Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Asking, begging or manipulating?

I, and I am sure most of you reading here, regularly receive newsletters from missionaries or missionary organisations. Almost universal in all these letters is a paragraph where an appeal is made for funds. OK, I still have to find a missionary or a mission organisation not in need of money. More funds enable them to do more work! A few years ago, after reading George Müller’s biography, I personally made the decision that I, as far as humanly possible, will not ask for money from people to support our ministry. I’m not saying that I will never ever do it. Especially with our AIDS ministry, it may become necessary to submit proposals to large organisations who want to support such projects, which in a certain sense boils down to asking and which I am still not always sure how to handle. But I trust that God will give me wisdom if and when I have to do this.
Yesterday I received a newsletter starting as follows: We are on our way to ****** for an indefinite time and will be leaving within 3 weeks. ****** may not be the easiest place to go to but we are prompted by the Holy Spirit to go there. Please agree with us in prayer that our financial needs will be met regarding the airfares, our stay, and outreaches…. We desire to fulfill the call of Mark 16:15 to “Go onto the entire world and preach the Gospel” and we also desire for you to fulfill that call as well. Your donation will aid us as we preach the Gospel in remote and unreached areas, impact others who will in turn impact others who will impact all generations worldwide with the truth and power of the Gospel. All gifts, great or small, will be appreciated.
Is this asking, begging or manipulating? I remember another occasion when I just got downright angry after receiving a letter from someone who felt led by the Lord to go to another country as missionary. In this letter the person wrote: If you do not respond to this letter by sending me a financial contribution, then you are being disobedient to God, because God wants me to go! Unnecessary to say, this letter ended in my “Outbox” – the one beneath my desk!
A few months ago I heard about a couple who had felt led by the Lord to move up into Africa to do missionary work throughout Africa and was going around asking / begging / manipulating people to support them. This led to great anger amongst some Christians I know, especially when it came out that they had told the people from whom they had asked funds that they were going for a year (what can you do in a year’s time in Africa????) and then returned after only a couple of weeks. People felt that they had sponsored them to go on a nice adventure holiday. Little wonder that people are reluctant to support missions when things like this happen.
I become increasingly uncomfortable when reading newsletters from missionaries and getting the idea that the letters are written mainly to manipulate their readers in donating money for their cause. And obviously, this forces me to look at my own motives when I send out my monthly newsletter. Am I perhaps doing the same thing, possibly without even realising it?
What are your experiences about missionaries asking / begging / manipulating others to get money?

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Friday, August 31, 2007 - Posted by | Giving, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Swaziland

16 Comments »

  1. Money. What a pain in the neck, eh? We need it to live in this world, but it can cause a host of problems. I get many solicitations in the mail for many things from missionaries to other ministries, both local and national. I don’t get angry or bothered that they ask, but rather how they ask. In the interest of full disclosure, I rarely give anything to any organization other than where our family places our tithe (which is split between three organizations and consists of a healthy sum of money) but there are those times when I will give more. I say “I”, because I’m the one to handle payment of all the bills, etc.

    I absolutely LOATHE manipulation whether it comes in a letter or is seen on TV. I won’t even go into the evil practices of the American TV Evangelists right now. I don’t care how worthy the cause, if the people involve stoop to manipulation I immediately rip up the request or turn off the channel.It says volumes about who they are and how they operate.

    All I need to know is what is the person called to do, explain how they are going to accomplish it, if they’ve already been doing it, how is it going, pictures are nice because I’m a visual person, and then a request for money at the end (which is expected) which leaves me the opportunity to decide for myself without being “guilted” into it.

    If G-d wants me to give or support that particular ministry long term, He’ll let me know. If G-d wants their particular ministry to thrive and continue, He’ll provide for them. There’s a whole area of trust that gets touched on here.

    I will have to be put in this position shortly. Our ministry is taking off, both getting its first building which is leased to us, remodeling this space and paying the lease payments. It’s a great deal of money and none of us are getting paid. Any donations are just to keep us running. There are times when I get concerned about the future and I also know that if people don’t know about us, then they don’t know to give. However, in my more peaceful, faithful moments, I truly believe if G-d wants this ministry to continue, He will provide for us.

    This is a difficult balance between doing our part and also letting G-d do His. I do think asking is different than begging, although there may be times when one may FEEL like they’re a beggar.

    As far as missionaries, though, I guess there are different ways to BE a missionary and to fund one’s ministry. We can look at Paul’s “tent making” ministry and how he prided himself on not being a burden to others. Frankly, I deeply respect this model, but I don’t think it has to be normative for all missionaries everywhere. There are also those missionaries who just up and go to “wherever” and have no support at all, but live on faith. Again, this would scare me endlessly to do this, but I have seen numerous books of testimonials written where they lived a hard, but rewarding life of seeing G-d come through in amazing ways as they ministered to others. And then there are those who are funded by many churches through their budgets and supported so they can concentrate solely on their work. Again, if they can garner that much support, that’s great.

