When I began to consider retiring after 35 years of pastoral ministry and my wife and I began seeking the Lord's will for our next ministry, little did we realize that He had already been preparing our hearts over the past number of years. I had had the privilege to be a part of several short-term ministry trips to other countries to help train national pastors and church leaders, most of whom have little to no theological training. God ignited a passion in our hearts for the training of these pastors and leaders; and as we sought out His leading for our "retirement", we sensed that He was leading us to this specific kind of ministry.
As we began to prepare for this new ministry opportunity, we knew for certain that we would need to raise support. In other words, we would be missionaries. Having only been in the pastoral ministry, I have never had to raise support since churches generally provide a salary for their pastors.
As much as we love the work of missions and have always been supportive of missionaries, we knew that becoming missionaries ourselves was going to be a challenge. It meant that we would have to go around and ask people for money, an idea that neither of us were comfortable with or eager to do. We also knew that raising support would take time; we knew many missionaries who spent a number of years raising support before they could even begin serving in the field. At this point in our lives and ministry, we wanted to transition into our next ministry as soon as possible.
Ultimately, raising support became the one factor that held us back from wholeheartedly pursuing the ministry that God had put on our hearts.
After much time spent thinking, praying, reading about raising support, and seeking counsel, the Lord reminded us of the following:
1) If we wanted to be involved in a ministry of training national pastors, we would have to raise support. There was no other choice.
2) Raising support for ministry is clearly taught and modeled in Scripture. (Matthew 10:9-10; Acts 18:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18; Philippians 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:18). Therefore, it's not wrong to ask people to financially support our ministry.
3) Being a missionary is, in reality, no different from being in the pastoral ministry. As a pastor, our family had been supported financially by the giving of a local body of believers. As missionaries, we would be supported financially by the giving of believers within the body of Christ.
4) If God truly called us to this ministry, He would perfectly provide for all of our needs. God alone could move the hearts of His people to support our ministry. It was not our responsibility to persuade or convince others. This was a liberating truth for us.
5) Being involved in this kind of a ministry would require that we take a step of faith and trust God for His provision. This meant that we would have unanswered questions, doubts and uncertainties. If we didn't, there would be no faith involved and, therefore, God would not be pleased or ultimately glorified (Hebrews 11:6).
God's Amazing Provision
My wife and I made the decision to retire from the pastorate and step out in faith to pursue the ministry that God had laid on our hearts. In His perfect plan and timing, He brought us into contact with Training Leaders International, a Christian non-profit organization whose vision was to provide solid biblical training in God's Word to pastors in developing countries around the world.
After submitting an application and going through their interview process, I was invited to join the staff as an International Trainer. Upon receiving my letter of appointment, we began the process of raising support for our ministry. Even though we were given 18 months to raise full support, we had no idea how long it would take.
We simply started by personally sharing with others about the ministry God had called us to, inviting them to partner with us, praying, and allowing God to do His work in people's hearts.
We were and are amazed, at times even at a loss for words and even left in thankful tears, at seeing God's perfect provision for our ministry at each step of this journey. By the end of six months, He had provided 50% of our support, which enabled me to begin serving part-time. At nine months, we had reached more than 75% of our support, allowing me to serve full-time. By the end of twelve months, the Lord provided 90%; and by the end of eighteen months, we reached 100% of our monthly support goal.
We still find it hard to believe that we have reached full support and are continually thanking and praising God for His amazing provision for our ministry. We realize that this is not something we have done, but it is what He alone has done! To Him be the glory!
We also see His provision for our ministry as affirmation that this is the ministry that God has called us to.
If you're considering serving the Lord in work of missions, or perhaps even in training national pastors abroad and you're reluctant to pursue that ministry because it requires support-raising, remember...
* If God has called you to the ministry, He will provide for you in His perfect timing.
* Raising support is a biblical concept. It's not wrong to ask people to financially support your ministry.
* It's God's responsibility to move His people to support your ministry, not yours. He will move the hearts of those whom He wills. Just faithfully share your heart of what God has called you to do, prayerfully commit it to the Lord, and then let Him do His work.
* It will require you to take a step of faith and to trust Him to provide for you.
Raising support for ministry may seem like an impossible task; but remember, we have a God who can do what is seemingly impossible. Step out in faith, trust Him, and you will be amazed at His provision for your ministry!