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Missions 101

Raising Support: Should You Ask People To Pray But Not Financially Support You

Apr. 16, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

There are roughly three different fundraising philosophies Christians follow when they raise support. They are:

  • No information, no solicitation approach
  • Full information, no solicitation approach
  • Full information, full solicitation approach

George Muller made the first approach famous. He claimed that he never asked anyone for any money, though he did spend four decades telling stories of God's provision to crowds around the world. One may question Muller's style here. If you had a world-wide audience, where at the end of every message you ended with telling them you never asked anyone for money, what do you think would happen? Muller had so much money he had to give it away - much of which was given to Hudson Taylor!

Hudson Taylor and CT Studd made the second approach well known, and it dominated the majority how missionaries viewed the solicitation of funds in the modern missions movement. It was later called the "faith principle." Missionaries would go out, share prayer requests, but never say how much they actually needed. They just prayed and asked God to meet their needs. Lillias Trotter, founder of Algers Missions Board also took this approach. Read this letter for example to see how this played out.

The third way is seen most clearly in DL Moody, who would write and personally ask people to invest money into the work of Christ's Church. Today most missionaries and those who operate on support take this approach, though I believe many wish approach two worked better!

I would say that most missionaries today fall between approaches two and three. Many do not enjoy asking people for money directly, so they send out support letters with reply cards, but will not ask someone face to face to support them financially.

Here is the crux of the issue - why is it ok for pastors to preach on giving and churches to challenge their people to be generous, but not ok for a missionary to ask directly for people to be generous? Muller's approach was passive agressive. I am asking but not asking. Hudson Taylor and CT Studd were the same - here are our needs, pray about them, but we are not going to ask you to meet them. We are asking God.

The Bible never says that asking people to pray is good, but asking to give is not. It feels manipulative asking people to just pray when everyone knows full well I need financial support. Joining your support team (for whatever you are doing) is a chance for someone to invest in something with eternal consequence. Do you believe in the mission enough to have someone else invest. What better return on investment would you need in order to ask people to invest?

 

 

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Remembering the Day I Was Fired

Apr. 15, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In the spring of 2008 I was brought into the principal’s office. I had been teaching at a Christian school for two years, where I had started working after I graduated from seminary. The first 18 months had gone really well and I truly enjoyed what I was doing. I had seen kids come to Christ, enjoyed teaching the students, loved coaching the basketball team and was privileged to serve as a board member. At home, my wife and I had just welcomed our second child into the home we bought in 2006. However, the last six months had been pretty difficult and in the morning of a spring day I was asked to resign. We all know what that means - I was being fired. 

It is hard now to recapture exactly what happened. I write with six years of perspective. The day will forever be ingrained in my mind. Getting called in. Sitting with friends who were letting me go. Telling my wife I was being fired from my first vocational ministry job. I had heard that only 1 in 5 people graduating from seminary were in vocational ministry after five years. Would I be a casualty? Would people think less of me and wonder whether I was competent or qualified to serve in a role I had been trained to do? Most of what I say below would apply to all types of firing, but I am speaking specifically about being fired from a vocational ministry position for reasons other than significant moral failure or cut backs - I’m talking about the hard and unclear cases.

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The allegations, whatever they are, are probably not 100% false

The last six months of my job were difficult. I needed to wade through all that was being said about me and learn. Even if 99% of it was false, some of it was probably true and even if it was minor I needed to mature. Do some pastors get sifted by their people even though they are 100% in the right? Yes, but it is rare. I have sat with many people who have been let go from ministry positions, and as they have told me their stories I have usually been able to see why the whole thing went south, even if they can not see it yet. It took me some time, but I Iearned quite a bit about leadership, personal interaction, clarity in speaking, keeping better attention to details and much more.

Submit to Authority

Almost everyone is under the authority of someone else. It is easy to submit when you agree with the decisions being made, but the true test of submission is whether you can submit to decisions you do not agree with. I am not talking about submitting to immoral decisions. Over the course of a job we are bound to disagree with someone making decisions in leadership. I am sure I could have reasoned that what was happening was unjust. Maybe I could have reasoned they were my enemies and pray the imprecatory Psalms over them. Maybe I could count it as persecution. Maybe I could have planted seeds of discord in the staff, parents and students and try a divide and conquer strategy. 

