While speaking at a college in Montana I met a student who was convinced he wasn’t called to missions. Why? He couldn’t raise his support. He gave up on God’s global plan because of money! An improper view of support raising has major ramifications. From the beginner to the experienced, support raising can get the best of us. Because raising support is an obstacle, excuses emerge quickly. The truth is support raising is not unbiblical, it is simply un-American.
One of the most common arguments against support raising revolves around making tents. While Paul was in Thessalonica he chose to work as a tentmaker so he would not burden them with supporting him while he ministered. By working his trade, Paul was seemingly able to make, repair, and sell tents in such a way that it was profitable enough to supply his needs. Though there is a place for this model, it is important to realize this was by no means normal for Paul. There were times when he chose to have his income from tent making, but this was temporary. Acts says, “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah” (18:5). When Silas and Timothy joined Paul they brought with them support from churches in Macedonia. In light of this support, the missionaries were able to dedicate themselves fully to the gospel. Paul not only raised support, he was in a partnership with churches for support. He did not make use of this with some churches, but he explained to them he had every right to earn pay from his ministry. He said, “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?” (1 Cor. 9:11-12, esv). Paul compared his ministry work with farmers, shepherds, and soldiers (9:7). He argued everyone is paid for their work, and so should full-time ministers be.
Jesus raised support (Luke 8:2-3) and commissioned the disciples to do their ministry empty-handed, reminding them, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (10:7, nasb). For this reason, Peter and other apostles lived on the gifts and donations of the church so they could dedicate themselves wholly to ministry. Acts says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common,” and “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (2:44; 4:34, esv). All of this was going on while the apostles were devoted “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4, esv). The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:9-10, 14, esv)
People fear support raising for many reasons. Some see their lack of contacts, some fear rejection, some failure, others debt. When we begin raising support, fears run rampant. But how should we handle them?
Contacts. Make a list of potential support contacts with whom to share the vision of her ministry. Think beyond your church and family: doctors, hairstylists, pharmacists, teachers, and coaches. Who else would want to be involved in your ministry?
Rejection. In support raising, irrational thoughts creep in fast. Will people think I’m begging? What if they say no? Will they unfriend me? Will this ruin our friendship? We need to silence the thoughts of rejection with biblical truth. Scripture says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). It is always an individual’s own decision whether they desire to give, but it should never stop us from asking.
Failure. Another haunting anxiety is the fear of failure. Though the anxiety of failing may be close, it should never derail us. We are reminded, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Prov. 24:16, esv). In working through anxiety, we realize our worst fear shouldn’t be failing, but succeeding at things that are not important.
What We Need
After counseling hundreds of young adults, the three core concepts I have observed in support raising are training, accountability, and a proper view of God.1
Training: This is commonly overlooked but easy to access. Some think since they have raised money for a short-term trip they can jump into raising monthly support. They can, but they still need training. Whether it is a day, a week, or a month of training, we need to know the most effective ways of raising support. To get started with support raising, check into the incredible resources provided by ministries such as Support Raising Solutions.
Seek Accountability: When we have goals and standards yet no accountability, we will fail. An accountability mentor brings refreshment and counsel. This is the main reason I made it to full support. They would listen to my sob stories and respond with Scripture, encouragement, and sometimes hard truth. I submitted a weekly report of all the letters sent, phone calls made, support meetings set up, and meetings attained. All this accountability kept me on task toward my goal. If you intend to raise support you must have someone walk with you.
Proper View of God: I am convinced the biggest obstacle to support raising is having an improper view of God. In all of this grandness, He desires to take care of us. Matthew tells us God feeds the birds and clothes the grass and says, “Are you not much more valuable than they? (6:26). He provides for us because He loves us. As the psalmist says, “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” (Ps. 66:5).
He is a loving Father. When you ask Him for provision, He will not give you something insufficient (see Matt. 7:9-11). Indeed, we must all hold fast to God no matter what line of work we are in.
By Josh Cooper