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Money and Ministry

Several years ago it seemed like every pastor in this nation was preaching about the Philippines’ destiny as a mighty missionary sending nation. I believe it. I’ve preached it and prayed it.

I have also seen firsthand that Filipinos make great missionaries. From its beginning in 1984 as a small group of provincial students in Manila’s U-Belt, our church has made every effort to be a missionary sending church.  We have sent Filipino missionaries and church-planters to many nations including Bangladesh, Latvia, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Korea, India,  South Africa, Australia, Guam, and China. In each nation, our Filipino long-term missionaries have been at least as fruitful and, often, more fruitful than their western counterparts.

Ok. So, God’s destiny for this nation includes being a missionary sending force and thousands of Filipino believers have responded by saying, “Here I am. Send me!”

So, what’s missing? Why are so many Filipinos who have a genuine call from God still working at China Bank in Manila rather than planting a church somewhere in China? Why is the Saisaki sushi bar the closest some ever get to serving as a missionary in Japan? In short, why are so few going? And of those who actually go, why do so few stay long enough to establish strong self-supporting and self-perpetuating churches?

Paul’s question in Romans 10:15 may be our answer: “And how can they preach unless they are sent?…”

It is not enough for thousands to go to a mission conference and say, “I’ll go to the nations.” They must be sent. Sending requires money, and the more who are sent, the more money is required. Bigger visions demand bigger budgets.

As we think about the future destiny of the Philippine church, we must think about sending missionaries. And as we think about sending missionaries, we must think about money. If we are thinking about sending lots of missionaries, we must think about lots of money! And finally, if we are thinking about lots of money, we’d better think about money from a biblical perspective.

Far too many Christians do not think or act like Christians when it comes to money. There are two extreme views of money that are equally unbiblical and damaging to the Great Commission. On the far left are those who believe that the “lack of money is the root of all evil.” Then on the other extreme we have the radical right-wingers who believe that money itself is evil. How should a Christian view money and ministry? Following are three foundational principles to help us start thinking about money from a biblical perspective.

1. Attitude of Abundance
Does God really have enough resources to pay the bills for all He has called us to do? Or, must our vision be subject to the dictates of the local economy or the local congregation? On a theological level, the answer is obvious; of course God has enough to provide for our ministry needs. But on a practical day-to-day level, many in ministry live and worry as if God’s ability or His willingness to provide is in question. If the church in the Philippines is to fulfill her destiny as a missionary sending nation, then she must develop an attitude of abundance. The attitude of abundance is simply the conviction that God will provide enough for us to do all He has called us to do. Christian leaders must be convinced that His resources are available to accomplish His will.

The Bible is full of accounts of God’s natural and supernatural provision for His people as they attempted to walk in His purpose. If He provided for all His servants from Abraham to Billy Graham, why should it be any different for you and me? It shouldn’t. He will provide whatever it takes to do whatever He calls us to do.

2. Spirit of Generosity
What is the purpose of God’s abundant provision in our lives and ministries? God’s covenant with Abraham began with blessing him so that he could be a blessing to the nations. God’s purpose for blessing Abraham went far beyond his own comfort. When God pours out His covenantal blessings on the church in the Philippines, he will at the same time call her to be a conduit of His blessings to the nations. Being a blessing to the nations requires the abundant provision of God. It also requires the spirit of generosity. The attitude of abundance without the spirit of generosity produces arrogance and avarice.

Recently, I received a fund-raising letter from a para-church ministry requesting support for their building project. I had decided to give a token amount before I even read the letter. But as I read the letter, one statement reached out and grabbed me and greatly increased the amount I gave. Here’s what it said:

“God has blessed your church, and you have an opportunity to give some of what God has given you back into the Christian community at large.”

As I read those words I was again reminded that with the blessing of God’s abundance comes not just “an opportunity to give,” but also the responsibility to give. Divine abundance demands human generosity.

3. Heart of Integrity
Divine provision also demands human integrity. I remember another fund-raising letter I saw a few years ago that evoked quite a different response from me. A sweet lady approached me with the letter after a church service. She wanted me to read it and tell her what she should do about it. The letter was signed by a big-shot American evangelist. Included with the letter was a thin piece of white cloth. The letter instructed the “partner” to carry the “anointed prayer cloth” on her body for a week and send her prayer requests with some money back to the evangelist, then his prayers would produce miraculous results for her in the area of healing and/or finance. I told her she should tear the letter to shreds, trash the “anointed prayer cloth” and not even open any future letters from this guy. Then I told her that I would pray for her for free. (Yes, prayer cloths were used in the Book of Acts, but not as manipulative fund-raisers.)

There’s not much difference between a modern evangelist selling his cheap prayer rags and Friar Tetzel selling indulgences. Both are cases of fund raising divorced from integrity. The church has always had people like Simon the Samaritan sorcerer (Acts 8:18) who wanted to purchase the anointing. Unfortunately, today we seem to have more than our share of people who are trying to sell it, or some cheap imitation of it.

“Whoa! Jesus could have been rich!” commented my eight-year-old son during a recent family devotion after I read the account of Jesus turning water into wine.” All He had to do was get water. That’s free. And turn it into wine or Coke or something. Then sell it. He could have been a millionaire!”

No. Jesus could not have used the anointing, power, and gifts of God for His personal gain because His integrity would not allow Him to.

Like most Christian leaders, I’ve had several opportunities to use my ministry position for personal financial gain. Integrity has demanded that I turn them all down. The spiritual gifts God has given me are for the advancement of His kingdom, not for my personal climb up the success ladder.

Throughout the first 2,000 years of church history, the missionary sending center of the Christian world has shifted from time to time. In the beginning, Jerusalem was the center of all Christian activity. But the Jerusalem mega-church didn’t have much vision beyond her own city limits. So, God allowed persecution to send His people into all the world. Antioch soon replaced Jerusalem as Christianity’s mission center. Later on, it was Rome that spread the name of Jesus all over the globe. Then Spain. Then Germany. Two hundred years ago, England was the major mission sending force on the globe. For the past 75 years, it has been the United States.

A quick look at the economic history of these nations and cities reveals that economic growth (God’s provision) was available at the right time to enable them to fulfill their role as a mission sender. When the nation or city stopped fulfilling its role as a sender, the economic blessings seem to dwindle.

If God is indeed calling the Philippines to be one of the major mission sending nations of the next century, then history tells us He will provide the resources needed for the job. When the provision begins to pour in, I pray the Philippine church will develop an attitude of abundance, will demonstrate the spirit generosity, and will walk with a heart of integrity so she can fulfill her destiny as a great mission sending nation.

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