Or not.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Does Romans 13:1 only apply to the government rulers? I don’t think so.

Let no bitter root grow

Being fired by a Christian brother or sister is a terrible experience. I was sitting in a room with four people who took little pleasure in letting me go. They knew what it meant for my young family. Some of them were and still are close friends. I had actually taught or coached three of the four’s children. We had a relationship. They were parents, spouses and friends. They had prayed for me and the person who made the decision thought he was making the best possible decision.

There were also the colleagues - those who liked me and were on “my side” and those that were not. Again - all believers for whom Christ had died. For me, Hebrews 12:14-15 came to mind: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Even for the people who treated me terribly, I was responsible before God to be at peace with others and not let bitterness grow. 

Six years later I can say that I have prayed with all four of the people that were in the room with me and keep in contact with two of them. As for the others who pushed for me to leave, I have prayed for reconciliation but life has taken us different places and I have no idea where they are. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9).

As a man and the only one who receives income for work, this was especially important for my family. I needed to provide a safe and calm environment for my wife and kids. They needed me to not be angry, anxious or full of contempt. They needed me to lead.

If it keeps happening, you really need some perspective from others your trust

I got some good advice from a wise man when this happened. He told me that if this only happened once it was not a big deal. If it happened again it was a cause for concern. If it happened 3-4 times it was a big red flag.

If you constantly find yourself being let go from ministry positions it is probably a sign that you need some perspective and feedback. It could be that you are not cut out or gifted for the type of jobs you are applying for. You may be taking jobs beyond your competency. You might need to learn to actually love people and not just on your own terms. It could be that you don’t know how to discern a situation that is a good fit for you. Whatever it is, find some friends and get some perspective. 

The Lord will take care of you, even if it’s your own fault

I had an immediate problem in that I had no job in April of 2008, which was beyond the hiring cycle for most churches and schools. It’s difficult to not be anxious when you walk into your home you purchased right before the market crash, look into the eyes of your wife who had just had a baby and tell her you were fired. Would the Holy Spirit carry me through?

In June of that year, I pitched the idea of Training Leaders International to a pastor at the church I attended. In July, I began an interim pastorate that lasted two years. And though the Lord extracted quite a bit of flesh from me, TLI was launched and now serves pastors around the world. 

The firing taught me a lot about myself, which the Lord used to shape me. The pastorate was one of the greatest blessings of my life. These two events are what prepared me to found and lead TLI. The truth is, TLI would not exist if I had not been fired, nor would I have been ready to lead it. So Lord - thank you for firing me from a job I loved.

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Panta Ta Ethne - What is a People Group?

Apr. 10, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In 1974 Christians were rejoicing that there were now believers in every country in the world. If the Great Commission was conceived as a geographic command to preach, then it had been fulfilled. It was at Lausanne in 1974 that Ralph Winter was the first to argue that the Bible did not primarily see the world in geopolitical terms, but instead conceived of the world as populated by ethnic blocks.

Today there are three organizations the produce data to help Christians understand the current status of global evangelism. They each define a people group differently. This is why you might see different organizations list different numbers of unreached people groups. Here are the three:

Joshua Project

Defintion: the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.

Number of People Groups in the World: 16,304

Number of Unreached People Groups: 6,748

World Christian Database

Defintion: Primarily defined along ethno-linguistic, meaning that a people group is usually defined by language.  Within a language group other factors such as race, tradition, history, and culture sometimes define a subsection of peoples.

Number of People Groups in the World: 13,611 people groups/621 megapeoples

Number of Unreached People Groups: 112 megapeople groups with no access to the gospel

International Missions Board

Defintion: an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members.

Number of People Groups in the World: 11,571

Number of Unreached People Groups: 6,450



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Does Your Budget or Your Mission Run Your Organization

Apr. 9, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Planning a budget is always a difficult thing for churches and organizations. It can bring out all sorts of tension, especially between numbers people (typically accountants) and big vision people (typically vision castors of the organization). The accountants often need a little more faith while the big vision people need a leash put around their neck.

