It both pains me and brings me joy to say that more people are asking me to teach them the Bible than I have time to teach. I am a Bible translator in title and yet I am also teaching literacy, evangelism, discipleship, and caring for physical needs. I love my job, but I am tired. Every missionary I know would say the same thing. There is simply so much kingdom work to do on the field and not enough people to do it. Why is that? Why are missionaries pulled so thin? In a word, it is because we are understaffed. In the words of Christ, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt 9:37).
So, I asked our agency’s mobilization department the other day, “Why are the laborers so few?” They replied that when they recruit from various Bible schools and seminaries, people often give them a list of objections. We hope to spend the next few weeks addressing these objections in the hopes that the Lord will use blogs like these to send more people out into the harvest. The first of these objections is…
“I don’t want to beg for money”
We understand the sentiment. In American culture, asking for financial help is taboo. This is an aspect of our culture that we felt deeply when we were raising support. During this time, we did EVERYTHING from selling home-made cards in front of a Christian book stores, to calling everyone we knew, to holding a silent auction. We have had plenty of awkward conversations and yet, here are four reasons we believe raising support shouldn’t be a deal breaker:
1. The awkwardness is temporary.
When we were at the beginning of partnership development, our field director told us that missionaries that do a good job of communicating with their state-side partners only raise support one time. This has proved true for us. We did a year of support raising in the US, and then have never had to worry about support since. Though there is a ton of work on the front end, once people see the missionary life “in action” they continue to invest faithfully. At first, it is hard for people to give to an undefined, ambiguous vision for winning the nations. But as the years roll on and they see the unreached coming to love and praise Jesus, they rejoice in having given.
2. Christians love to give to the cause of missions.
Asking people to help you devote your life to Gospel ministry overseas is not the same as trying to convince people to buy essential oils. It is not the same as selling life insurance or a used car. Sales tactics are used to get people to spend more money so that the seller will be receive the profit – it is all part of a game.
Support raising is not sales. Rather, support raising is asking Christians to participate in something that they already love, namely the worship of Jesus Christ. The missionary asking, and the Christian giving are already on the same team, not to mention with the God of the universe on their side. Our job is not to prod, convince, and plead. No, our job is to simply share our passion to see people worshiping Jesus who are currently giving their worship to a false god. Christians already love the cause and want to further it. Believe this.
We see that this is true among the churches of Macedonia who wanted to help in a relief effort for other believers. They were so eager to give that Paul said,
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-4
Like Paul, we have found that Christians love to give to God’s work. People have been very eager to give financially to the work of Bible translation. To those intimidated to raise support, I encourage you to go into support raising assuming that Christians want to give to the cause of missions.
3. America should change.
Now that I have lived out of the States for around eight years, I am seeing that Americans are awkward about money in a way that other peoples are not. I believe that most Americans are awkward about finances because we hold a belief that with enough hard work, everyone is able to be financially independent. Therefore, asking for financial help is an indication of weakness, failure, and even laziness. What we do not realize is that financial independence is the privilege of the wealthy. And this mindset (coupled with other unhelpful ideas) have led many Americans to lead lives that have left them deep in debt.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in Cameroon, most people live in constant need. Therefore, friends are seen as allies, people you go to for help. The Cameroonians we know live in a state of interdependence. Everyday everyone needs help in one way or another. So, they borrow ladders and tools, share food and water, and pool resources to send kids to school and pay for medical bills. Living in interdependence makes it so the asking is not awkward. Asking for help is a normal part of daily life.
I encourage you to take a step back from your culture and realize that asking for financial support is not a universal faux pas and America could grow in being a little less rigid in this area. If you consider it, you probably do not feel awkward asking a neighbor for a cup of sugar (or, do you?). So, why feel awkward asking Christians to support Christian ministry? Interdependence should be a goal, not a trial.
4. Hell is real.
This point is by far the most important and this is what got us through partnership development. When Dave and I would call people to see if they received our support letters, we would get kind of nervous and not want to make the call.
But then we would imagine again and again having a hypothetical conversation with a Kwakum person one day. It would go like this:
Kwakum person: Why didn’t you come translate the Bible for us?
Us: Because we felt awkward calling people to see if they would support us.
Kwakum person: You mean, you believed in a Hell, but you were OK with just letting us live without go there…because you were nervous to ask for money? We ask people for money every day.
Now, there are good reason to not go into missions, but avoiding the awkwardness of “begging for money” is not one of them. Being awkward is a small price to pay for human souls to be spared from Hell. Being awkward is a small price to pay for enemies of God being converted into worshipers of God.
So, in conclusion, I encourage those “not wanting to beg for money” to humble yourselves and be willing to be awkward. Don’t worry, you will be far more awkward on the mission field stumbling through language learning and trying to figure out social rules. Partnership development is thus a wonderful time to grow in humility and do whatever needs to be done to see every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping Christ.