In Henri Nouwen’s book “The Spirituality of Fund-raising” we read this…
“People have such a need for friendship and for community that fund-raising has to be community-building.”
Now when we’ve done fundraising here in this parish one comment that I hear over and over again is that it has drawn us closer together. This seems to be said regardless of how much money is raised by a single event.
Last week I spoke about asking people for money, saying that when we do this we are to do it from the viewpoint that we want them to help us strengthen and expand the work of God’s Kingdom here. When we do this we are also inviting them into a new spiritual communion. This is very important. In Paul’s letter to the Romans we read:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:22-23, NIV).
The New Jerusalem Bible has this as the last part to v23; “waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free”.
Because we are made in the image of God this groaning comes from deep within us, and as God has created all things this groaning comes from within all creation. It is the sound of a yearning for all things to be in glorious communion with God and with one another, a communion that transcends the limitations of time and space. If we are not careful, we limit God but He is bigger than all of us put together.
In times such as these I believe that God is calling us to step out of the limitations that we impose on Him and on ourselves. We think that we have to be in physical proximity with others in order to sense God in worship. I just don’t believe that. Yes, worshipping corporately with others is truly amazing and powerful, but when we can’t do this because of Covid-19, God has the power to transform us so that even when we’re either reading a weekly service on our own or with A. N. Other, or when we are watching a service online we can still experience His supernatural divine presence drawing us ever closer to Him, and one another. After all, by His Word He brought absolutely everything into being! By His Word He raised His Son from the dead, so defeating death, and at the same time flinging wide open the doors to Heaven to allow all who put their faith and trust in Him as their Saviour and Lord to enter in and bask in eternal life in fellowship with Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit! The good news, though, is we enter into this eternal life the moment we personally confess and profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
This groaning, therefore, expresses God’s passionate yearning for communion with us and with all that He created. God desires; “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21, NIV).
This is the freedom of true spiritual communion. When fund-raising and asking for money we have an opportunity to call people into this communion with us. We are saying, “We want you to get to know us.”
When we’re gathered together by a common yearning, we begin to know this communion in a deeper way as we move together toward our vision. Our vision here involves taking on a Children and Families Worker to help and encourage us all to draw families and young people deeper into this fellowship and communion with God. Why? Because being in communion with God is amazing and worth inviting others to experience for themselves. Remember the parable of the hidden treasure and pearl? (Matthew 13:44-46).
To me this is spiritual communion manifesting itself in a concrete way. When fund-raising as ministry calls people together in communion with God, and with one another, it will hold out the real possibility of friendship and community. Covid-19 has clearly shown us that people have such a need for friendship and for community, therefore fund-raising has to be community-building. Do we really realise that as Jesus’ Church here, community is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer to all people?
So, if we ask for money, it means that we offer a new fellowship, a new way of belonging. We have something to offer – an opportunity for all to know the transforming power of Jesus in their personal lives through friendship, prayer, peace, love, fidelity, affection, and ministry with those in need. These things and so much more are so valuable, and when people catch it for themselves many are willing to make their resources available to sustain them. Therefore, fund-raising must always aim to create new, lasting relationships, relationships that flourish because of nurture and support. If these people have money, they will give it; but that is not the point. When compared with new freedom and new friends in a new communion, money is the least interesting thing.
Spiritual communion also reveals itself in a new fruitfulness. Here the radical nature of fund-raising as ministry becomes clear. In the world, those who raise funds must show potential donors a strategic plan that convinces donors their money will help to increase the productivity and success of the organisation. In the new communion, productivity and success may also grow as a result of fund-raising, but they are only by-products of a deeper creative energy, the energy of love planted and nurtured in the lives of people in and through a relationship with Jesus. With the right environment and patient care, these seeds can yield a great harvest, “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20). This is a vision of fruitfulness, so every time we approach people for money, we must be sure that we are inviting them into this vision of fruitfulness, a fruitfulness that reveals God’s generosity to all who give cheerfully and freely. We want them to join us so that together we begin to see what God means when He says, “Be fruitful” (Gen. 1:28).
Fund-raising, as Henri Nouwen says, also gives us an amazing opportunity to grow in faithfulness toward our own personal calling, our own unique vocation and ministry. At times this may well bring us right to the heart of our struggle with our vocation, for who does not from time-to-time struggle with the vocation God has set upon our hearts? Yet, it is through our struggle that we can give God an opportunity to help us become more fruitful. He does this by calling us to deeper commitment to our particular ministry and vocation, so fund-raising helps to make visible the Kingdom that is already among us. This is part of the fruitfulness of the community of love.
Time to think
This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God. The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.
Read again the two passages from Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:10-15 & Matthew 14:13-21. Let them speak to you afresh in the light of giving, stewardship and fund-raising as ministry. As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal, or on the spare pages in this service booklet) what you sense God is saying to you?
The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.
Can I ask you to consider these questions:
- What does God mean when he says “Be fruitful” (Genesis 1:28)?
- Read Matthew 13:44-26. How do you respond to the actions of the man and merchant in these parables? Is God asking you to sell something of great worth to you so you can be part of His plan to extend His Kingdom here in these communities?
Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond this question.
As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
St. Ignatius Loyola