Before your next budget cycle, consider Bill Bright as told by Steve Shadrach:

Each director laid out to the others what he or she believed God wanted to do through their particular ministry the next 12 months. No one was allowed to mention how much different programs might cost until after they had prayed, discussed, and agreed on the overall Crusade ministry plan for the upcoming year. Then, and only then, did they start attaching price tags. Afterward, Dr. Bright would draw a line under the total and say something like, “Here is what we believe God wants us to do throughout the world this next year. The total is $246 million. Now let’s trust Him and go out and raise those funds to fulfill this vision.”

Do you see the difference? Budget pulls one train, vision the other. One way is focused on what things cost, the other on how to fulfill the mission. Sometimes a person will ask me how much a certain project or equipment or materials or training costs, and I’ll shoot back, “It doesn’t matter, because we’re going to spend whatever it takes to fulfill God’s calling for our ministry."

 Shadrach, Steve (2011-03-25). ViewPoints: Fresh Perspectives on Personal Support Raising (pp. 17-18). The Bodybuilders Press.

 

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Are You Threatened By Another's Giftedness in Ministry?

Apr. 7, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

It is easy to be grateful for another person’s gifting when it is not as mature or strong as yours. It is easy to be thankful for the intellect of your student until that student writes a paper that is beyond your own understanding. It is easy to be thankful for your little brother’s athletic ability until he starts beating you every single time at every game you play. It is easy to be thankful for the potential gift of preaching in someone you are mentoring until your church responds to his preaching more than they ever have to yours.

I am mostly speaking here of interactions with people that are close to you. For those that are not around us but more gifted than us, there is no threat. With those type of people, admiration can certainly turn to jealousy, and it often appears in the form of "wishing." I wish I was.....I wish I could....like that person. I used to wish I could throw a baseball like Roger Clemens, but that is a different story. Let's focus on those who are around us. 

The fact that you are threatened or jealousy reveals a number of things. Let me mention three:

You Are Not Secure in How God Has Made You

God gives gifts to His church and He has made you a certain way. To be jealous or threatened by someone who is a better ________ probably reveals you are not happy with what God has given you. He has given you gifts. Use them and let God decide how He dispenses them. To be jealous or threatened may also mean you yearn for others to value you as much as you think they value another's gift. Again - insecure in how God has made you, but this time revealed by a desire to be liked.

You Might Be Lazy

We all know the person who works at honing their skill for hours and hours and then is still not a good as their more talented colleagues who does nothing but show up. But this is an extreme and for most of us, when we see someone who is clearly better than us at something and wish we were as good, we do not realize the type of work it takes to be good. Yes - there are some people who are just born writers and others who think strategically without any labor. But the majority of people who are skilled at what they do are so because of hard work. They have studied hard, practiced speaking in front of mirrors, been pushed by a mentor and spent many hours alone. They have written pages of content no one will read or practiced their instrument so often their lips or fingers are raw. We often want to skip the work and just have the gift. Don't be lazy. It may be that God has gifted you and you are not being responsible.

You Might Have a Hierarchal View of Gifting

Is being the Lead Pastor of a local church better than being an associate? The gifting and skill might be different, but better? I am reminded of the story of Jeff Cagwin, the former lead pastor of Bridgepoint Church in Indiana, who "demoted" himself. He wanted to use the gifts God had given him. Yearning for different gifting might not have anything to do with the gift and more to do with what you perceive to be as power that comes with a gift. You want decision making power and the gifts necessary to be in that role. Check yourself here. This attitude does sound like the kind of humble service we are called to, whether we lead or support.

The Results

Being threatened and jealous will put you in survival mode. If you are the preaching pastor of your church and there is a better preacher (lay or staff), you will try to limit instead of expand their opportunities. You may even try to get them out of the church as soon as possible. Instead of more mentoring, there will be less. You will get paranoid when people compliment your colleague, wishing they would compiment you. If your student is surpassing you, instead of helping them, you will shut them off so they do not expose your level of skill. The result is the church is not helped by a multitude of giftings, but stifled, because we are unable to cope with people more talented than we are.

There is a better way. If you find yourself jealous and threatened, do not delay. Run to the cross of Jesus Christ. It's where your jealousy and pride will die.

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