The Elephant in the Room: Is Fundraising Biblical?Posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2022
What are your feelings about fundraising? If you’re like most people, you probably have some feelings of trepidation towards fundraising. Fundraising for ministry can be a countercultural idea, so it naturally brings up some fears and anxieties.
In my role as a Mission Coach, I have worked with quite a few college students and recent grads who are considering using their degree overseas with GoCorps, and I have yet to meet someone who would say, “I am looking forward to going overseas because I am just SO excited about fundraising.” Everyone has brought with them feelings of fear, hesitation, or confusion. If you are starting your journey of exploring GoCorps feelings those things - you are not alone! Those are common emotions towards fundraising.
BUT, as someone who has had a financial support team for five years now, I am passionate about changing that perspective. Fundraising is a gift, a delight, and a glorifying invitation. Let’s unpack that.
Fundraising is a gift, a delight, and a glorifying invitation.
Fundraising can be an uncomfortable concept for people to consider because so many of us have a complicated relationship with money. Talking about money may be awkward, or even off-limits, to some people. The first thing that we must grasp when talking about fundraising is that money is important to the Lord. He has much to say about our perspective about and relationship toward money.
Nearly ⅔ of Jesus’ parables deal with finances and/or stewardship, and 50% of Jesus’ teachings relate to the use of material things. There are nearly 1,000 passages in the Bible pertaining to possessions.
We should be thinking about it! Because the Bible is talking about it. And the reality is, what we think about money will be the outcome of money in our lives. If we idolize it, it will be our stressor. If we release it to the Lord, He will bless us with His glorifying gifts.
The same is true in fundraising. What we believe about fundraising will influence our experience with fundraising. Doubt and fear are major enemies when it comes to following the Lord; and fundraising can stir up a whole lot of doubts and fears. I want to speak truth and life into these fears. So, let’s take a look together at a few things the Bible has to say about fundraising.
The example of Jesus
Luke 8:1-3 says, “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” (emphasis added)
I remember when I came across this scripture while I was preparing to begin my fundraising journey. It struck me deeply. I had never considered how Jesus’ years of full-time ministry were funded while He was here on earth. This scripture showed that there were specific people alongside Jesus that gave of their own resources to provide Him with what He needed in His ministry.
This is a powerful truth that can release us from a lot of fear and shame in fundraising. Jesus had the authority and power to provide miraculously for Himself in His ministry, but He chose to allow Himself and His disciples to be supported through the generosity of others.
As one of the Goers who I’ve worked with in their own journey put it - “God Himself relied on people to support his ministry during his incarnation, so there is not shame, but dignity in doing the same as we live out his commission.”
Asking others to give of their money is a common concern that comes up for a lot of potential goers. I often hear questions like: Why can’t I just work before I head to the mission field and save up for my ministry? Why do I have to ask people for money? Is that right? Or fair? I was right there with you a few years ago, until I thought about the classic question: What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus was a carpenter. He could have repaired wagons or made furniture to save up for His ministry. But, he didn’t. He is also fully God. He could have literally created money to grow out of trees. Yet, He saw receiving support from the women mentioned in Luke 8 as a legitimate source of income. This quote from fundraising coach Scott Morton really drove this point home to me:
“If it were wrong to be supported by the personal gifts of others, Jesus Christ would not have allowed it in his own ministry. If Jesus became vulnerable enough to be supported by others, you and I must be willing to as well.”
The example of Paul
Commonly, when people think about the example of Paul in scripture, they think about “tent making.” This refers to the fact that Paul had a skilled trade, similar to Jesus’ carpentry trade, in which he made and sold tents to provide an income to live off of while he ministered to churches. This example has even become a common term for modern day missionaries who receive an income through another job or business opportunity to provide for their financial needs while they also do ministry work.
What we see in scripture is that Paul actually did both! On some occasions, Paul did make tents. On other occasions, he chose to live and minister off the support of others. I think what we see here is that both of these methods can be God-honoring, depending on what situation makes the most sense.
