Paul’s Theology of Fundraising
Paul’s Theology of Fundraising
I wait until it’s dark and all the lights are out. I don’t want to run into anyone at the car lot when I’m shopping for a car, so I wait until the dealership is closed and all the salesman are gone to look at cars and their price tags. I hate talking about money with people.
I take my wife out to lunch at busy restaurant when I want to make a purchase that may alter the budget. Anything can happen during the husband-and-wife-money-discussion so it’s best to have the discussion where everyone will be on their best behavior. We loathe talking about money.
I devour business blogs to psych myself up to ask my boss for a raise. He gets really touchy when the subject of money comes up – especially when it’s his money. He despises talking about it. He thinks everybody is after it and he holds onto it with clenched fists.
Most of us would rather crawl through broken glass than raise the issue of money with people, especially with friends and family. You don’t have to be a missionary to feel the pressure of the money discussion. But now that you are a missionary, most likely, you’re talking about money with people more than you ever did.
Paul the super-missionary
Linguistic evidence shows that the Apostle Paul, our most lionhearted biblical example of a missionary, walked on eggshells when talking about money. In his commentary series, leading New Testament scholar Tom Wright has this to say:
I have now translated most of the New Testament for this present series [of commentaries], and I’ve discovered one or two interesting things as I’ve done so. The hardest Greek I have so far faced, without a doubt, is in one particular section of 2 Corinthians, namely chapters 8 and 9. I think I know the reason. That is where Paul talks, at length, about money.
Anyone who has had anything to do with church finances will understand why. We all know that money matters but few of us like talking about it. There are some cultures in which it seems easier to do than in others, and there are some people who seem to have overcome their inhibitions and to be able to say what needs to be said. But I sense in Paul what I see in myself and in a great many others: a reluctance even to raise the topic at all, and then a sense of nervousness in what we say, lest we at any point we should be misunderstood. [Romans for Everybody pp 126-7]
Wright wrote these comments while explaining a chunk of text in Romans 15 where Paul talks about going to Rome, but before he does, he planned to bring funds to relieve fellow believers in Jerusalem suffering in poverty. Paul carefully tells his readers his vision and plan. He is careful not to use pithy slogans as he communicates about generosity; he doesn’t want anyone to feel manipulated or used. What he does do is:
• Give a report of his activity (Rom 15:21-22)
• Talk about his plans (Rom 15:25-26)
• Gives a praise report about the generosity in other cities (Rom 15:25-26)
• Reminds readers about financial responsibility to other believers as well as the (Rom 15:27)
• Instructs readers that spiritual benefits received from other believers should result in financial generosity (Rom 15:27)
Paul tactfully, respectfully, with careful theological correctness stresses the bottomline: accomplishing the mission takes money. The body benefits and the congregation grows both numerically (Gentiles are added to the church) and spiritually.
Paul discusses going to Spain. He casts vision for this trip and, as far as we know, he never made it. Point: don’t be afraid to cast a big vision to your readers. No one thinks Paul was foolish or haphazard for communicating this way when he didn’t make it.
For your communication with potential donors to look something like the conversations Pas has, implement these components into your communication:
• Talk about the need
• Tell why it honors God
• Cast a vision for future ministry
• Don’t over-spiritualize; be practical
Paul talks about the Gentile responsibility to Jewish roots. Likewise, the Great Commission is each of our responsibility. Communicate with respectful confidence; what you’re doing is spiritual, theological, and practical. Paul’s own appeal funds to accomplish his vision for the mission is in arguably the most theological epistle in the New Testament: Romans.
People love being a part of the life-change that takes place when people give their lives to Jesus. Nothing is more fulfilling. People are who wise with their money love to give to ministries making a difference in the world. Partnering in what God is doing in your ministry is partnering with God to achieve His end game; making His glory known throughout the whole earth. Talk about the money.