Should missionaries directly ask for financial support? This is a great question with multiple angles. Here is the second of a three-part series helping pre-field and on-field missionaries to answer the question and gain a God glorifying understanding of a simple method for inviting people to join in the work. For context, it may be good to read Part 1, Gain Understanding.
Pt 2: Acknowledge the Gorillas
One is too many, but pre-field missionaries sent directly from their church often find there are two 800-pound financial support gorillas in the room. Besides being hairy and messy, both gorillas cause fear. They are confronted and tamed the same way.
The first gorilla is all the missions minded people in your life. They are the ones who know what it takes to send missionaries. For this first gorilla it is incongruous, and possibly deceitful, when a missionary has a clear purpose and proposition, shares what they believe God desires to do on the mission field, but does not share the need for financial support. Missions minded people and churches know there is financial need. You will not be seen as more spiritual by pretending you are not looking for ways to share opportunities for people to partner financially in the work. While they do not expect pressure or guilt, churches and individuals absolutely expect to be invited into the work with prayer and finances. So do it.
While first gorilla expects to be asked about financial support, the second gorilla has no expectation. The second gorilla represents the people from an unchurched background, new followers of Christ and others who do not understand the context and heritage of financially supporting missionaries. They may presume all missionaries are full-time church employees in another country. Their wrong understanding may be because they believe missionaries have denominational paychecks with an expense account. As new followers of Christ, it could be they never considered how missionaries are provided for. There is nothing wrong with gracefully explaining how they can join the work. Even if they do not support the work you are called to, they gain understanding of how God’s Great Commission laborers are provided for and may be used to partner with future works.
The two gorillas in the pre-field missionary room are tamed with simple explanations without expectations. To only say you need prayer is true, but it blocks a blessing of purposely inviting people into the work. Purposely inviting your God given relationships to help in the missionary work gives God more glory as more of His people are engaged in more of His work. It takes the focus off the missionary and puts it on all the people God is using to call more to Himself.
Humankind, especially religions humankind, loves rules, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus elevated the discussion above simple rules and made it about the desires of the heart. It is the heart that will drive the actions. You can have all understanding of your church’s missionary support raising expectations and feel comfortable with the gorillas, but if your heart is wrong it will not matter. Here are some practical ways to help pre-field missionaries examine their heart regarding asking for missionary support.
- Are your relationships a means to your ends? Pray to see your relationships as fellow sojourners with Christ. Your heart should desire their best and trust they can hear from the Lord, including some people hearing not to give to the work you are called to.
- Would you lie to friends? When missionaries say they only need prayer, it is likely they are lying by deceiving themselves and others. If someone is willing to ask about needs, chances are they are willing to hear of the real needs. Pray your heart would not fear, or have false humility, in communicating needs.
- Do you have God’s perspective? Pray you will have all the urgency of the Lord to be engaged in His work, but also all His patience to go in His timing.
- Are you generous and cheerful? God is graceful and can supply for all needs even for the most stingy missionary, but having His generosity is better. Pray God would soften your heart to help others cheerfully.
It is sad to hear of missionaries returning from the field because of lack of support. It is far worse to hear of missionaries who never go to the field because of fear, especially fear of needing to raise financial support. Taking time to examine your heart and make needed changes will help you have right action towards raising support.
Pastor Ed Compean, along with his family, served as missionaries in Kenya and Mexico for more than 12-years. He is now engaged in church relations and communications at Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators.