There are very few missionaries that I know that couldn't use more funds, myself included. And I know many who are struggling by with very little support.
Now I know it is God who calls us. And I have plenty of stories where myself or my family was in need and something that only God could orchestrate what happened to meet an immediate need. But I can't help to think of why so many missionaries are struggling and not thriving in their finances if they are called by God? Yes, I know that God uses our funds (or lack of) to teach us. But I do believe there is more to it than just teaching from God on trusting him.
I want to look at the Parable of the Talents and learn from it and apply it to our mission calling.
In Matthew 24:11-30, we read about a master leaving for a journey, and he gives one servant five talents, another two talents, and the last one talent. When he got back, the first servant invested the five talents and made 10, the second invested the two talents and made 4, the last dug a hole and buried it. When the master came back, he told the first two, "'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much." He was upset with the last servant, to say the least, and ended up taking the one talent he had left and giving it to the servant who had ten talents.
Let us take the principle of this passage and apply it in our context.
God has given us missionaries relationships. Some of us have more relationships than others. And it is in some of these relationships God provides supporters through certain individuals. So are we faithful in our relationships?
Like what I shared in my last article, How Many Supporters should a Missionary Have? I shared how I knew many missionaries who only had 1 to 3 supporters. That was the case with me when I first started out. In my first year, I only had one regular supporter. The following year I only had 3. But what I believe is in those first two years, I was faithful in my relationships (not with just my supporters, but those in my circle of relationships) through communication. So if we lack support, we need to ask ourselves a question:
Am I faithful?
We need to be faithful in 3 areas.
1- Faithful to Our Calling
Are we doing what God called us to do? Are we still sharing Jesus Christ with those who don't know Him? We can't expect God to provide if we are not doing what He called us to do.
2- Faithful with the Money we do have
Even if we don't have much money, we need to be faithful to what God has already provided. If we are not faithful in what little we have, then don't expect to get more.
3- Faithful in our Circles of Relationships
We need to be faithful in our communication to our supporters and others as well. That communication should be through newsletters (email and snail mail), Social media, phone calls. Etc. We should also express gratefulness to funds already given. And we should also be faithful in building new relationships.
The third point is where I find that most missionaries are weak. Why? In most cases, it is a lack of skill. They just don't know how to do it. But the good news is we can learn new skills. If you need help developing your skillset, go to Unmuzzled Ox, Sign up for their blog, and look at tips to help you.
So to answer my question, Who supports a missionary- God or man? God usually provides through people we have a relationship with. That truth brings us to the question, "Are we faithful in those relationships?"
For those who are asking, yes, I do believe God can use a "Tent Making" job to provide for your needs. But that shouldn't be an excuse not to keep a relationship with others.
I had lived in Asia for 20 years. And in that time, I met many Asian missionaries who have 1 to 3 supporters. Surprisingly these 1 to 3 supporters cover their basic needs. But we should ask the question, "How many supporters should a missionary have?"One of our supporters came to the Philippines, and I asked him to share with our staff. He is a businessman, and he gave us a unique perspective.
He told us that if you are running a business and you had, it is growing to the point where you need to expand and need a loan; one of the first questions the bank will ask is your customer base. He said that if 25% of your business is from one customer, the bank will not give you a loan because you are "high risk."
This can also be applied to our support base. For example, if 25% of our support base is from one supporter, our ministry is at high risk.
If you have 4 supporters giving 25% equally and lose one supporter for whatever reason, you take a significant hit. So it is better to have 10 supporters giving 10% each than 2 giving 50% each (I understand it never works out that way).
Personally, I have talked to missionaries who only had one supporter and lost their supporter. Then, they started talking about leaving the mission field because of a lack of funds.
So what does this mean?
Even if you are fully supported by 3 or 4 supporters, you need to expand your support base. Praise God if you are one of those who are fully supported by only a few. But take that as God's grace and a time that you can spread out your support base. Keep building your contact list and communicate with potential supporters. I know that after 20 years as a missionary, your support base will change. It always does. Some people will stop supporting, and then others will join in. But if you are not working on your support base, you cannot make it to the long hall.
Most of us, when reading the book of Philippians, don't think about what it was. It is Paul writing a letter to his supporters. He was discipling and thanking them for their support. As missionaries, let us keep lines of communication with those who support us.
If you need some help raising your support, please go to https://www.unmuzzledox.com/ , sign up for their blog, and read more tips on increasing your support.
We are back in Colorado! We are still adjusting with our jet lag but we are enjoying this beautiful weather.
We will be sharing at Faith Bible Chapel this Sunday in their missions class at 10:45am. If you are in the area we would love to see you. The address is 6250 Wright St. Arvada, CO 80004.
We will be in Colorado until May 28. If you would like to see us please do contact us!
Dustin has been serving as a missionary for 24 years. Here is where he places some of his teaching, thoughts, and updates.