Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our responsibility vs God's responsibility

In Paul David Tripp's best-selling book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, we're shown a helpful diagram that helps us understand how fundraising (and many other things!) works:
Here we see two concentric circles:
  1. The Inner Circle of Responsibility represents our responsibilities: things that God has called us to do.  We ought to faithfully serve in these roles.
  2. The Outer Circle of Concern represents God's responsibilities: things that God has NOT called us to do, but rather to trust Him for. 
If we keep these circles in the proper proportions, we're rightly trusting and obeying.  However, our tendency is to inappropriately expand or shrink our Circle of Responsibility.  When we expand our circle of responsibility, we find ourselves worried or angry about things that we can't control; we're not trusting God to do His job.  When we shrink our Circle of Responsibility, we fail to steward well what God has given to us.  We may become lazy, disconnected or spiritually stagnant.

What does this look like in fundraising?  

Your Inner Circle of Responsibility probably involves things like making phone calls, sending emails, practicing and giving presentations, faithfully asking for large financial gifts, asking for referrals, meeting new people at churches and small groups, sending thank you notes, studying Scripture, praying for God to provide, praying for your donor team, planning out your day/week/month, talking with your fundraising coach, reporting on progress to your sending organization, sending newsletters, eating well and going to bed on time.

Your Outer Circle of Concern (aka God's responsibilities) includes things like meeting the right people, contacts answering their phones/emails/etc., contacts having time in their schedule to meet, God stirring hearts to give financially, people giving faithfully over time, God providing income for each donor, your car [not] breaking down on the way to an appointment, your health being sustained and reaching your financial support goal in His perfect timing.

If you inappropriately expand your Circle of Responsibility, you're trying to control things God has not called you to control.  You'll become angry when people don't respond the way you want.  You'll become jealous of other fundraisers who may be finishing quicker.  You'll lay awake worried about where the funds will come from.  You'll seek alternative solutions apart from having to trust God, such as lowering your support goal and/or standard of living.  Ironically, you'll believe that there's nothing more that you can do (emphasis on the you) and so you'll give up for that day/week/month.  Though you'll feel like a victim, you'll actually be struggling with pride.  And through it all, God will be graciously but firmly opposing you (James 4:6).

If you inappropriately shrink your Circle of Responsibility, you'll probably not notice it right away because it looks and sounds very spiritual.  After all, you have faith that God will provide!  How could that be wrong?  In truth, however, you'll miss out on the opportunities God has given to you (emphasis on the you).  Perhaps you're regularly sleeping in until 10am - but you could reach quite a few businessmen if you called at 8:10am.  Perhaps you're not spending time praying for God to provide.  Yes, He is sovereign, but He also hears our prayers and responds.  You may find yourself in the position of the unfaithful servant who fearfully waits for his master to return - and who has even the little that he has taken away from him. (Matthew 25:26-29)

Now, if anything, this blog focuses more on encouraging and challenging those who expand rather than shrink their circles.  That's because, in my experience, most fundraising missionaries and pastors are tempted to expand more than to shrink.  But I've personally been guilty of doing both at different times.  Perhaps I may doing one right now!

Each of us must consider where we're at.  Consider your own tendencies and emotions.  Ask trusted friends for feedback.   Perhaps pick up a copy of Tripp's book!  And ultimately, seek to find the Biblical balance between your responsibility and God's responsibility.  Seek to honestly and humbly say with the Apostle Paul:
"I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." (1 Cor 15:10 ESV)