Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 6

Prayer and Gratitude

Today we’re looking at prayer and gratitude.  Prayer is essential to a Christian and needs to be learnt as a discipline as we grow in our daily walk with Jesus.

There have been many occasions when I have known the importance of prayer in my life, no more so than when we were experiencing difficulties with the challenging behaviour our oldest daughter Rachel was exhibiting as a teenager!  We didn’t know where to start.  Actually we didn’t know how to pray, let alone where to start!  Eventually I realised that we should ask God how He wanted us to pray.  That was what we He was saying to us – “Ask me how to pray”!

When I did this He gave a clear and simple strategy and vision: praise Him for Rachel.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Anything more would have meant that I was overstepping the boundaries He was clearly setting out for us.  Anything less would have been an act of rebellion toward God.

We really didn’t want to do this, because her behaviour was testing us to the limit.  But when we got on board with God’s vision and strategy for how He wanted us to deal with, and pray for Rachel we gradually began to see a positive change.  So much so that Rachel herself, after about three months, asked us what we were doing because she could see that we had changed and that she also could see that she herself was changing for the better.  When we confessed what we were doing, because God had told us so, she did stomp off, but we were undeterred!  We’d got in the habit of praising God for her, so we held on and remained obedient to the vision and strategy God had given us.  He was true to His word.

Praying in a disciplined way, the way God had commanded us to pray, meant that we went from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel.  We were grateful for Rachel in a new way.  We had a new attitude of gratitude toward Rachel.

I know we weren’t praying for money with Rachel, but we couldn’t have done this if our security base in God wasn’t strong, so how do we become people whose security base is God and God alone?  How can we stand confidently with rich and poor alike on the common ground of God’s love?  How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new communion without coercing?  How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision?  In short, how do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?

For us, with Rachel, prayer was the spiritual discipline through which our hearts and minds were converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel.  Our thoughts and attitudes about her were reoriented toward God, and not self.  So, with regard to fund-raising the same principle applies; prayer is the spiritual discipline through which our mind and heart is converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality toward those who have money.  Gratitude is the sign that this conversion is spreading into all aspects of our life.  From beginning to end, fund-raising as ministry has to be grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude.

Prayer is the radical starting point of fund-raising because in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others.  To pray is to desire to know more fully the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32).  It helps us discover the truth of our identity in Jesus.  For us with Rachel, God’s truth was to praise Him for her.  So, prayer has the power to uncover the hidden motives and unacknowledged wounds that shape our relationships.  As we praised God Barbara and I had a lot of confessing to do in regards to the mistakes we’d made in bringing Rachel up.  The Good News of prayer is that it allows us to see ourselves as God sees us.

Prayer is radical because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in God.  In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know.  And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son.  You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased” (see Luke 3:22).  When we can claim this truth as true for us, then we also see that it is true for all other people who claim this to be true for themselves, regardless of who they are, and what we think of them.  God is well pleased with us, and so we are free to approach all people, the rich or the poor, in the freedom of God’s love.  Whether people respond to our fund-raising appeal with a “Yes,” a “No,” or a “Maybe” is less important than the knowledge that we all are gathered as one on the holy ground of God’s generous disposition toward us.  In prayer, therefore, we learn to trust that God can work fruitfully through us no matter where we are or who we are with.

So, God commands us to be grateful; it is for our benefit, not His, that we are.  If you list out the ways God has loved you – He saved you, redeemed you, made a way for you, has forgiven you, lives in you, is transforming you, welcomes you into heaven, – we will be reminded of the magnitude of His love for us.

Hebrews 13:15 says,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

In this context, what is confession?  It is acknowledging and recognising God’s hand at work, which in turn requires looking for the places where God is at work.  It’s easy to go through the day focused on self; what I am trying to accomplish, overcome, or fix?  A posture of gratitude keeps my thoughts focused on God and what He is doing in me and around me.  It reminds me that I am not alone.

Gratitude is all about paying attention.  It’s a habit of noticing, and responding to what God is doing.  Becoming continually God-focused and grateful takes practice.

