Thursday, September 27, 2012

3 John: Validity of Fundraising

3 John is a very short book.  It's the kind of book we love to have on our reading plans because we can finish it in about 62 seconds and still feel like we've accomplished something.  Because it's so short, however, it's easy to miss the really amazing stuff it tells us about the nature of fundraising.

I'd like to take the next two posts to make some observations about 3 John  This one is going to be about the validity of fundraising from verses 5-8.  The next one will look at opposition to fundraising from verses 9-11.

For the context, this is a letter written from "the Elder" (John) to a man named Gaius, his beloved friend.  John has sent with the letter some brothers (whom Gaius doesn't know) who appear to have some needs...
[5] Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, [6] who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. [7] For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. [8] Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:5-8 ESV)
So what does John say about the brothers who are visiting Gaius?  First off, Gaius doesn't know them (5), though John apparently does.  Any effort put forth to care for them is "a faithful thing" (5).  Also, these brothers go out because of "the name" of Jesus (7), but they aren't taking anything from those they're ministering to: the Gentiles (7).  This should probably sound familiar, as it's likely how your ministry looks too!

John also advises Gaius to do a couple things as a result.  First, he should send them on their way, giving them what they need to do so (6, 5).  John then uses inclusive word, "we" (referring to John, Gaius, and presumably others) in saying that we ought to support people like these brothers who make their living from the gospel (8).  

John then makes one of my favorite statements about fundraising in all the Scriptures: those who support people (but do not actually "go") are "fellow workers" with those who do (8).  There is a real, genuine partnership that exists between the "goer" and the "sender".  We need to believe this and act accordingly.  We need to treat our donors like partners, and we need to remind them of this regularly.

So, according to John, how will Gaius "do well"?  Gaius and others do well when they send (6) and support (8) missionaries!  When people help send and support your work for the Kingdom, they are doing well!

Have you ever felt insecure about asking people to give toward your ministry?  (Of course you have, else you wouldn't be reading this blog.)  This passage addresses those fears: we should be unashamed to ask others to help us.  Though we begin as strangers to them, they could soon become our fellow workers for the truth!  The Kingdom of God expands through both fundraisers and donors together.

Notice also that John doesn't claim that these missionary brothers have it all together.  He doesn't say that Gaius should support them because of their resumes, their testimonies or their spiritual giftings.  It's easy to think that those things are why people should support us and our ministries.  Rather, they are to be supported because "they have gone out for the sake of the name."  Has Jesus called you to your ministry?  That's enough.  Jesus died because your resume, testimony and spiritual gifting aren't sufficient to save you or others.  In other words, the reason people support you is not because you are going out; people support you because Someone Greater sent you.

Finally, it's worth noting that this passage demonstrates the benefits of a friend personally referring us, as John did for these brothers.  It's always great to have an advocate to remind others of the joys of supporting missionaries.  So be sure to ask your current support team if they will introduce you around to others they know so that their friends can become fellow workers for the truth as well.  Perhaps you may even point them to 3 John in the process!