ARE MISSIONARIES BEGGARS?

ARE MISSIONARIES BEGGARS?

by Don W. Hillis

beggar“How to be sure of the will of God” has been replaced as the number one problem of Christian young people

who are thinking of missions. The big hang-up now is money. They object to begging for support.

David Howard of Inter-Varsity says, “It is the complaint I hear with more consistency than any other. Again and

Again students say to me, “I believe that I am as committed to the Lord as I can be. I want to serve Jesus Christ.

I am perfectly willing to go overseas and serve the Lord, but this business of going around and drumming up

support, I cannot buy it. I will not buy it!” Howard describes this attitude of many potential missionary

candidates in these words, “You’ve got yourself set with all your affluence, and now I come to you on my hands

and knees and ask you to support me.”

Howard Fenton Jr., adds, “They are right…it is a problem. There is something underlying the method that tends

to degrade the candidate – it does support an economic double standard…the missionary does have experiences

where he laughs because he doesn’t want to cry. Maybe there is a better way. If so, what is it?”

Fortunately, it is possible to be both sympathetic and Scriptural toward the problem. And just as fortunately, the

Scriptures are far from silent on this issue.

In the Old Testament economy, those who served the Lord and his people (the priests, Levites and prophets)

lived off the tithes and offerings of the people. And there was a definite relationship between Israel’s

faithfulness in giving and God’s blessing the nation. The prophet Malachi accused Israel of robbing God in

relation to tithes and offerings. He then promised that God would open the “window of heaven” to those who

would be faithful in the matter of giving (Malachi 3:8-10).

Jesus, who so easily could have turned stones into bread and multiplied loaves and fishes, lived off the gifts of

His friends during his public ministry. The he pulled the economic rug out from under the feet of those He

called into His service. He insisted that the fishermen should leave their fishing, the tax collector, his tax

collecting and the tent maker, his tent making.

When Jesus sent out the seventy “into every city and place,” He commanded them to “carry neither purse, nor

script, nor shoes.” They were to accept the hospitality of those who would open their homes, “eating and

drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke 10:4-7)

Whether it involves the preacher in America or the missionary overseas, the Lord has ordained that those who

“preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14). And is a pastor expecting his people to

support him any different from an apostle (missionary) expecting churches to support him?

As far as I can discover, Paul only apologized once to the Corinthian believers for failing to insist that they

should share his support. He assured them that this is a way they could prove the sincerity of their love for God.

He warned them of the danger of sowing sparingly and encourage them with the reward of sowing bountifully.

He assured them that God is able to make all grace abound toward them in this matter of sacrificial giving. He

reminded them that God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul used illustrations: (1) the Macedonian believers who gave out of their deep poverty; (2) Christ who gave up

the riches of heaven; and (3) the Father’s willingness to give His indescribable Gift to us.

Though Paul, as a missionary, had learned how to be abased and to abound, how to be full and how to hunger,

he rebuked those who were careless about giving to the Lord’s servants and commended those who were

faithful.

The missionary does not accept the gifts of God’s people as handouts for his personal well-being. He is a

representative of God’s work. That work does not go on unless God’s servants do it and they cannot do it

without support.

Another answer is to take a new look at some positive values found in raising one’s own support. Several of

today’s largest and fastest-growing missionary organizations use this system. And the personalized support

program is a basic contributing factor to their growth.

Deep, personal relationships between the Christian worker and his home church do much to promote a longtime

interest in both giving and intercession. And, without the intercession of many friends, the battle can be

lost. Furthermore, any deep sense of God’s leading should be accompanied by the confidence that when he

guides, He also provides. Raising one’s own support is a challenge to faith.

Dr. Fenton shares this wise counsel with missionary candidates, “See yourself not as a huckster of your own

services or as a promoter of your own support, but as one who has firsthand contact with God – and who,

therefore, has something to share with others. See your mission to the churches not as a money-raising junket,

but as a further fulfillment of the Great Commission; you are going because of a divine call – to share with

others what you know about Jesus Christ.

When the missionary candidate sees raising his support as an opportunity to prove his faith, to inform fellow

Christians of God’s work, to inspire them to invest in the things of eternal consequence and to encourage them

to pray for him and for the work of his Lord, then his deputation is no longer a mountain, but a ministry. He

probably will even find himself making new personal friendships that will be of rich spiritual benefit to him, to

his friends and to his work. There is no substitute for friends who really care.

“After all pious platitudes have been swept away,” says Fenton, “you will need the friendship, the prayers and

the deep interest of God’s people more than you need your monthly support. And a period of pre-field

deputation may be the means God will use to give you a wider circle of praying friends than you presently

have.”

Paul appears to have counted the Philippian church as his home church. He had no sooner left the newly-found

church at Philippi (Acts 16) than they sent financial aid to him. He received at least two “support checks” from

them during his two weeks in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16). These believers never lost their interest in

supporting Paul but apparently there were times when they had no way of getting money to him.

Though this great missionary was willing to go without the necessities of life, he told the Philippian believers

they had done well in supplying his financial needs. He obviously felt other churches should have done the

same, and thus have fruit that would abound to their account (Philippians 4:14-17).

The common denominator in the accounts of Elisha accepting the hospitality of the widow of Zarephath, Elisha

rooming with the Shunamite family, Jesus eating in the home of Mary and Martha, and Paul enjoying the gracious

hospitality of Philemon is that of giving and receiving. Though the recipients did not take the kindness of the

givers for granted, neither did they apologize for being on the receiving end. In each of these cases a warm

personal relationship was built up between the giver and the receiver.