As our prayer deepens into a constant awareness of God’s goodness, the spirit of gratitude grows within us.  Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.  Gratitude releases us from the bonds of obligation and prepares us to offer ourselves freely and fully for the work of the Kingdom.  When we approach fund-raising in a spirit of gratitude, we do so knowing that God has already given us what we most need for life in abundance.  Therefore, our confidence in our mission and vision, and our freedom to love the person to whom we are talking about donating money, do not depend on how that person responds.  In this way, gratitude allows us to approach a fund-raising meeting without grasping neediness and to leave it without resentment or dejection.  Coming and going, we can remain secure in God’s love with our hearts set joyfully on His eternal Kingdom.

Living thoughts

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, (Psalm 100 and John 5:18-23), and let them speak to you afresh in the light of giving, stewardship, fund-raising as ministry and developing an attitude of gratitude.  As God speaks to you, why not write in your journal 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.

Please consider these questions based on this week’s sermon:

  1. How do we become people whose security base is God and God alone?
  2. How do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?

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.

Prayer Response

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.

Amen.

St. Ignatius Loyola

Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 5: A New Communion

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:

  1. What does God mean when he says “Be fruitful” (Genesis 1:28)?
  2. 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.

Prayer Response

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.

Amen

 St. Ignatius Loyola

Spirituality of Fund-raising Part 3

 How rich are we?

I believe that all who are in Christ are rich beyond measure.  But still we see so much poverty around, not only materially, but more importantly, spiritually.

So how can our Bible passages help us here?

There could be 3 ways to look at the statement “you will always have the poor with you” from Deuteronomy 15 and Matthew 26, (see also Mark 14:7 and John 12:11):

  1. that we can never end poverty,
  2. that it is the role of Christians, not the government, to try to care for the poor, or
  3. that Jesus, rather than the poor, should be our concern.

Do these words say that we can never end poverty, or does it support a movement to abolish poverty with the poor taking the lead?  In Matthew’s account of the anointing of Jesus, an unnamed woman appears at Simon the Leper’s house with a jar of expensive perfume.  Right at the very beginning of this event in Jesus’ life is poverty, for Simon is a leper, an outcast, who lives in Bethany, which means “the house of the poor” in Hebrew.

Mark and John also have an account of Jesus being anointed a few days before His death.  John’s account happens, however, before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, whilst both Matthew and Mark place it after this triumphal entry.  Whenever it happened I want to suggest that it is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry; it puts Jesus on a collision course with the Roman Empire, a course that leads directly to His betrayal, crucifixion and then resurrection.

Nowhere else in the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus anointed. Only the unnamed woman does this. The Hebrew word for anointed is “Messiah”.  The Greek word for anointed is “Christ”.  So, Jesus is made Christ and considered to be the Messiah only a few days before His death.  There are probably multiple meanings of this anointing*, but the obvious one is that Jesus is being anointed for His burial.  This unnamed woman in Matthew and Mark’s account is the first person to recognise that Jesus is going to die and wants to ensure that His body is prepared.

(*Jesus is anointed on his head with a special anointing ointment for kings – the same process that David and the other kings in the Hebrew Bible are brought through. It seems that Jesus is set up as an alternative king to Caesar when he’s anointed in this passage.)

When the woman anoints Jesus, she is chided by the disciples for doing so. They accuse her of wasting this very expensive and valuable perfume. They say that if they had sold that perfume, they could have earned a lot of money and given it to the poor.

(Now John’s version is slightly different here: Judas criticizes the woman.  And it reads that Judas says this not because he cares about the poor but because he’s the treasurer and regularly steals from the coffers.  Judas uses the poor as an excuse to make money for himself.  Something that still happens today!)

The disciples’ concerns in Matthew seem to be asserting a common way we still use in addressing poverty. You earn money, or come upon nice things in some way or another which you sell, and then use that money to donate to the poor.

But in this story, Jesus doesn’t praise the disciples for their idea of addressing poverty. Instead, He praises the woman for her alleged waste of the perfume.  And then to make matters worse, Jesus then says this classic line:

“The poor are with you always but you will not always have me.”

