Monday, March 25, 2013

Fundraising with a heavy heart

This past week I've felt discouraged a few times - probably because my time in the Word hasn't been consistent and some close friends are at odds. I'm also in the middle of planning a support trip that isn't coming together much yet...

A few months back I got word that my mom suddenly lost her job. That night I was scheduled to make calls to donors...

A month or so before that I'd heard that an adulterous affair had taken place among relatives. I was leaving on a support trip a few days later...

In each of these cases, I was entering into fundraising with a heavy heart. Surely you've been there, too. The feelings can stem from anything ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic. A loved one is sick. (Maybe you are, too.) A friend or relative just passed away. You've recently lost some funding. Your ministry isn't going great. You feel "ugly" due to a few too many pounds or an outbreak of acne or even a bad hair day.

For years I used to think that if I wasn't feeling "encouraged", I was left with two options in my fundraising:
  1. Don't do it.
  2. Fake it.
Option 1 can sometimes be what you need; a day/night off can often be refreshing, so long as it doesn't become a pattern of avoidance or self-pity. However, I often chose Option 2: paste on a smile, call people and tell them you're "doing great!" and you're "really encouraged with what God is doing!"

Perhaps some of that is even true. I have friends who tell me that if someone asks how they're doing, they'll reply, "Better than I deserve." While perhaps theologically accurate, it's also not quite honest. Or maybe we want to be doing better than we are, so we take a page from self-help books and simply fake it till we make it! Exude positive energy! Align your chi! Be a better you! "I'm super-diddly-duper, neighborino!"

But is there another option? Can we be discouraged and do fundraising?
[1] For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. [2] But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. [3] For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, [4] but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. [5] For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8)
Note several things about what Paul did with the Thessalonians:
  • Paul did not set out to deceive (v3). He was honest with the Thessalonians about his sufferings (v2).
  • Paul was not out to please man (telling them what they wanted to hear) but rather God (v4-6).
  • Paul did not just share the good news about God with them, but also opened up his own life (including, of course, the suffering and sin). (v8) Why? Because Paul was affectionately desirous of them and they had become dear to him (v7,8).
Paul did not buy into the lie that missionaries have to be happy all the time. Yes, the gospel is joyful - but the Bible is honest.

In the cases I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I ended up opening up with those supporters I spoke with. No, I didn't tell everyone everything (Paul also says we should be gentle (v7)), but I let people know that I was having a hard time. In many cases, my vulnerability opened up the door to much deeper conversations than may have otherwise been possible. (Your supporters are familiar with suffering, too!) As we together discussed the implications of the gospel in a broken world, our heavy hearts were lightened.

This blog often uses the term "fundraising" (which I don't love) but the truth is that we're building gospel-driven partnerships with our support teams. We are called to share not only the gospel of God but also our own selves. As a missionary and as a fundraiser you are called to minister - but also to be ministered to. Don't neglect that. Be honest. Share truth. Receive grace.