Why do I raise support?

The question of that forms the title of this post, or permutations of it, has been asked to me in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts over the six years I have served with InterVarsity. Sometimes it has an accusatory flavor (either against me or InterVarsity for making me do it). Sometimes there’s an undercurrent of pity (poor fool, out begging for your dinner). At other times it’s asked in bewilderment (are you crazy?) or in awe (you must be very holy indeed).

[Note: for those of you not familiar with InterVarsity, you can read a little about us here. Like many evangelical mission agencies our staff raise financial support to the cost of providing ministry to the campuses we serve].


It’s a fair question when asked honestly. And I want to answer it personally (why I raise support). Here ten reasons I raise financial support:

  • Raising support has deep roots in Scripture. Philippians is a prayer letter, let’s be honest. Paul partnered with congregations he had started or ones he had served, to provide the financial resources to send him to new parts of the Empire.
  • Raising support has deep roots in the evangelical movement. The first foreign missions societies raised support to send men like William Carey and Hudson Taylor to parts of the world where the Gospel had not yet been preached.
  • Raising support reminds me that I am missionary. The emerging generations of college and graduate students are largely post-Christian, even in the Southern United States. This is missionary work.
  • Raising support creates a community of Christians who are invested (both in terms of financial investment but also in other ways) in the ministry God has entrusted to Anna and I. I need others to help me, guide me, and hold me accountable to do good work that is faithful to the Gospel. Donors are one way that I am able to remain rooted and centered. They help remind me that I am not the center of what God is doing on campus.
  • Raising support enables me to be free and faithful in expressing the ministry God has entrusted to me. I work on a university, but I don’t work for the university. This is critical. While I love and care deeply for the Wake Forest, I am not an employee of Wake Forest University. My ends (purposes) and the university’s ends are not the same. To be sure, there are many points of overlap and where these exist I am eager to help advance the university’s mission. However, at the end of the day I am about the work of building witnessing communities that will purposively influence the culture of the university.
  • Raising support enables donors to find joy in giving of the resources God has entrusted to them to advance the kingdom on campus, both at Wake Forest and across Virginia and the Carolinas. Giving to support ministries, missionaries, and churches ought to bring joy. If it doesn’t, ask why.
  • Raising support enables me to work with a mission agency that advances mere Christianity. Don’t get me wrong. I take theology quite seriously and, as a Presbyterian minister, I’m committed to the Reformed tradition as expressed in our Presbyterian confessions. However, Jesus emphasized in John 17 the unity of the Church. That unity isn’t a cheap or minimalist one. It is a unity based on the historic, Catholic creeds of the church: the essentials. Such a Christian expression can be quite compelling to people outside the faith who often see Christianity as marked by innumerable squabbles.
  • Raising support means that I get paid to do the work that God has called me to. Scripture says that the worker is “worthy of his hire.” Anna and I have been called and equipped to serve graduate students and faculty. We’ve followed God’s summons by getting a graduate theological education and entering service with InterVarsity. I have been ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. I could work in a church if God so called me. As yet, he hasn’t. And since we need food to eat, clothes to wear, a house to live in, and to finish paying for my portion of those two graduate theological degrees, I don’t feel bad about the modest salaries we’re making.
  • Raising support is soul-altering work. There are a number of experiences that God often uses to make us more like Jesus (to sanctify us). Being a husband for seven years has been one of those experiences as has being a father. Raising support as a missionary can be a profoundly sanctifying task. It can be. It can also ruin your life if you lack the pastoral support or wander far from God’s gracious care. It will expose your deepest insecurities and force you to your knees in prayer. It is a severe mercy in many ways.
  • Raising support brings great joy to me.

So. There it is. What are your thoughts about missionary support-raising? I’d love your feedback.


10 Evangelical Distinctives

I recently wrote a post asking whether–and if so, how–the Presbyterian Church (USA) is evangelical. This generated some interesting conversations about what the word evangelical really means. In light of these conversations, I thought it worth exploring the variety of perspectives on the evangelical movement.

One of the most significant leaders of modern evangelicalism was Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones, a Welshman, served for many years as Pastor of Westminster Chapel in London.

ImageIn 1971, Lloyd-Jones preached a series of messages at the Conference of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). He had, for many years, been involved with the British Inter-Varsity Fellowship, itself associated with IFES. Note: my employer, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, is the American arm of IFES.

During this time Lloyd-Jones had grown concerned with what he perceived as a watering down of the gospel message. He took the opportunity to address this when spoke.

Years later his messages were published by Banner of Truth as What is an Evangelical? 

Lloyd-Jones argued that there are ten distinctives that provide definition to the notoriously fuzzy word, “evangelical.”

Here they are with my commentary added in italics. Note: Lloyd-Jones represents a conservative, separationist evangelicalism. On the other hand, John R W Stott (whom we’ll look at later) represented a more moderate evangelicalism that was able to survive and thrive in a mixed (broad) church.