For someone who’s concerned about meeting the needs of the poor, this sounds pretty bad. This sounds like Jesus is justifying poverty.

But Jesus’ response to the disciples and praise of the woman with the line “the poor are with you always” echoes or actually quotes Deuteronomy 15, – one of the most liberating “Jubilee” passages in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 15 explains that if people follow God’s commandments there will be no poverty. In fact, this passage lays out the Sabbath and Jubilee prescriptions that are given so that the people of God know what to do to ensure that there is no poverty, – that God’s bounty is enjoyed by all.  It concludes that because people do not follow what God has laid out, “there will never cease to be some in need on the earth” (or, “the poor you always have with you”), and because of that, it is our duty to God to “open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour.”  Jesus’ followers would have understood His reference to Deuteronomy 15 and would have known that God had other plans for addressing poverty.

What we read here in Matthew 26 highlights a main theme of Jesus’ teachings: in caring for the poor, in Jesus’ way, we can end poverty.  There are other passages in scripture, such as Matthew 25 where Jesus reminds us that what we do to the least of these, we do unto him.  The Old Testament prophets all emphasise our duty to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien, those in need.  There is the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4 that tells us that the early Christians had no needy people among them because they shared and cared for each other.  Even the Apostle Paul following his revelation of Jesus started a collection for the poor of Jerusalem that he discusses in Romans, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians – more than any other single theological issue.

In Luke 4, Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and announces that He has come to fulfil this passage – to proclaim release to the captives, to bring good news to the poor, to let the oppressed go free. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the first place where He really shows what He’s made of, and what His life on earth is about.

So Jesus demonstrated that poverty would not exist if people follow God’s laws and commandments, i.e. living out the “Sabbatical Year” and “Jubilee.”  Jesus is saying that poverty is the result of society’s disobedience to God by following the laws and ways of the world.  There is no poverty in God’s Kingdom; there is no exclusion.  All of God’s children are valued and all life is affirmed.

But I think in loving the poor, God is not just considering those who have little or no money, for anyone who does not accept Jesus as the Son of God and follow Him as their Lord and Saviour is poor in spirit, and poor in their quality of life!  We must claim the confidence to go to these people and say:

“We love you because of who you are, a person created in the image of God, and we want you to know God personally for yourself through the transforming power of His Son Jesus”!

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at Bethany was showing an amazing level of generosity, both materially and spiritually.  I believe that she was acting directly on behalf of God, who knew how it was going to end for Jesus, that His body would not be anointed for burial as it should be.  (As it turned out there wasn’t time to do the right thing.)  So God arranged for it happen before His death.  She acted as God called her to act.  There was no apathy or tightfistedness here from this woman. 

Prompted by God she acted in a way that can inspire us to give what we hold most dearly to the Lord, offering it for His service.  I believe God wants us to see all we have, especially the most precious objects we have, our skills and giftings, and our money, as belonging to Him, to be used as an offering to bring glory to Him, even if it means giving them away.

Having such an attitude will demand a sea-change in us.  It is challenging to offer our most prized possessions to God for Him as a sacrifice.  But when we are prepared to do this we bring glory to Him.

I believe that is the reason why Jesus said, “what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”.  In God’s Kingdom there is no apathy or tightfistedness.

As brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ we have inherited a priceless spiritual wealth. So in considering this passage from Matthew’s Gospel about giving, stewardship and fund-raising I conclude with a question:

What of yours is God asking you to be prepared to offer to Him for use in extending His Kingdom here in these villages?

Can I encourage you to find a quiet place and ask yourself that question.

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; Deuteronomy 15:1-11 and Matthew 26:6-13, and let them speak to you afresh in light of giving, stewardship and fund-raising as ministry.  As God speaks to you why not write down in your journal 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.

I concluded the sermon with a question:

“What of yours is God asking you to be prepared to offer to Him for use in extending His Kingdom here in these villages?”

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to answer this question.

As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Prayer response

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.

