(The following is excerpted from Rob Martin’s upcoming book, When Money Goes on Mission: Fundraising and Giving in the 21st Century by Moody Publishers)
When money “goes on mission,” it travels in the form of financial gifts, carried along in the pockets of those who spend it on the ordinary things of life and ministry so they can do the extraordinary things God has called them to do…
In general, money passing from one person to another is a transaction, nothing more than an exchange of something of value for something of value in return. However, unlike everyday financial transactions, when ministries fundraise and Christians give for the mission of sharing Christ, the true value is eternal, not temporal. The gift is given to encourage a transformative act, a loving action of the gospel, where good gets down to work at the very furthest extension of mission, darkness is penetrated, and those around the world created in His image are delivered from deprivation, injustice, loneliness, and the grip of Satan.
At its best, when money goes on mission, it not only supports the transformative works among those being served, it also creates a communion of giving and receiving among givers, mission leadership, and “missional entrepreneurs” from around the world. Though the Lord is always faithful, this communion is fragile, fraught as much with potential misunderstanding as it is bright with promise. In the past few decades, Western givers and receivers have faced significant changes regarding the getting, giving, and accounting for money in missions as the predictable world of mission finance became disrupted by the explosive growth of the church in the majority, non-Western, world.
This swell of majority-world Christians and the missional entrepreneurs among them need to acquire the funding and gain the organizational skills to assume full—and equal—partnership with their non-indigenous brother and sister missions. They need funders and mission leaders—both in the West and locally—to partner with them, to support their desire to take responsibility for their ministries, and to help them establish best biblical practices within their own contexts. This shift—away from the way mission funding had been carried out over the past two hundred years—involves the encouragement of local funding and leadership development. This new paradigm of mission finance brings the whole of the mission’s community and those interested in knowing more about successful mission into alignment with what God is doing today.
Also, in this new paradigm, givers in partnership with ministries want to be more involved in their giving than taking part in a mere transaction; they want to be connected to the purpose of the ministry. Givers do not want to be objectified and thought of as nothing more than the wallet of the bride of Christ. Henri Nouwen wrote: “When we ask people for money to strengthen or expand the work of the Kingdom, we are also inviting them into a new spiritual communion.” And since inviting a proposal from a ministry is the other side of asking for money, a giver who does this is entering into this new shared community.
A friend described it as “a new community of believers that’s bigger than ethnicity, bigger than our passport countries, bigger than our education, bigger than the amounts of money we have or are perceived to have or not have.” He added: “In this new community, we believe the fruit of wise stewardship is joy.”
Within this communion, the language of have and have not— along with its categorical mindset and practices—is wholly inappropriate to how we relate to each other. In a dysfunctional model of giving, the “poor” receive a trickle-down of resources from the perceived “wealthy.” However, when a communion of giving and receiving exists, there are no artificial limits on what can be accomplished, experienced, or exchanged. There can be abundance and scarcity of what is needed for the harvest on all parts of a missional effort.
While inviting first-century believers to share in such a communion, the apostle Paul wrote: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little’” (2 Cor. 8:14–15).