Thursday, May 14, 2015

Funding ≠ approval

I'm all for large numbers of people attending Christian events.  I enjoy hearing stories about hundreds of people coming to Christ at revival meetings.  I'm especially excited when ministries get major donors and receive enormous special gifts that allow their ministries to thrive.

Yet if that's all I have to go on, I remain skeptical.  You can get huge numbers of people at events by offering free beer and pizza.  Jesus held revival meetings too, but everyone except His twelve eventually deserted.  And I've seen well-funded preachers utterly contradict God's Word.

Having lots of support come in doesn't mean you're pleasing God.  Having little support come in doesn't mean you're displeasing God.

That seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?  God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), right?  Yes!  However, in His perfect wisdom, He also allows the proud to thrive and oppress others for a season.  Even Satan is permitted to have authority, with permission, in this present age.  Thus, results don't necessarily indicate God's approval.  They may!  But don't assume it.
Why should I fear in times of trouble,
  when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
  and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
  when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
  his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
  —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
  who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish. (Ps 49:5-6,16-20)
This Psalm, along with many, many other passages, assume that the wicked have some degree of power, wealth or ability.  In this instance, wicked men are prospering.  They're cheating the psalmist and boasting in it.  Here the wealthy man's attitude is considered pompous and he is "without understanding"; his destiny is death with nothing to show for it.  He's no better than a beast that perishes.  He is not approved.

What does this mean for us, the fundraisers?

Don't compare yourself to other fundraisers

It won't do you any good.  God has a plan for them just as He does for you - but it's almost always a different plan.  Just because you have little and they have much doesn't mean God is more pleased with them.  To the watching world, Herod had far more wealth than Jesus did.  Yet he was eaten by worms - just like the beasts that perish (Acts 12:20-23).  He was not approved.

Pray for humility at least as much as you pray for support

Once you start assuming that you're humble and that God is pleased, you're well on your way to not being humble and not pleasing God.  In Psalm 49, God granted riches even to the proud.  Their end was not good.

I remember a time when I was struggling to raise a relatively small amount of support.  Despite my best efforts, I just couldn't get it in!  Or when I gained some amount, I'd lose about the same from another donor.  In those times I wanted compassion and understanding from others.  Yet not long thereafter I gained not only what I needed, but an excess!  I was horrified by my sin a few days later when I found myself saying of a struggling fundraiser, "He's obviously not trying very hard!"  Blech!!  I began praying for humility immediately and, unsurprisingly, soon lost some support.  I thanked God for that.  Sure beats dying like the beasts.

Ask trusted friends for their assessment

It's easy for us to be blind to our own motives, fears and sins.  Especially when we're doing especially well or especially poorly.  If the support is pouring in, that's a perfect time to ask others to hold you accountable to prideful boasting.  If the support is trickling in, that's a perfect time to ask others to hold you accountable to prideful complaining.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted (Pr 27:6).  If you don't have someone who will ask you hard questions and call you out on pride and other sins, make that your first order of business.  Don't be caught in your pomp without understanding.

Remember who's doing the work

If you keep in mind that every donor and every dollar comes in by sheer grace, you'll be on much firmer ground than if you assume that you're the one doing it. Yes, God uses you to accomplish His fundraising purposes.  This is to the glory of His name.  But if the glory of your house increases, you'll soon be no better than the beasts that perish - and God will not approve.