Amen.                                                             

St. Ignatius Loyola

The Spirituality of Fund-raising: Part 2

Helping the Kingdom Come about

Last week I spoke about the ministry of fund-raising being a conversion experience as it helps us to realise our vision and mission.  Vision and mission is all about extending God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  Likewise, fund-raising is a very concrete way to help the Kingdom of God come about.

But what is the Kingdom?

Jesus spoke on many occasions about the Kingdom.  His message was, “Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near”.

Scripture clearly teaches that we are to make the Kingdom our first priority, and when we do, “all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33).

The Kingdom is where God provides for all that we need. It is the realm of sufficiency where we are no longer pulled here and there by anxiety about having enough.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt. 6:34).

Jesus also compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed:

“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” (Mark 4:31-32).

God’s love is strong enough to sacrifice His Son for our sake.  Our response to this is to willingly sacrifice self for Him, and when our love is in line with God’s love we experience Kingdom love, a love we find that it is stronger than death (1 Cor. 13:8).   We are called to plant and nurture such love here on earth, and when we do this we are releasing the Kingdom of God here.  Our role as the children of God, Christ’s Church, is to create a community of love for all to see.  Paul is clear about this: “Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 14:1).  In other words, make love your aim!

Covid-19 has given us all an opportunity to demonstrate this way of love, the Kingdom of God way.  Many have given themselves to connecting with friend, neighbour and family in a way that is offering God’s love in both practical and spiritual ways.

The Kingdom of God is all about relationship.  How do we relate to an eternal loving God who has come down to us? If fund raising is ministry then what is our relationship with money like? We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to it.

What is the place of money in our lives?

How many of us know how much money those closest to us earn, or used to earn, at the moment?

Do we normally talk with them about their money?

Is money ever the subject of dinner table conversation?

Are family conversations about money usually anxious, angry, hopeful, satisfied?

Did our parents talk with us about money when we were children?

Do they talk with us about it now?

Did they teach us skills in how to handle money?

And in our own turn, do we discuss our financial affairs with our children?

Are we comfortable telling them how we earn it and how we use it?

Often, when it is too late, animated family discussions centre around money.  Growing up as a child it was tight and it led to tensions.  When I speak to wedding couples, we have discussions about money, and too often they say they have never had such conversations before! 

Money is not only a central reality of family relationships, but it is also a central reality in our relationships with people, institutions, and causes beyond family life.

So how do we spend the money we have?

Are we inclined to save it so we will be prepared for emergencies, or do we spend it because we might not have it later?

Do we like to give our money to friends, to charities, to churches, to political parties, to educational institutions?

Where are we, in fact, giving our money?

Are we concerned about whether our gift is tax efficient?

How would we feel if people used the money we gave them in ways other than those for which we gave it?

Imagine giving a thousand pounds to someone thinking the money would be used to help needy children, only to find out that it’s been used to pay for a foreign holiday.  Would we get angry?

How does having, or not having, money affect our self-esteem, our sense of value?

Do we feel good about ourselves when we have a lot of money?

If we do not have much money, do we feel bad about ourselves?

Is a low or even modest income a source of embarrassment?

Or do we think money doesn’t matter at all?

How do we feel when people ask us for money?

If you are of a certain age you may remember Pink Floyd’s song Money, from their Dark Side of the Moon album. It highlights how money and power go together, and how it can make you selfish!  That’s what money does.  There is also a real relationship between power and a sense of self-worth. I’m sure you’ve known times when money has been used to control people or events.  Perhaps you’ve done that yourself.

It’s worth asking ourselves, do we use our money to make things happen the way we want them to happen? Do we ever use money simply to give others the freedom to do what they want to do? A few years ago Barbara and I gave some money to another church saying that they could use it as they see fit.  A year or so later we heard that they’d used it to take their staff away on a retreat, it was a real spiritual treat for all!

If any of these questions makes us uncomfortable, it may be because talking about money is hard for us, harder that talking about sex or religion!  This is most noticeable when we must do some fund-raising, we feel being up front is not easy! 

Henri Nouwen (see footnote [i]) says that this has something to do with the intimate place in our heart where we need security, and we do not want to reveal our need or give away our security to someone who might, maybe only accidentally, betray us.  This highlights an independent spirit we all have, whose voice can shout very loudly when we’re being asked to financially support someone or a project!!  “If I give will I have enough for myself?”