There are hundreds of missionaries whose testimonies corroborate that of TEAM’s missionary, Bessie

Degerman, as she says, “I would not exchange the faith-expanding experiences I had watching the Lord supply

my needs for going to Japan for anything. It has been one of the highlights of my missionary experience.”

Are missionaries beggars? I guess the answer really depends upon one’s perspective of God’s work and

interpretation of His Word.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “ARE MISSIONARIES BEGGARS?

  1. Wow… Incredible. Thank you so, so, so much for sharing. God has called me to be a missionary to Thailand and I am going on my first short term trip in February. This issue of raising support by no means scares me, but it is something that I am new to. I am grateful for this insight as it has helped me already. I am grateful for you faithfulness to the words the Lord has spoken to you.

    @JeremyWight

  2. I couldn’t quite finish the entire article and I usually don’t comment unless having gathered in the whole of it, but I did want to mention that Paul, a tent-maker didn’t abandon tent-making altogether. He labored with his two hands that he might be chargeable to no man. He carried more money as donations to other churches, namely those in Jerusalem, than he actually used for his own support. It is true that they that preach the gospel must live of the gospel, however it is not necessary that anyone be a burden on their congregation or other Christians. Not Nehemiah’s attitude in Nehemiah 5:14-19. Not that your article seemed to endorse anything to the contrary, but I just thought to interject that as another angle to consider.

    Also… I wonder if any of the would be missionaries have read E. Faith Stewart’s Book: Living Faith? It would also provide insights on God’s great provision for those He calls into His service and how they an acquire it.

  3. Paul was a tent maker. He didn’t ask for gifts. Shouldn’t I follow his example?

    This is a great question! Read on:

    The apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 9:14, “so also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” He explains that God set up a system of financial support for His workers. He also writes that even though he had the right to be supported by the Corinthians, he chose to make tents. This was an exception, however, to Paul’s normal method of ministry.

    Paul wanted to make sure that the Corinthians to whom he preached had no reason to question his motives. He chose to live on a smaller salary and take less from the Corinthians in order to validate his character, his faith and his ministry. With the Corinthian church Paul may have supplemented his income by sewing canvas, but he did rely on gifts from supporters.

    Many times in the New Testament (Philippians 4:10- 16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5) we see that the churches gave sacrificially to support Paul’s work. He commended them for their support and reminded them of the eternal profit of their gifts. “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17).

    This great missionary willingly received financial support from other Christians and churches, and he asked for support. “When I go to Spain…I hope to have you assist me on my journey” (Romans 15:24). The original language in this verse confirms Paul’s request for money. John also made reference to support: “For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 7,8).

    In examining Scripture it is clear that Paul was a support- raising missionary, and his part-time job in Corinth was a special exception to God’s financial plan for His full-time workers. The lifestyle of supported ministry that he was called to was little different than the models followed by both Levites of the Old Testament and Jesus Himself.

    • Now before reading your reply in bulk, let me say I never suggested that Paul didn’t receive help from anyone. Please reread my comment for clarification. I realize Paul lived off of donations, but I also realize that he didn’t ask for donations and that he collected more money for the Saints than for himself. That was the point that I made to clarify.
      In Philippians, Paul is not asking for a donation, but he is merely speaking of their change in attitude towards him in that they were giving and taking great care of him and then they stopped. Notice he didn’t even bring it up until they had already sent him something and he commented on what they had given him in his epistle.

    • I am not disagreeing with you, merely showing you the perspective that Paul and others had in the garnering of support from others which was the subject of your post. It’s not if you get something or not, but its the fact of how you get it.
      Having been around some fund raising young people who’s parents had good jobs and who could probably afford to pay for their trips themselves and now being around people who go on much more expensive trips with family situations that make it seemingly impossible for them to go yet they go time and again because they trust God rather than the funding they hope to raise or receive from others.
      Most often they pay their own way or their parents or some other person in the church may pay their way or contribute, but this is all done voluntarily without a lot of wrangling or fussing.
      I remember a sister who was wanting to go on a specific trip and she announced her desire to go and whenever anything involving the trip came up she was there in the meeting learning the details, but she had no way to go financially; yet she believed she would get the opportunity to go. Well time got close to time for her to go and things started looking impossible. She had a trial of her faith. Well, her sister and roommate encouraged her saying if you want to go just pray and ask God and He’ll make a way. The Bible says He’ll give you the desires of your heart. Well, she pressed on and sure enough God made a way for her and her faith inspired me and her roommate also to go.

  4. Anonymous

    Does a faithful servant of the lord need a smart phone. Should supporters of a missionary also buy movies tickets, a night out with the family at a nice restaurant, an ipod for the kids? Many people do the lord’s work, at home, after work on weekends etc. Who decides if you are called to be a life long missionary? Many great people have served the lord for a life time and never asked for financial support from anyone. A Missionary can change people’s lives for ever, but a successful business man can to.

  5. Anonymous…I actually don’t own a smart phone…just a dumb one that seems to work fine, most of the time. I’ve read your comments several times and sense that you somehow don’t feel validated by the Church in your own calling to the Market Place. Which I completely agree is a legitimate calling! For example, Daniel wasn’t a prophet by occupation, such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Isaiah. He didn’t preach to Judah full time…instead he served Kings, and in that role he served the LORD well, and prophesied, dreamed, and was a vessel used of God. So if you live like Daniel in the Market Place you will certainly change lives forever! Be blessed. Hey, next time leave your real name…cause we don’t bite and the truth doesn’t need to hide!

  6. Hi. can you get us some missionaries to come and visit uganda we shall be grateful God Bless you.
    From Michael Lubanja

  7. Hi. can you get us some missionaries to come and visit uganda we shall be grateful God Bless you.
    From Michael Lubanja
    my email: mlubanja@yahoo.ca

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