2 October, 2014 Neil Powell
Over the past 20 years of ministry I’ve gone through different phases of support and fund-raising: from raising an entire salary through support for three years, to supplementing a church income, and then, for the past 15 years, seeking to lead a church in which we are constantly seeking to raise new funds through the generous giving of members of the congregation.
Starting and growing a church plant without the necessary financial resources is one of the most significant challenges that planters face. From the pressure of raising a family to the realities of an under-resourced plant; from feelings of inadequacy in fund-raising to a general uneasiness in asking others for money, the planter faces the daily challenge of leading a church by inviting people to embrace financial uncertainty. As plants become growing churches, or as they become churches seeking to plant again, so the need to keep raising funds over many years brings a different set of challenges and opportunities.
If you want to know the secret of how to keep going through the financial stress, then here it is:
Only a Gospel mindset, that embraces financial pressures as a Gospel opportunity for spiritual growth, will get us going and keep us going.
How can we learn to rejoice rather than resent ministering in a context that requires us to give a disproportionate amount of time and energy to finances? As planters, with so many pressures on our time, we need to recognise the Gospel opportunities inherent in leading a church through periods of financial stress.
Is depending on others for an uncertain income a good thing or bad thing?
Which church-planter doesn’t simply want someone to write a big cheque to bankroll the plant? But not only is that unlikely to happen but it just might not be very good for us. Perhaps a new mindset, shaped much more by the Gospel than expediency or convenience, can not only get us through the challenges, but produce in us a much healthier, Gospel-driven attitude to financing the church – not just in a start-up phase but for the long term:
See support-raising as a ministry.
It is often the last thing a planter wants to think about but, as William Dillon suggests, ‘Support-raising is a ministry. It is not begging people for money. Rather, it is an opportunity for you to share your vision. Support-raising provides opportunity for blessing to those who give to you. And God gives them credit for your fruit.’
Here are a couple of Gospel reasons as to why we shouldn’t resent the pressure of living financially dependent on the Lord.
1. It is Biblical
· The Lord Jesus chose to depend on the generosity of others for His ministry on earth – Luke 8:1-3. It is truly remarkable that the same man who turned water into wine and multiplied the loaves and fishes deliberately decided to live in dependence; not just on His Father in heaven, but on His Father’s provision through the support of others.
· The Lord Jesus sent His disciples out, depending on God to provide through others – Luke 9:3-4.
· The apostle Paul urged Christians to demonstrate the reality of their faith through partnership in mission – 2 Corinthians 8-9
· The apostle Paul highlighted the spiritual blessings that flowed to those who give generously to Gospel work – Philippians 4:17-19.
2. It is spiritually health-giving
DL Moody said, ‘I show my faith when I go to men and state to them the needs of the Lord’s work and ask them to give it.’
· Raising financial support stretches your faith as you rely on God.
· Raising financial support sharpens your vision for the plant as you set it forth to others.
· Raising financial support trains and equips you to go on raising support for the plant.