In 1 Corinthians 9:14 Paul wrote, “The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” This is good news for those in ministry, including missionaries. It’s also good news for the local church.
Many Christians give generously to their church, as well as to other gospel causes such as parachurch ministries and other support-raising ministers. But sometimes, when the phone vibrates with another text from a missionary seeking support, we might be tempted to think: Why do they keep texting? Don’t they know asking for support this way doesn’t fit my beliefs about missions? If I don’t respond, will they get the hint?
Money Measures Our Heart
Money gets a lot of ink in the Bible—for good reason. Shortly after his warning about laying up treasure on earth, Jesus declares:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:24)
Such words challenge us to consider where our treasure is, and thus to examine our hearts (Matt. 6:21). As John Piper has said, “Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism in the sense that what you do with it—or desire to do with it—can make or break your happiness forever.”
As a seeker of happiness in Jesus, here are five things for you to consider as God continues to enlist missionaries to go and as the Lord continues to enlist others to pray and give.
1. Recognize the Missionary’s Intent
The support-seeking missionary is not to simply trying to get money. Missionaries want to see Jesus change lives, and they are inviting you into God’s kingdom work. On collecting money from the Corinthian church, Paul wrote: “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Cor. 8:21). Asking is honorable because the result is honorable: the missionary wants to make much of Christ and assumes you do as well.
Your ability to believe the best when they ask for support will do wonders to encourage them in their work.
Because of Jesus, you’re free to turn from anxiety over material or financial needs. You’re free to serve God, not money. You’re free to view a missionary’s invitation to prayer and financial partnership as a way to store up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–20, 31–34).
2. Respond Lovingly
If a missionary invites you to partner with them, honor them with a response. The missionary’s cause is God’s cause; it’s urgent, and you can help them make the most of their time (Eph. 5:16) by responding to them. Yes, it’s the culturally polite thing to do, but more importantly, it’s the Christlike thing to do:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12)
Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom. 12:10)
Missionaries are taking steps of faith amid fear of rejection. Vocational ministers are trained to be graciously persistent in emailing, texting, calling in order to connect with someone God has put in their path. They’re also trained that a non-response is not an answer.
3. Respectfully Decline
Inviting people to invest in God’s kingdom work is a major step in a missionary’s own Christian growth. They hear “no” far more often than they hear “yes.” It’s part of the way God matures and sanctifies them. It prepares them for the faith-filled work of evangelism and discipleship, where rejection will be common.
If a prospective partner in ministry tells me, “I’m sorry, I’m unable to help you financially,” I’m grateful they responded and had the courage to graciously say “no.” It’s more helpful than hearing nothing. Hearing “no” in a timely way enables the missionary to move forward, make the most of their time (and yours), not laboring to attempt multiple contacts over many months.
4. Put Them in Touch with Others
One missionary told me her pastor thinks missionary support-raising is similar to multi-level marketing. But this isn’t the way we should think about supporting ministries, for the missionary has no product to sell, and the return on your investment is incalculable: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:15).
Do you believe the man or woman who’s contacted you has beautiful, good-news-bearing feet? If so, consider putting them in touch with others who share your heart to see the good news go to the nations, even if you’re not able to give financially.
5. Say Yes
As the church of Jesus Christ, we are one body with many members and our gifts “differ according to the grace given to us” (Rom. 12:6). Still, not having the spiritual gift of generosity is no excuse to store up treasure on earth.
Consider God’s call to give cheerfully. And with hearts that have been turned from stone to flesh, with hearts that now value the supremely valuable, consider saying “yes!” to helping send a missionary “on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name” (3 John 6–7).