary Raising Support:
- Micro: Oftentimes it takes longer to get to the field
- Micro: The uncomfortable feeling of asking friends and family for financial support
- Macro: Some agencies do not require the missionary to raise 100% of their financial budget before going to their mission field leading to underfunded ministers and propelling the “poor missionary” mentality
Benefits of a Missionary Being Paid:
- Micro: Doesn’t have to spend time raising support instead of going straight into assignment. **I believe this can also be a detriment in some cases, see below!
Cons of a Missionary Being Paid:
- Macro: Fewer missionaries on the mission field, thus less people hearing about Jesus!
- Macro: Less churches and individuals being inspired to be a part of missions
- Micro: No team of committed individuals and churches lifting the missionary up in prayer on a continued basis.
A common misconception and attitude amongst workers who raise their support, is that support raising is just a necessary evil and means to an end. I would challenge that thinking by saying let’s get past ourselves and see it for what God intended it to be! In the macro sense, raising support is about so much more than one person’s budget, essentially it is about the body of Christ partnering with the Great Commission. And in the micro sense, the fact of the matter is, when done correctly and with the correct biblical perspective, support raising is actually ministry. Raising support can be a exciting, rewarding, and truly vital ministry.
As I mentioned above, the one major upside to a missionary being paid for their service is they get to the field quicker and “waste” less time before they go into their assignment. However, I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard missionaries that raise their support say that their season of itinerating (particularly at the beginning of their journey in missions) is the absolute best preparation they could ever imagine for the field.
Pastor Chris, who is a guest blogger on this blog, recently wrote an article in which he explains this principle:
“As a christian worker or missionary you are going to find many people interested in speaking to you about Jesus, but they may not always be ready to make a commitment. They may not be prepared to forsake Islam or their family’s religion of many generations because you told them a nice story. Successful ministry work requires faithful and patient follow-up with that person who has shown some interest. The man who pumps my gas gave his life to Jesus, but only after I spoke with him many times. He had to know more than my “story” about Jesus… he had to know ME. Was I a worthy person to carry such a story to him? Could I be trusted? Did I really believe the message I was sharing with him?
The first place you learn and practice how to do follow-up is while raising your financial support. You may think raising money and sharing the gospel are vastly different but they are not. If you are unable to look a pastor square in the eyes and say, “I need your support to fulfill God’s call on my life” – then you will find it difficult to look another man, with another religion, square in the eyes and say to him, “I need you to abandon everything you have been taught and follow Jesus!”I encourage you to think of the macro implications of raising your support in your season of itineration! Ministry, the Great Commission, God’s plan, more missionaries, etc. etc.”
In this season of itineration, I echo what Pastor Chris said- think of more than just the micro implications of raising your support – think of the bigger picture as well! Raising support means more missionaries spreading the gospel, more workers doing more good things, involving the body of Christ in the Great Commission, more prayer, more preparation, etc. It’s so much more about God’s plan than it is about raising your budget!