Few topics will generate more passionate, potentially divisive discussion among missionaries than money and how it is raised.
About 20 years ago, I was the president and executive director of a major faith mission agency. The board mandated me to “bring about needed change.” I soon realized that financially, the organization was in trouble and we needed to change the mission’s traditional fund raising policies.
Since the mission is highly democratic and every member has a say in major decisions, especially those about money, I knew I was facing a massive challenge to bring about consensus on such a contentious issue among hundreds of members scattered all over the world.
Sending Weekly Emails
The one thing I had going for me was my practice of sending out a weekly email letter keeping members informed of what was going on in headquarters. It was a primitive blog (the term had not yet been invented).
Many of my colleagues were academics, and I knew I would have to do my homework, do thorough research, and then present the results persuasively and over a period of time.
Policies by George Mueller
I checked out the origin of the organization’s fund raising policies. They were based on the policy George Mueller, who lived 150 years ago in England and who was famous for raising several millions of dollars for orphanages and schools in his lifetime. He refused to ask anyone for money, instead he prayed and asked God to miraculously bring in the supplies and funds his ministry needed. And God did so.
I then investigated the possible reasons George Mueller formulated and practiced this policy. There were several reasons. One was that he wanted to show the Christian population of England that their impressive drive to gain ever more wealth was misplaced. They could trust God to supply without making every effort of their lives to accumulate money. He decided to adopt a “don’t ask people, ask God only” policy.
I discovered that he was predisposed to this biblical sounding policy by something decidedly pagan. Mueller was a child of his culture, and his society was strongly influenced by ancient Greco-Roman culture. One of the ancient Greek views exported to European civilization was the concept of the cosmos being like a house with two levels. In the upper level were located the gods, all good, honour, truth, compassion, mind, reasoning, spiritual things, etc. In the lower level were such things as demons, evil, hate, anger, lust, sex, money, and physical things. Good people developed the things in the upper level and tried to ignore or deny the things in the lower level.
Man’s Work, God’s Provision
George Mueller’s problem was that he wanted to do God’s work by showing compassion to orphans, certainly an upper level activity, but he needed money to do this, and that was a lower level item. How could he claim to be doing God’s work when he had to reach down into the domain of evil to get the money? He could not accept that God’s upper level work was dependent on lower level resources and solved his problem by asking God to reach down and get the money miraculously. And God did. The orphanages and schools were built, and tens of thousands were blessed.
In a series of postings via email, I gradually brought the mission’s membership around to accept the more biblical worldview that God owns everything, and that we needed to inform and ask His children to fund His work. As a result, the organization changed its fund raising policies.
Jack Popjes started writing stories for their missionary newsletters during the decades he and his wife were Bible translators in Brazil. For the past 20 years, he has blogged weekly on missions, church, Christian spirituality, and Bible translation. His current blog is INsights & OUTbursts. He has print published three books and e-published two books of story based articles—all selected from his blogs. His storytelling ability makes him a popular speaker. firstname.lastname@example.org