The reality is that Paul relied primarily on financial gifts from the churches he had visited to support himself, while only making tents for income when there were other circumstances and substantial reasons for him to do so.
In Thessalonica, Paul wanted to set an example of what hard work looked like to the young church because he noticed that they were lazy.
For example, in Corinth, Paul worked making tents for a while during this time and was only able to preach on the Sabbath. However, when support arrived from other churches, he quit tent-making and devoted himself exclusively to preaching.
In Ephesus, Paul chose to raise money through tent-making when the Ephesian people became believers in Christ, they stopped buying idols. So, Paul chose not to ask the church to financially give to support him because it would have looked like to the unbelieving world that he was just trying to selfishly steal wealth from idol makers for himself.
These examples are exceptions to Paul’s usual practice of willingly requesting and receiving financial support from the church (see Romans 15:24 - the help he is referring to there is financial support; and Philippians 4:10-17).
It’s important to note that the biblical examples of Jesus and Paul we’ve talked about here are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe instances where the people of God received support from others for kingdom work. They do not prescribe one specific right way of doing things. What was so helpful for me when I studied these examples is that the Bible clearly communicates that the principles of giving and receiving financial support can actually be God-designed and God-honoring.
A Holy Invitation
Another principle we see in scripture is that people are called to give. When we start to see fundraising less as “me-focused” and more as “body of Christ-focused,” it can truly free us from a lot of the fear and unfair shame associated with it.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 is just one example of the biblical command to give. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
God desires for His people to give generously because He is a generous giver!
God desires for His people to give generously because He is a generous giver! I also love the promise found at the end of this passage. It is when we hold loosely to the things that this world tells us is abundant life such as financial wealth, and we are rich in good deeds and willing to share generously that we actually take hold of what is truly the abundant life found in Christ.
It was only when I began to realize that fundraising was not just about me asking people to give me money and was actually about giving them an opportunity to participate in the work God is doing, that I was free of those anxieties and fears that weighed me down.
Fundraising is a holy invitation for people to be involved in what the Lord is doing to redeem the whole world back into perfect relationship with Him.
Fundraising is not manipulating people into giving. As I saw throughout scripture, God has wired His people and designed His church to give; and fundraising for my ministry with GoCorps handed them an opportunity to participate in God’s mission.
The Whole Church on Mission
Remember, the entire body of Christ is a part of the mission, not just the people heading to the mission field. Asking for financial support and receiving money from people is not just about financial means of living. It is about the mobilization of His bride through the entirety of the church’s giftings.
3 John 5-8 says, “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” (emphasis added)
I love this truth found in this scripture! Those who give are just as much workers for the truth as those who go out for the sake of the name.
As you fundraise, you don’t just have a personal financial need to be funded (me-focused). You have a vision for the whole church to accomplish (body of Christ-focused). You are inviting people who give to join you in building God’s kingdom.
God’s heart is to get people involved in the Great Commission. Break free from the lie that you are just a beggar. Instead, start viewing yourself as a mobilizer. Fundraising is not just about moving people’s finances from one bank to another, but moving their hearts from a worldly focus to an eternal one.
In the words of a past Goer, “viewing myself as a mobilizer changes my perspective about support raising from one of a burdensome necessity, to a blessing both to myself and to those who support me.” You can also hear from other Goers who recently completed their fundraising by checking out this webinar.
A New Mindset
So, let’s switch our mindset. Fundraising doesn’t have to be this confusing, fearful addition to a possible next step. It is a gift! It brings people delight to support you through your vision and through God’s grand vision of seeing every nation and tribe together in heaven (Rev. 7:9). We are handing people a glorifying invitation!
This is a worthy purpose and even through the doubt, I am here to tell you that you CAN do this! Don’t let this be the reason you don’t sign up for a life-changing opportunity. Let it be the thing you lay at the Lord’s feet and say “I have fear, but Lord, I trust you. Show me your glory!”