What does the Bible say about financial support?
I want to briefly discuss a very important mission’s topic with you today. And that is the topic of financial accountability and stewardship. When it comes to doing international missions, the way we do it, the way we deal with the money and the financial support that people send to us is extremely important. So I want to just talk with you a little bit about our specific philosophy at Passion Life when it comes to the means by which we handle and steward the monies that come to us.
Number one, we’re guided by several important principles. One of them is that Jesus was carried on his itinerant ministry with his disciples by the support of a few individuals.
That we see in Luke 8. Joanna, the wife of Chusa who managed Herod’s household, Susanna and many others were helping to support Jesus and his apostles out of their own means. There was a small group of women who traveled sometimes with Jesus and the disciples doing things and making money and contributing to the financial expenses of Jesus’s ministry on earth. The first guiding principle that we have is it is right and okay to live on the ministry support dollars of people who support a ministry. We have biblical precedent for that.
A second guiding principle for us is that those who do so are worthy of their wages. If you will, Jesus described that a minister of the gospel deserves to be compensated in his works. In Luke 10, Jesus says that a laborer deserves his wages. We have Paul, who really develops that idea in one of his letters to the Corinthians, in the book of 1 Corinthians 9, “Or is it only Barnabas and me who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 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 we not even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. What then is my reward that in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel?”
Paul recognizes and claims that it is his right to live on the support of other people who contributed to his work in such a way he would be able to proclaim the gospel free of charge to the people that he was ministering to. In other words, he would not place an obstacle or a burden on the people that he was ministering to. In this particular case, he says even though it is our right, Barnabas and Paul, I don’t make full use of it. I choose not to be a burden even to the local people. I will work among them. I will pay my own way among them. Even though I have a right to be compensated for the work that I’m doing among them by proclaiming the gospel to them. The primary idea here is that it is right for a workman to be paid his wages. And in this case for a missionary, a pastor, or a vocational minister to work in such a way that other people pay their expenses so that they don’t necessarily have to have a traditional job.
Now, there are two ways of seeing this. One of them is to say a vocational minister actually has no job. Your pastor, in some ways, actually has no job. When I lived in a very remote area as a church planting missionary, I saw myself as not having a traditional job. I was supported so that I could freely use my time to minister full time. Now we get that very idea in the passage that I just read. Paul asks a rhetorical question of is it my right to refrain from working and to live on support dollars so that I am freed to minister full time?
That is not the way that we see our job at Passion Life because, as an executive with a non-profit organization, I see myself very much as having a traditional job. I have a job description. I have a job that affects what happens to other employees if I don’t do my job well. So in this case, we live on support, but we don’t think of ourselves as not having a job. At
Passion Life we do indeed have a job, but part of our job as missionaries is just to proclaim the gospel, and that’s a little bit hard to quantify in a job description.
Another guiding principle for the work that we do is that the Apostle Paul, recognizing his right to be compensated for his work as a minister of the gospel, often elected not to accept the compensation. He often elected to set it aside for the benefit of the people that he served or as an example to the people that he served.
These three ideas (living on support to do ministry is a normal biblical principle, it is the right of a workman to consider the work that he does worthy of being paid a wage by the people that he’s ministering to and very often people will waive that right for the sake of the people that they’re ministering to) are what is presented in scripture as to how one handles compensation for work in the ministry.
Passion Life is no different. We raise support from generous people or donors, people like you, so that we can buy plane tickets and pay for hotels and taxis and food and things like that when we go around the world to minister to the gospel and to share with people in need. Recognizing that it is good for the local people not to have everything given to them for free, we expect a good faith effort on their part to do what they can to contribute to making this all possible. And what I mean by that is, in some of these poor remote areas where we go, maybe the best they can do is cover their own expenses in hosting the event. They may only be able to pay the electricity bill at the church where we speak and invite us to come in to speak for free. We do not charge them anything. We train people for free. But they are expected to provide a facility. If possible, they are expected to pay all of the organizational costs of putting this thing together.
Advertising for helping people get the event is best done if the organizing partner pays for the people who need a little sponsorship to come to the event. If they can’t do that, we reserve the right to make a contribution to helping people get there, but we actually would much prefer that the locals have some investment. If, culturally, it’s expected that a light snack or even a light meal would be provided during one of our training sessions, our expectation is that local partners will come together and somehow find a way to do that if that is feasible. If that is not possible, we will make an effort to make a contribution to offsetting the cost of some simple food and things like that because of the cultural expectation to have some food at an event like this.
For the most part, we want people to feel like they are as invested as we are. We have partners around the world who have paid our airfare to come and speak in Kazakhstan or in Hawaii. We have had people put us up in a hotel. We have had people pay for our food and transportation. We have had people who have done all of those things in order that we can come and speak at an event and not charge a fee for the speaking time that we spend there.
We consider ourselves missionaries who live on the support of faithful people like you. There are times when we will exercise our right, like when we go to Kazakhstan, to allow them to pay all of our expenses because it’s good and it’s proper and they are able to do so. Then there are times when we waive our right to be paid by the people we’re ministering to. We remove all obstacles and we pay our own way. Sometimes we even give a gift to their local ministry so that we show ourselves good partners in the effort that they have made to host us.
I just thought it would be good for you to see how it is that we think of these things and what Bible verses we use to mold, shape, guide and direct us as we make financial decisions
and stewardship decisions as a ministry. This is why it’s good for you to be involved. It’s good for all of us when we go and you help us buy that plane ticket and stay in those hotel rooms.
You are a part of what we do. And for that reason, you can feel good. You can feel a part of everything that happens. It’s happened because of you.
In my mind, it’s just as much because of you as it is because we were willing to go and actually do the teaching. We’re partners that way. We can’t thank you enough. If you are a financial supporter of Passion Life’s ministry, we would love it if you would consider increasing your support. If you’re not supporting Passion Life financially, we have no qualms about asking you to consider this as a worthwhile investment of your dollars. If you have other things that you would like to support instead of Passion Life, that is totally okay too. We realize that it’s not everybody’s responsibility to send us but we are very thankful for the people that God moves to give financially to make the ministry of Passion Life possible.