Thinking Out Loud

March 5, 2019

When the Ministry You Supported Crashes and Burns

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:30 am

I had something else planned for this space today, but then as we were discussing giving to God’s work yesterday, this comment stopped me in my tracks:

I want so much for our giving to be to organizations that are truly and totally sold out to Jesus and living sacrificially as they seek and spread His kingdom. We gave to Gospel for Asia for years, until they were exposed for being a different organization than we’d believed when we read Revolution in World Missions etc. We have given to Walk in the Word… and now…I would be interested in hearing about ministries like 20 Schemes who are reaching the poorest neighbourhoods with little fanfare…or people who reached out to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria last week after the massacre.

In 2009, we wrote a fictitious story and made up the name of the church — you’ll see the irony here — that went like this:

Joel had a major disagreement with the pastor of Covenant Harvest Church following a sermon that was preached in January to launch the new calendar year of ministry.    There were some follow up attempts by both parties to find common ground, but an unofficial visit from one of the elders ended up burning the bridges it was supposed to mend.

Now, eight weeks later, the church has received a registered letter from Joel.   He regrets greatly the amounts of money — over $3,500 — he gave to the church in the four months prior to his departure and wants a “refund” on his offering. In the letter, he says nicely, “I want my money back.”

Though the names and circumstances are altered, what do you think of the principle at issue here? Were the story entirely real as presented, should the church give Joel his $3,500 back?

I know there are people who feel that way. They’d like a refund.

A lifetime ago I gave money to an organization which crashed spectacularly. I won’t name them, but the ministry was front page news for several weeks back in the day.

I’ve often tried to go back in time and ask myself if I knew how things were going to end, would I give the money? There is a sense in which the answer is, ‘yes.’ The reason is that in those early days, while I’m sure there was the beginning of financial corruption, there was also money which was going to the projects being promoted; or at least I want to believe that.

Furthermore, if our giving is to God; then we in effect lay our gift on the altar and invite God to do whatever he wants with it, including burn it up if that’s his will.

There was something positive happening at the time and I wanted to come alongside and stand with the people on the frontlines and be able to say, ‘I am a part of making that happen; even if only in a small way.’

…Or am I just rationalizing a poor decision?

I know there are people who gave money to James MacDonald’s ministry, and Bill Hybels’ ministry, and Perry Noble’s Ministry and Tullian Tchividjian’s ministry and Mark Driscoll’s ministry and… Oh wait! Do you see the problem right there? Do we give to a great work that God is doing, or do we give to a celebrity with a captivating personality? If I’m being totally honest…

Back to the comment I received. I think we need to be intentional about making our giving less corporate, even to the point of handing $100 (or £75 if you prefer) to a young couple with a baby and a lot of financial stress.

I also think we should look for new organizations and new works which God is raising up and support those in their early (more sincere?) days of operation.

Finally — and our comment writer already addressed this — I think we need to give in a way that gets our money out of North America and Western Europe and puts it in the hands of people in the poorest parts of the world.

 

 

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March 4, 2019

Boasting About Your Giving … Sort Of

Filed under: Christianity, missions, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

We’ve all been taught that giving is supposed to be done in secret, right? You’re not even expected to know yourself when being charitable; that’s the essence of ‘not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’

For that reason many people are protective of information concerning their philanthropy. It may be that there isn’t any, or it may be that, like some health conditions, they feel this sort of thing shouldn’t be shared.

I want to propose an alternative: Talk about it.

Why?

Without mentioning amounts, or percentage-relative-to-income, I think that by simply saying something like, ‘We directly support a farming community in ___________ through the work of __________;’ you are actually providing a model for your friends and family. You’re saying that this is something that you do each month, as naturally as you eat breakfast each day.

I’m assuming here that you support your local church, if you have one.

Many don’t have a local church right now — about 20% of the Christian people I am in contact with each week — and never got into the habit of giving to parachurch organizations, or foreign missions. So they do nothing. In a world where giving can happen at the click of a computer, there’s really no excuse.

But if people who are currently giving would simply talk about the thing which they are passionate enough about to give up part of their income each month, then I believe that giving would be contagious.

Don’t keep it a secret. Tell them about the orphanage in __________, or Bible distribution in __________, or the village hospital in __________. Talk about the people who came to Christ after the movie was shown in __________, or the church plant taking place in __________, or the underprivileged kids who get to attend a Christian summer camp in __________.

Don’t say how much. Don’t reference a dollar amount. Don’t do anything where you are getting your reward now (instead of later.) Just share your passion and excitement for the work you see God doing in __________, and wait for them to say, ‘How can I get in contact with that organization?’

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