But that is not surprising, after all we live in a culture where we’re encouraged to secure our own future.  Such an attitude cannot be supported by Biblical teaching, however.  I know I have preached on this numerous times before; Jesus knows our need for security. He is concerned, because security seems to be such a deep human need.  Remember His words from Matthew’s Gospel,

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21).

So what is your treasure?  God, or money?  This is saying, if our heart is divided we cannot find security.  In Luke 16 Jesus says something very radical:

‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’ (Luke 16:13).

What is your security base; God or Mammon?

So if we believe God, (which we do), is calling us to appoint a paid worker for children’s and families’ work, are we trusting in God or self to fund such a role?

If Jesus were here I think this is what He would ask, “Is your security in God or Mammon?”  We cannot put our security in God and also in money. We have to make a choice. Jesus’ soundbite is “Put your security in God, and His kingdom.”  We have to make a choice where we want to belong, to the world or to God. Our trust, our basic trust, Jesus teaches, has to be in God.  As long as our real trust is in money, the harsh reality is that we cannot be true members of the Kingdom of God.

All the questions I have asked are simply to help us consider whether we are, perhaps, still putting our security in money.

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Prov. 11:28).

What is the true base of your security?

Is your security base based on the truth of the ways of Scripture, and so of the Kingdom, or on the lies of the ways of the world?

Time to think

Read the two passages from Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13 & Matthew 6:19-24 & 33-34) and let them speak to you afresh in light of fund-raising as ministry.  As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal) what you sense God is saying to you.

In the text of the sermon there were many questions.  Don’t feel that you have to go through them all in one go, instead choose a couple to ponder on each day over the coming weeks.

As you ponder on them why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others?

Prayer Response

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.

Amen.

St. Ignatius Loyola


[i] Henri J.M. Nouwen, “The spirituality of fundraising” published by Upper Room Ministries, (2004)

The Spirituality of Fund-raising: Part 1

Fund raising as ministry

How do you view fund-raising? 

Do you see it as someone else’s job because you’re just too embarrassed to ask someone for some money?  I know that is how I have felt.  But is this the right attitude to have? 

Reading Henri Nouwen’s book “The Spirituality of Fund-raising” has opened my eyes to seeing fund-raising in a new way, a way firmly based on Scripture, God’s true word to us.

So how do you see fund-raising?  Is it a response to a crisis? Is it a form of ministry?

Henri Nouwen sees it very definitely as ministry!  Why? Well it does two things.  First it gives us an opportunity to announce our vision (where we want to get to) and mission, and secondly it gives others an opportunity to join us in our vision and mission. 

Scripture tells us that vision and mission are central to the life of God’s people.  The simple truth is this; without vision we perish, and with no vision of where we want to get to, our mission loses its way.

Our first reading from 2 Kings was gloomy.  But it clearly tells us what happens if you have no vision; you have no mission!  (2 Kings 21:1-9).  King Manasseh did not seek God, he did not listen to the words of God’s prophets, therefore he wilfully led God’s people into sin.  His actions angered God and they showed that he had no faith in God.  Not listening to God led to destruction.

On one occasion when we were praying about the children’s and families’ position that Mel Ramos will be taking up, this quote was shared…

‘Vision without action is a dream.

Action without vision is a nightmare.

Vision and action together changes the world.’

(From a resource titled “The Bible in One Year”)

We believe God has given us a vision here that involves stepping up through the gears with regards to children’s and families’ work.  If we don’t act on it our vision is only a dream.  Dreams go nowhere if they stay as dreams; action is needed, and action leads to mission.

We believe that God has shown us a need; for families and young people to be pointed towards God through His Son Jesus.  Such a vision will need resourcing in order for us to meet their needs.  So this vision will lead us, Jesus’ Church here, (that’s all of us), into new directions as it will give us new opportunities for mission (Acts 16:9-10).  This vision calls us to exercise faith in God, not in ourselves, but in God alone. This vision gives us courage to speak when we might want to remain silent (Acts 18:9).