  1. Entirely subservient to the Bible. The evangelical attempts to live his life in submission to Scripture as thoroughly as possible. He is, as John Wesley put it, ‘A man of one book.’ 
  2. Evangelical before all else. The evangelical has a great loyalty to the evangelical way of following Christ than to the denomination of which she may be a part. If forced to choose, the evangelical will always follow his convictions.
  3. Watchful. The evangelical is aware that she has to evaluate, discern, and measure all teachings in the church against the rule of faith, the Word of God. 
  4. Distrustful of reason. The evangelical places a higher value on revelation than reason. He sees the work of the philosopher as necessarily limited since it does not have access to the revelation of God in Holy Scripture.
  5. Always takes a low view of the sacraments. Evangelicals recognize only two sacraments, not allowing things like marriage or ordination to become sacraments.
  6. Takes a critical view of history and tradition. Lloyd-Jones writes, “The evangelical believes in the principle of discontinuity.” In other words, the church has a tendency to fossilize spirituality and many of the divisions are the result of evangelicals removing themselves from bodies who life and practice was no longer compatible with evangelical belief and practice.
  7. Always ready to act on his beliefs. The evangelical finds it impossible to compromise or to remain in a place that requires him to compromise his beliefs.
  8. Always simplifies everything. Lloyd-Jones contrasts the evangelical with the Catholic. The reformed belief in the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture holds that the Bible can be read and understood by the ordinary reader. There’s no requirement to read the Bible through the church’s magisterium or through some other interpretive lens. There is, according to Lloyd-Jones, a “plain meaning” rooted in historical context and authorial intent.
  9. Always concerned with the doctrine of the church. The chief purpose of the evangelical is finding a denominational body that is theologically pure: “His idea of the Church is that it consists of the gathered saints.”
  10. Emphasis on re-birth, personal holiness, and the Christian life. “He is not interested in dead orthodoxy, he is not interested in Protestant scholasticism.” Instead, he cares about being re-born of the Spirit and following Christ as his disciple.

Lloyd-Jones’s list is longer than mine would be. However, I think it is helpful to consider that his position is representative of many evangelicals today. This can be helpful in understanding why some evangelicals find leaving a denomination that appears to them to be corrupt, a no-brainer.

Biblical principles for stewardship and fundraising

When I raise personal support for our ministry, what am I aiming for? This is a really important question! I want to engage in fund raising with integrity and in a way that connects well both with who I am (my personality, temperament, etc) but it ultimately geared to the well-being of my friends with whom I talk about InterVarsity.

I’ve seen the following outline before, but I am going to be using these principles as a regular part of my devotional life in order to bring the way I engage in ministry partner development before Christ in prayer.

Biblical Principles for Stewardship and Fundraising

Christian leaders, including development staff, who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and choose prayerfully to pursue eternal kingdom values (Mt. 6:19-21), will seek to identify the sacred kingdom resources of God’s economy within these parameters:

  1. God, the creator (Gen. 1) and sustainer of all things (Col. 1:17) and the One “who works within us to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20), is a God of infinite abundance (Ps. 50:10-11) and grace (2 Cor. 9:8).
  2. Acknowledging the primacy of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) as our chief treasure (Mt. 13:44), Christians are called to lives of stewardship, as managers of all that God has entrusted to them (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
  3. A Christian’s attitude toward possessions on earth is important to God (Mt. 6:24), and there is a vital link between how believers utilize earthly possessions (as investments in God’s kingdom) and the eternal rewards that believers receive (Phil. 4:17).
  4. God entrusts possessions to Christians and holds them accountable for their use, as a tool to grow God’s eternal kingdom, as a test of the believer’s faithfulness to God, and as a trademark that their lives reflect Christ’s values (Lk. 16:1-9).
  5. From God’s abounding grace, Christians’ giving reflects their gratitude for what God has provided and involves growing in an intimate faith relationship with Christ as Lord of their lives (Mk. 12:41-44).
  6. Because giving is a worshipful, obedient act of returning to God from what has been provided (1 Chron. 29:10-14), Christian fundraisers should hold a conviction that, in partnership with the church, they have an important role in the spiritual maturation of believers (Jas. 3:1).
  7. The primary role of Christian fundraisers is to advance and facilitate a believer’s faith in and worship of God through a Christ centered understanding of stewardship that is solidly grounded on Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16).
  8. Recognizing it is the work of the Holy Spirit that prompts Christians to give (Jn. 15:4-5) (often through fundraising techniques) (2 Cor. 9:5-7, Neh. 1:4-11), fundraisers and/or organizations must never manipulate or violate their sacred trust with ministry partners.
  9. An eternal, God centered worldview promotes cooperation, rather than competition, among organizations, and places the giver’s relationship to God above the ministry’s agenda (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
  10. In our materialistic, self centered culture, Christian leaders should acknowledge that there is a great deal of unclear thinking about possessions, even among believers, and that an eternal kingdom perspective will often seem like foolish nonsense (1 Cor. 2:14) to those who rely on earthly kingdom worldview techniques (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

When these principles are implemented, that rely on God changing hearts more than on human methods, the resulting joy filled generosity of believers will fully fund God’s work here on earth (Ex. 36:6-7).

Additional References:
1) Ps. 24:1, Phil. 4:19, Jn. 1:14
2) 1 Cor. 9:23, Phil. 3:8-11, Mt. 25:15-30, 1 Pet. 4:10
3) Mt. 22:37, 1 Tim. 6:10, Prov. 24:12, Mt. 19:27-30, Lk. 14:12-14, 1 Cor. 3,
2 Cor. 5:10, Eph. 2:10, 1 Tim. 6:19
4) Mk. 12:41-44, Rom. 1:1, 2 Cor. 8-9, Gal. 6:10, Col. 3:17, 1 Tim. 6:18
5) Gen. 14:20, Ezra 2:69
6) Rom. 12:1
7) Ex. 34:32, 35:21
8) Is. 55:8-11, 1 Chron. 28:6, 29:9, Ps. 90:17, Prov. 21:1, 2 Cor. 3:5
9) Ps. 90:1-12
10) 1 Cor. 1:17-31