In hundreds of conversations we have identified six "challenges" our generations face when considering ministry in a missions-related role. The six are: Faith, Finances, Family, Fit, Future and Fight. The purpose of examining these challenges is to help us see that God is really carefully managing our journey and not getting in the way of a desired goal with all these obstacles.
Finances: The second "challenge," "obstacle," or "opportunity," depending on your perspective.
In conversations, surveys, workshop questions and interaction with Boomers across the country, consistently one of the top areas of concern is finances. What will I do for an income if I become involved in missions? What about benefits? What about retirement (whatever that is!)? Will I have to raise support?
As it turns out, for most of us, the first issue we dealt with, faith, is really the root of our concern about finances. Can I really trust God for my financial needs?
The type of missions work we are talking about is normally through a non-profit structure. In the ministry world, typically there is no product to sell in order to receive income. When a missionary arrives at his/her destination to touch lives for Christ, those needing salvation are not going to provide a paycheck so the missionary can witness to them. Throughout the entire missions enterprise, this is the norm for the financial bottom line. So, funds for a person's living expenses and their ministry expenses need to come from elsewhere.
In the local church setting, we see this played out, but often do not connect it to the same working principle in the missions setting. We give our tithes and offerings to the Lord through our local church, believing that is a part of our obedience to our Lord. Those tithes and offerings are used for the expenses necessary to fulfill our church's vision for ministries, to provide the supplies needed, etc., as well as provide living expenses for those on the church staff. The church is not producing and selling goods to receive an income in order to pay for all the expenses and salaries. They are depending on the people God has placed in that congregation to give financially in order to meet those needs.
It is the same in the missions world. Those working in the missions enterprise are depending on the people God has brought into their lives to give financially to meet the ministry and living needs of those giving of their time to do the work. The same system we are used to in the church setting is what functions in the missions setting. In both we are giving to the Lord, but we are aware that the funds are to be used to meet the living and ministry cost needs of those doing the work.
However, one of the key differences is that the church staff doesn't have to talk to the individuals in the congregation to receive their portion of the income. An offering is taken and the funds are divided according to the budget, salaries included. When serving in a missions role, unless a church takes full responsibility for the project, we need to talk to individuals and churches in order to discover the funds for the ministry, in other words, raise our support.
For a helpful article on how to raise support, go to http://finishers.org/enews/200811.htm and read "Dealing With The #1 Obstacle."
In these days of financial uncertainty it is tempting to trust our favorite TV news source or the counsel of financial specialists. While they might have some quality insights on how to use money, they are not the sources of our funds. We need to be clear on this distinction. Our employer is not the source of our provision, nor is our government; God alone is our source for all provision.
This is really an issue of trust. We tend to 'trust' when things seem clear. That is not really trust. There is no risk involved. Risk is always present with trust. Listen to this excerpt from Brennan Manning's book, Ruthless Trust: "On the first morning there he (John Kavanaugh) met Mother Teresa. She asked, 'And what can I do for you?' Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him. 'What do you want me to pray for?' she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the US: 'Pray that I have clarity.' She said firmly, 'No, I will not do that.' When he asked her why she said, 'Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.' When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, 'I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.'"
If God is leading us to a new ministry role and we do not have clarity regarding the finances, the issue is trust, not clarity. The "if" at the beginning of this paragraph is important. Moving into a ministry role can never be seen as an escape from an unpleasant work environment; it is not more spiritual than the marketplace; it is not a fall-back position because we cannot find work; it must always be God's leading. This comes from the inner peace given by the Spirit of God as we are living righteously, meeting with him in prayer and consistently saturated in his Word, accompanied by the confirmation of other trustworthy people.
This second "obstacle or challenge," finances, is really a "benefit." It focuses our thinking on the key element of trust. In whom do we trust? Dealing with this issue turns out to be a great step of faith and maturation in our journey with God. Finances are necessary. Finances are sometimes hard to find for ministry, and precisely because of this we come face to face with the object of our trust, and there is no one, nowhere more trustworthy than God!
Finishers Project 2010