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 happened to meet an immediate need. But I can't help to think of why so many missionaries who 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 a teaching from God on trusting him.
I would like to look at the Parable of the Talents and learn from it and apply it to our mission calling.
We read in Matthew 24-11-30 we read about a master leaving for a journey and his gives one servant 5 talents, an other 2 talents, and the last 1 talent. When he got back the first servant invested the 5 talents and made 10, the second invested the 2 talents and made 4, the last dug a whole 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." To the last servant he was upset to say the least, and ended up taking the one talent he had left and give it to the servant who had 10 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 of those than others. And it is in some of these relationships God provides supporters through some of those relationships. 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. 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 are lacking support we need to ask ourselves a question:
Am I being 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 to 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 to 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.
And in this 3 point is where I find that most missionaries are weak at.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 with developing your this skill set go to Unmuzzled Ox, Sign up for their blog, and look at tips to help you.
So to answer my question we started out with. God provides usually through others we are in 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 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 one to 3 supporters cover their basic needs. But we should ask the question, "How many supporters should a missionary have?"
One time one of our supporters came to the Philippines and I asked him to share to our staff. He is a business man 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 about 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. 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 you lose one supporter for whatever reason you take a major hit. It is better to have 10 supporters giving 10% each then 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. They started talking about leaving the mission field because of lack of funds.
So what does this mean?
Even if you are fully supported with 3 or 4 supporters, you need to expand your support base. Praise God if you are one of those who fully supported by only a few. But take that has 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 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 to those who support us.
If you need some help with raising your support please go to https://www.unmuzzledox.com/ , sign up for their blog, and read more tips on how to raise your support.
When we start out on the mission field and begin the process of raising our support the one thing we need to do and be faithful with is building our contact list. When I first started out 20 years ago I began with a contact list, but at that time I did not realise how important it was. Throughout the years I have discovered how vital it is. In most cases, it is the foundation in which God gives to you on which you build your mission upon.
Building a healthy contact list is more than a list of people who could give you money. It is a list of different types of relationships in which you are in. This is your circle of influence. Having a contact list will help you be faithful in your relationships and your communication with individuals. These are people who could be intercessors, supporters, and people who care about you.
If you haven’t already please read my article, “How Many Supporters should a Missionary Have?” It will communicate the value of those relationships you have.
Before you start I want to make one thing clear. The bigger your contact list is the better. I have talked to so many missionaries who are struggling with their finances. When I ask them the question, “What do you think is a good number of people have on your contact list?” I have had people say that 10 or 25 people are really good. Honestly those numbers is way too low.
When starting out I tell people to target at least 200 people and then build from there. If you come up with more than 200 people, that is even better. I know for some of you it may seem overwhelming. Well, it is not as hard as it seems. Here are some steps to build your contact list.
Also, know that different people prefer to communicate in different ways. Some reply quickly to text. Others may respond better to email. And others like to get phone calls. The more ways to communicate to your contact list the more effective your communication will become.
I know some of you may be thinking this is a lot of work. I want to say yes it is. Depending on your situation this will take you about 30 to 40 hours of work. But if you are looking at financing your future in missions, it is a very small price to pay.
Now that you have a list what do you do?