So, fund-raising as ministry, ministry we are all called to, gives us an opportunity to invite people to journey with us in our vision and mission in a clear and confident way.  Such a ministry is not begging, instead we’re saying “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you — your energy, your prayers, and your money — in this work to which God has called us.”  Success depends on us believing in this vision and mission. 

Another reason that fund-raising is ministry is that it is a “call” to conversion.  What, a call to conversion?  How?

Well it works both ways, whether you’re receiving or giving it doesn’t matter, for however you are responding to the vision, you are being drawn together to others by God, who is about to do a new thing through your collaboration (see Isa. 43:19).

So what is conversion about?  According to Henri Nouwen to be converted means “to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act.”  Christian conversion also involves being clothed in the mind of God.  The outworking of this is that we come to our senses, just as the younger son did when he was starving far from his true home (Luke 15:17-20).  So, Christian conversion is a shift of attention in which we set our mind on divine things (Matt. 16:23).  Paul in Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

Fund-raising as ministry involves a real conversion. Does that make sense to you? It did to me.  If you catch the vision, then that vision has changed you, you are converted.  You see things in a new way and want to be involved in experiencing its transformative power because you know, believe and trust that it will make a difference. 

If we apply this to fund-raising then it is ministry, because ministry is about inviting people to relate in a new way to the resources they have.  So, in prayer ministry, for example, you believe that prayer changes people and situations for the better.  This gives people a spiritual vision that God does care and that He is able to change situations, and to change you, so you too come more into line with His plumb line truth.  Prayer ministry is there for the spiritual benefit of all who are involved.

As Henri Nouwen says, “Fund-raising from the point of view of the gospel says to people: ‘I will take your money and invest it in this vision only if it is good for your spiritual journey, only if it is good for your spiritual health.’”

You become richer spiritually by giving in accordance with God’s calling.  The Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 9:11 said, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity…”

I hope that you can see that making connections with those we’re asking is important if we want others to really get behind what we’re doing.  It’s much better for all concerned if we don’t merely receive a cheque.  Therefore, in sharing our vision we’re wanting to enter into a relationship with the hearers because we want givers to be fully on board, for when they are they will spread the word about what we’re doing, which in turn may encourage others to give!  This is natural organic evangelism.

We will fail to raise funds if we think that fund-raising is an unspiritual activity.  I think I can see now that fund-raising is not only a secular activity.  As a form of ministry, fund-raising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.  So, fund-raising has to help us with our conversion too. Are we willing to be converted from our fear of asking, from our anxiety about being rejected or feeling humiliated, from our depression when someone says, “No, I’m not going to get involved in your project”? When we have gained the freedom to ask without fear, in other words to see fund-raising as a form of ministry, then fund-raising will be good for our spiritual life too.

Remember, as we engage in this ministry we are not alone.  We believe that God has a vision for us here, to see His Kingdom grow through people coming to faith in Jesus.  We will achieve this if we stay connected to Jesus.  Remember His teaching on the vine…?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

With him, we can do anything because we know that God surrounds us with an abundance of blessings. So, those who need money and those who can give money meet on the common ground of God’s love. 

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

When we shift our attitude about fund-raising – that it is ministry to which all are called, then we can boldly share God’s vision for this place. As we share we are giving others an opportunity to join us in God’s mission as we work towards His vision for us.

Time to think

As you ponder the questions below why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

If “ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister” what do you think this blessing is?  Is it catching a glimpse of the face of God?

In fund-raising ministry, we are striving to give people a spiritual vision of the things God is calling us to do.  If people catch this spiritual vision they have experienced conversion. How did your own spiritual conversion to be a follower of Jesus change your outlook on life?  Did it say anything to you about the generosity of God?  If so, what did it say about this?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

This verse teaches that if we live to give, God will see to it that we receive: but if we live only to get, God will see to it that we lose.  This principle applies not only to giving money, but also to the giving of ourselves in ministry to others.  What ministry has God called you to here?  How are you moving forward with this ministry?

Prayer Response

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.

Amen

St. Ignatius Loyola