Years ago, I served on the mission team at a very large church. The church had been given an endowment designated to missions, and our responsibility was to give away all of the interest and part of the principal every year. Each year, we had to decide where to give many thousands of dollars. Word had long since gotten out about the fund, and we were constantly bombarded with requests. In fact, the requests were so frequent that at times it was hard to remember that we were supposed to be looking for opportunities to give. The temptation was to begin shutting people out just because so many others were also asking.
As a Christian in a wealthy nation, you may feel the same kind of strange conflict that I felt on that mission team. You are continually told how rich you are. You are reminded how poor the rest of the world is by comparison. And although those things are certainly true, it is easy to grow weary and begin to shut out everyone else’s needs. There are just too many people wanting something from you. But if that is how you feel, it is time for a new perspective.
The apostle John offers just the perspective we need in 3 John, verses 5-8:
“Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.”
Missionaries and ministries do need money, but John’s point is not really about that. The freeing truth that God teaches us through John is that we need them more than they need us. The purpose of biblical giving is not just so the poor missionaries can be less poor. It is “so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” The point is for you to have a part in something important that is being accomplished.
The problem is that we have all heard way too much of the wrong kind of appeal. The truth is you should be tired of hearing how much the poor missionaries need you. You should be weary of all the manipulative pleas for funding from ministry organizations. What would be much better is to hear how godly missionaries and ministries give you an opportunity that you desperately need—an opportunity you can never achieve unless you join with such people.
If you give nothing to support ministries beyond your immediate circle of activity, most faithful ministries will survive somehow and continue to function. Someone else will give something, and they will at least eke by. But what about you? If you give nothing to any such ministry, how will you be a fellow worker with the truth? How will you have significance that reaches beyond your own circle—and even beyond your own generation?
As a pastor, I tell my church often that we need our missionaries far more than they need us. If we are to avoid becoming a self-serving, anemic church, we must have missionaries and ministries where we can be a part of something beyond ourselves. When we find a faithful person who is serving the Lord in some way in which we cannot serve personally, we long to be a part of what he is doing. Such people extend the ministry of our church far beyond what our reach would otherwise be. This is exactly why I am excited about our involvement in Grace to Russia. Through this ministry, our people have another way to be fellow workers with the truth. So when I send you updates and mention the financial needs of this ministry, please don’t conclude that we are just one more organization wanting something from you. As Paul said when the Philippians impoverished themselves to share in his need, “I seek for the profit which increases to your account” (Philippians 4:17).