I’ve been chewing on this for a while and my thoughts are still formative, so feel free to add your own reflections on this fun topic…
The question I am wanting to explore is:
How are people to be supported financially in a missionary setting? Is it the same as our established local church setting or do we need to take other variables into consideration?
This might take more than one post!…
Here are my own core beliefs and thoughts that will frame how I am seeing this question:
* However we think about money, we need it to live. Stuff costs money – its an unavoidable fact of life.
* I think its pretty clear from scripture that we are to both work for money and be generous with our financial resources. I don’t believe in the tithe – as I don’t see it having any NT backing. I won’t go on about that, but if you want to read a really good treatment of this topic see Stuart Murray’s ‘Beyond Tithing’. I believe God calls us to much more than a tithe (and yes, that is what we seek to practice.)
* I believe it is appropriate for churches to support people who have been called to work as missionaries / leaders and have no problem with receiving financial support from a church community.
* I believe everyone can (and needs to) give financially. The fact that Jesus spoke about money so much indicates its power and our need to resist that power. Stewardship definitely extends beyond the financial, but to suggest we don’t need to give $$$ because we give in other ways is something of a furphy. The story of the widow’s two bob tells us something quite profound. Everyone has money and can give something. I have heard the ‘I don’t have any money’ line quite often and it seems to me that it is rarely the truth. We all have some money – where we choose to direct it is the question.
* Those outside the church are very very skeptical about how the church sees money. It seems many see the church as ‘money-grabbing’. For me this raises the question of how we disciple in this area. I sense it is critical to speak with new followers very early in the piece about serving God with our money, but if that simply translates to ‘put money in the hat so I can pull a wage’ then we may potentially fuel the skepticism. This is the difficult territory I want to explore.
The question has become more pressing for us because I will be finishing teaching at the end this year to devote more time to working in the Brighton community and with our team, as well as giving more time to Forge.
Danelle and I have chewed this decision thru over the last 6 weeks , spoken with our team, shared it with our pray-ers and believe that the time has come to give ourselves more fully to the two core roles we have been called to. We have been appreciative of the teaching work and income, even if it has been an emotional drain. (On Friday I let the school know I was finishing up. It turns out it was just as well as they already have a full timer lined up to replace all of us part timers!)
So… come Jan 1st we are minus a large sum of money and will be needing to find other income sources.
I sense our team is quite open to supporting us and we wil be discussing this with them. Here are some questions I will pick up on in the next post:
* Should we become an incorporated body and then draw a ‘wage’ – 1 day/week or 2 days/week etc?
* Should we ask people individually to support us and keep things very loose?
* Should we limit support to our team and people in the Brighton area or ought we seek support from other friends/family etc?
* If we receive income / support are we then accountable to the supporters?…
* Should we expect new followers to support us financially?
* What do overseas missionaries do with funds that ‘church members’ contribute?
I am not averse to a simple system of giving and support, but I’d like to do some thinking on it so that we don’t just accept what we have always done as the ‘right’ way.
Any thoughts so far?