Some years ago, when I was accepted to be a member of a major UK sending agency, a number of people within that agency commented that I would have significant difficulty raising my support funding for homeside service in the middle of an economic crisis. Although their logic was impeccable, I thought it ironic that the successors of the great man of faith who had founded the mission should focus on the practical challenge rather than the greatness of the God for whom we work. Surely, I reasoned, if God wants me to serve him in this way, he will provide the funding. Surely a mere economic crisis is nothing to our God, or to those who serve him in faith.
Yet four years into the economic crisis, the evidence shows that the economic crisis is in fact hitting mission hard. Most mission agencies report reduced general giving, and reduced financial support for mission workers. Nearly all agencies have been forced to reconsider their priorities and reduce their spending commitments. Some have merged, and others have been teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Many potential mission workers are stranded at home, unable to raise the funding they so badly need before they are allowed to go.
So is this economic crisis really bigger than God? Although this situation can easily be understood in financial terms, why should a miracle-working God be limited by the laws of economics? The problem is not that God’s funding is limited, it is all to do with where God keeps his money. Not in failing banks, or worthless government bonds, but in the pockets and wallets of his people. he gives us the privilege of partnering with him in his mission, and provides us with the funds to complete the mission. Yet faced with economic uncertainty, and for many of us redundancy, unemployment or reductions in state benefits, our natural response has been to curtail our giving in order to maintain our own standards of living, or at least to put some funding aside for the future. This might have a small financial benefit to us but has huge negative consequences on those whose ministry depends on our generosity.
How might we review our own economic situations in this light? First we need to remind ourselves that God is in control, and cares for us. God provides, even when we are unemployed. I spent five years living on sickness benefit, and never lacked anything I needed. Needed, not wanted.
And that brings me to my second point: we need to evaluate our own lifestyles and make a distinction between that which is a necessity, and that which isn’t. During the years of prosperity we came to accept certain things which might previously have been luxuries as essential to our standard of living. Perhaps some of those things need to be relegated again to being desirable but not absolutely necessary.
The resulting funds can be released for mission. I recently reviewed my own situation and realised that by doing without certain things that I enjoy, I was able to release several hundred pounds into mission. Yes, it was a sacrifice, but as Neal Pirolo writes in his book Serving as Senders:
Christians with a renewed lifestyle can free up thousands – even millions- of creative dollars
for cross-cultural ministry. Living more with less is an exciting, viable option.
So, as a new-year resolution, would you join with me in reviewing how much money we really need, and release more to support those working in mission? When we consider how many millions of people have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ, surely it is a small sacrifice to help send more workers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).