A few weeks ago I shared my testimony and work with a prominent member of my church, Saint Peter’s Lutheran in Cochrane. It was an encouraging and informative meeting. This man, Tim, has since committed to supporting my work as a Bible translator. Apart from this, he demonstrates what it means to be a dutiful and faithful servant of God. You know him as a member of our denomination’s national council, CALC. Over the course of our conversation, he had many questions about how I had been engaging CALC. I suspect he already knew that I hadn’t been, beyond attending our national convention this past October.
He asked me about the people I met at the CALC convention and my participation there. Over the course of the weekend, I manned a Wycliffe exhibit, participated in workshops, and was even allowed to deliver my testimony before all the church leaders. I received prayer, much encouragement, and about $175 in cheques and free-will offerings. Many of those gathered were astounded that Jack Chick Bible tracts played any role in me submitting my life to Christ. It was a great weekend overall, especially since it allowed my family to spend time with close friends who live in a town nearby.
Tim continued to ask pointed questions about CALC and if I had been engaging you, CALC’s president. Tim then explained to me that CALC runs on a shoe-string budget and reviewed some deficiencies in the organization, wherein there is simply no mechanism in place to raise support for missionaries.
Toward all this I informed Tim that you had invited me to speak at your church in Kelowna and that I would be asking you for personal support when the opportunity arose… much in the same way I was asking Tim in that moment. In all this, Tim maintained the expectation that I would be engaging our national council and seeking its help.
I then told Tim what I learned at the CALC convention: it is a small organization with a chronic shortage of cash. We have nine pastors graduating seminary with no churches to receive them. Some CALC congregations didn’t even have the money to send a delegation to our national convention.
I said Tim, CALC can’t help me. I should be asking how I can help CALC. It was an eye-opening moment for both of us.
I have a suggestion, but I’ll get to that shortly. There’s more to the story of my meeting with Tim…
Saint Peter’s pastor, Bart, happened to be passing by and paused to commiserate. He and Tim then proceeded to compile a list of If onlies… If only CALC had this in place…, If only we could get CALC to do this… And on it went.
Of course, this discusion naturally circled back to the fact that CALC cannot help me, and that’s why I’ve never asked. This is as painfully obvious as it is that those nine graduating seminarians should be raising their own support and planting churches. Though God is teaching me much about fundraising, I’m not yet prepared to teach a seminary class. On the other hand, I may be the most qualified Lutheran for the job at the moment.
Fundraising is not the burden people suppose it to be. My experience has been eye-opening and spiritually enriching. I’ve come to learn so much about people of whom I previously knew nothing. Saint Peter’s is blessed to have so many passionate, active, faithful people. I am blessed to count many of them among my financial partners. It is clear that many have walked with Christ for a long time. It is also clear that not everyone has made the same progress. I do not mean to condemn, but rather state an obvious fact true of any church.
Since becoming a member of Wycliffe, I’ve come to identify what I believe to be a common characteristic of the generation that dominates CALC’s membership. In my support-raising efforts with this group, I see a tendency to drift toward collectivism and deferring individual responsibility to the group. This is where those If onlies… are born. I’m open to discussing as to whether this is a generational trait, but it is something I witness predominantly among those we label Baby Boomers.
I witnessed this trait in action during a recent support meeting with one of my favourite seminary profs. He had his own grab bag full of If onlies. In his case, the consequence of defering responsibility to the group is that both his family and new ministry are chronically underfunded.
Likewise, our mutual friend Tim perceives a shortcoming in how CALC raises money for missionaries. I maintain that it’s not CALC’s responsibility. Fundraising is hard work. It’s made that much more difficult when there’s any expectation that CALC will somehow take care of it all.
That said, if collectivism is the force with which I am contending, maybe this is where I can help CALC. My hope is to prepare CALC for the next missionary raised up from within our midst (let’s all pray God continues to do this).
I propose an experiment. The outcome of this experiment will make life easier for me and future missionaries raised up within CALC. One of two things will happen: either the collective church raises the cash and I start work, or it fails and we set the matter to rest once and for all. Fundraising will be made easier when individuals are no longer able to defer their responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission to the group.
Here are the nuts and bolts of my own ministry budget. I don’t start my mission until I raise $120,000 per year for personal salary and other ministry costs. This is a modest and achievable goal. Expressed in other ways:
- I need $100 per month from 100 people
- I need $5 per month from 2000 people
Which of these is easier to achieve? I’ll tell you when I find out.
Now, with respect to the aforementioned collective tendencies:
- I need $1000 per month from 10 CALC churches
- I need $500 per month from 20 CALC churches
Last I heard, my church has committed to $417 per month in our budget.
My approach to this experiment involves a new CALC-specific fundraising video and your authority as CALC president. I ask that the video I produce be vetted by you personally and screened in every CALC church. People will learn why Bible translation and introducing literacy is worthwhile work. The financial need will be laid out plainly. Congregrations will be invited to raise money and commit to monthly support.
This is my suggestion. You may have your own. One pastor at last year’s convention told me that Wycliffe’s fundraising methods are old fashioned. I’m certainly open to learning CALC’s modern approach.
I hope that by proposing this experiment, whatever its outcome, CALC will be prepared when God calls another missionary. In all this I maintain that God is my provider. As a missionary I have no right to expect support from anyone in particular, but I do have the right to ask. I have the right to ask people to pray and ask God if they should support me. It’s hard to get people to sit down with me. Harder still when so many have not been discipled on matters of financial stewardship and individual accountability Matthew 25:14-30.
There comes a time in your Christian walk where you are so grateful that you would not approach God empty handed. May my proposal be received with joy. May it resolve the If onlies that excuse inaction. May our missionaries, congregations, and families receive God’s abundant blessing. May they grow and prosper. May others see God’s blessings upon us and join in singing His praise.
- Saint Peter’s Lutheran, Cochrane Alberta
- Wycliffe Bible Translator