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

Fishers of men

Matthew 4:12-25

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

In 1985 an amazing discovery was made on the shores of Lake Galilee – a 1st century fishing boat!  The water levels in the sea had fallen due to very dry weather.  Two brothers, (Moshe and Yuval Lufan), who were themselves fishermen and amateur archaeologists, discovered the boat.  It is called “the Ancient Galilee Boat”; some call it “the Jesus boat.”  It took 11 years to get it out of the mud!  Now restored and preserved it is on display in a museum near Magdala, (the Yigal Allon Museum at the Kibbutz Ginosar), not far from where it was found.  The boat is 27 long, 7.5 feet wide and about 4 feet deep.  It was made of many types of wood, mostly cedar and oak. It used mortice and tenon joinery, which means its pieces were pegged together. It was large enough to hold about 15 people.  Carbon-dating shows it was built in the century before Christ.  Repeated repairs can be seen, indicating that the boat had been used for several decades, perhaps nearly a century, before it was intentionally sunk.

Whether or not the boat belonged to one of Jesus’ followers is not important, but… what it does is it reminds us of the cost to Jesus’ followers when they gave up their nets and followed Him.  

Being a small business they were working families, not making huge profits, but enough to get by and have a little left over. Fish were plentiful in the lake and many people passed by, soldiers, pilgrims, pedlars, as well as the local population.  People would always want fish, so their income was steady.

Fishing in Jesus’ day was hard work, (as it is still today).  Some fishermen used spears and hooks, but most used nets, which were either cast from the shore or a boat.  Some were dragged behind a boat.  Whatever form it was hard work, but their lives were secure!

The witness of this ancient Galilee boat reminds us that the Lord lived and worked among every day, working people, and it was these people He called to be disciples, “fishers of people.” So why did they give fishing up to follow a wandering preacher?  That’s the same question people face today.

When I was at Vicar Factory there were many who had given up very lucrative jobs and lifestyles to follow the call God had placed upon them through His Son Jesus.  It is the same for millions of Christians who give up lifestyles and practices that look attractive in order to maintain honesty, integrity, faith, hope and love Why is this?  The answer can only be the answer to every Sunday School question… Jesus!

But what is it about Jesus that draws people to Him?  His gentle, compassionate presence, and His life-giving personality; that’s what. In a way, Jesus creates a crisis in our lives.  Do I follow or…do I stay doing what I have always done? The simple command, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” created a crisis in the lives of these four men. Yet they abandoned their means of livelihood and set out to follow Jesus.

Whilst Matthew, and the other accounts we have of this call, say they left all and followed Jesus, there is no clear statement that they left their occupation for good. In fact, when Jesus died on the cross they went back to fishing – only to see Jesus, and catch so many fish that they struggled to get the boat to the shore.

When we look at this call we can see similarities between this and the call of Abraham (Gen 12:1-4)  In both cases, as we saw last week, God (Jesus) took the initiative, and the response of obedience was immediate.  In both cases there was a promise to turn those called, into a force they had not been before.

Abraham was to become a great nation, and through him and all his descendants all the families of the world would be blessed.  The disciples were similarly going to be turned into a force bringing others into the Kingdom of God.  The result is the same. Abraham was to engage in mission, and so too were Jesus’ disciples.  The Christian faith has always been, and will always be, a missionary faith.  It exists to send out followers into the world to draw people to the good news that God’s appointed Saviour of the world is Jesus, and that He died so that we may have eternal life.

I know that I have been a Christian for many years, but I still sense the amazing magnetism of His presence that draws me ever closer to Him.  There is something in his personality that leads me on in response to His call on my life.  For some of you His call came slowly, perhaps starting like a faint murmur and growing until it could no longer be ignored.  For others of you His call came suddenly and dramatically, just as he called Peter and Andrew, James and John.  What began with you, by whatever means and whatever pace, you knew that Jesus was getting through to you in such a way that you had to respond, you couldn’t put it off any more!

The good news is that Jesus has a way of getting through.  You see, whatever we are engaged with – whatever nets we’re mending, or fish we’re catching, somehow we are sufficiently aware of His presence and call to know what it is we are being asked to do.  At least we will know that we’re being asked to follow Him. And like the fisherman we won’t necessarily know where that will lead us. If we did, we may not be so eager to follow Him.

I wonder what these fishermen thought Jesus really meant when he said, “You’ll be catching men from now on.”

Did they have in mind particular “people”?

Did they think about HOW those people would feel?

Did they have any idea that in a short few years Jesus would be dead?

Did they have any inkling that they would end up dying for their faith in Jesus?

No they didn’t.  God, in his mercy reveals little by little.

Nor did Peter think that he would end up with a large church in Rome named after him; or Andrew suppose that whole countries (Scotland, Greece and Russia) would regard him as their patron saint.  That day when a young man walked by the sea and called them to follow Him they neither saw the glory or the pain.  They only saw and heard Him; and that was enough.

As people who have responded to Jesus’ call to follow Him, we are to live our lives in such a way that those around us, whether people of faith or none, see in us the call Jesus has placed on our lives.  We demonstrate that the sacrifices we have made have not been for our own personal gain, but for the glory of Jesus and our heavenly Father, who is full of grace and mercy, and slow to anger because He is full of love.  We demonstrate that Jesus is enough, that He is the only person who can lead us into all His treasures, treasures that help us to cope with whatever life throws at us.

So when you’re doing anything, from the mundane (feeding the dog) to the more spectacular (planning a special day), do so in a way that shows everyone that Jesus is enough for you because He is with you and because you long for others to know Jesus as you do.  As we do this, others will hear Jesus calling them to follow Him.

Based on a sermon from 26th January 2020