    For me, I am having less and less of an issue with asking for money (theoretically) because I’m not asking for money for me, but for the ministry so that we can help others. If I were getting a salary or benefiting from it in any way personally, I might feel a twinge of discomfort, but at the same time, if I am getting paid it is because I am giving most of my time to others and I have to eat and pay my bills like anyone else. The scripture, “A workman is worthy of his wage.” comes to mind.

    This is a good post that you’ve written and as you can see, I have thought about this issue for quite a while.

    Comment by Maya | Friday, August 31, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for sharing your insights into this matter. Perhaps we need more people to respond to help us think more clearly about this matter.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, August 31, 2007 | Reply

  3. Hi i would like to share my experience. I have some friends from a large Christian organisation in India. They came to my country, Malaysia with plans to send missions here. Our church offered accomodation for at least a week. They were non intrusive & somewhat humble people. The missionary came without money in the faith that God will provide. As God’s children we provided those. In between he would say “i need a new pair of shoes”. So i would bring him to the mall but i know he doesn’t have money. So i offered to buy him a pair. Then he would say “the rice cooker is cheaper here than in India, i think i would buy one”. Ultimately i disclosed to another church friend & he said he would contribute. I am not at all angry at giving to the Lord but i am a little uncomfortable with the technique used. We are not particularly rich in Malaysia but we are somewhat accomodative. How are these people train in these organisations to ask for … especially material things? Kindly enlighten me, thank you.

    Pierre

    Comment by Pierre | Friday, September 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. Pierre, thanks for sharing your experience and I can sense a feeling of discomfort about what happened to you. Unfortunately, what you describe, is not uncommon. Yes, I know that Paul writes in 1 Tim 5:18: “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages. But that does not mean that I as missionary have the right to “sponge” on other people. (Is “to sponge” a familiar expression or is this a word which we as students started using many years ago, meaning to try and suck up as much as possible as quickly as possible)? I have never seen money dropping from heaven. God provides money for missions and missionaries through people. But I have seen how God convinces people to give money, without an appeal made to them by a missionary.
    This last weekend I received a group of Christian leaders from Russia at my home. We wanted to share something with them because we know that their circumstances are not easy to cope with. But they never asked for anything. My personal feeling is that I want to give as and where God convinces me to give. I don’t want to give because people pressure or manipulate me in giving. I hope this helps.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Reply

  5. Hi Arnau, thanks for the reply. What you said is exactly how i fell giving should be to missionaries. We are impressed by God to give therefore we give. However my main question remains unanswered – how do large international missions scholls train missionaries to ask for money? If they were trained to hint like this then i don’t blame them for doing so because some of us may be insensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting?!

    Comment by Pierre | Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | Reply

  6. […] people into giving money for mission I’ve said it before: I struggle to come to terms with missionaries manipulating funds from people in order to support […]

    Pingback by Manipulating people into giving money for mission « Mission Issues | Thursday, November 20, 2008 | Reply

  7. It is very easy to argue here among themselves, but I will tell to you very hard to serve other people when Christians at all do not wish that to do especially recently for rescue of others and always find excuses. I serve in India but I from Europe on the statistican now live in this country of 875000 persons which officially proclaim myself Induistami and do not know the Christ each hour many thousand die and without having learnt love of the Christ. Pray for us and about our service of Ruslan Zuev

    Comment by Ruslan Zuev | Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Reply

  8. I do not know if you are still responding to this thread as 4 years has passed since you posted it. I googled ‘missionaries asking for money’ and a link to this site (and thread) is what popped up first.
    Not that it really matters, but I have served in short term foreign missions (10 years ago) so I’m not entirely unacquainted with those in ministry/missions needing some funding. However, as a hard working individual, college graduate, and former missionary have had an incredibly difficult time [understatement] with the newsletters and requests I’ve been receiving over the past 5+ years from very good friends in ministry/missions.

    Example 1: a long-time friend of mine and her husband are part of a ministry here in the USA. They, monthly, ask for money — stating very specific wants (cars, siding for their house, nice clothes for their kids, toys, etc., etc) while taking, on a consistent average, 3+ vacations a year!!!! I work 40-60 hours a week and have taken one vacation in the past 3 years! Help me understand how they feel this is honestly acceptable. They have nice cars, they own iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, Flat screen TV’s, own a large house, have motorcycles, and live in what most would consider luxury. Yet, they want more?
    Not to mention I only hear from them on the occasions I have sent money, which has been over 2 years ago, and guess what — I don’t hear from them anymore, outside of a monthly newsletter.

    Example 2: another long-time friend of mine and his wife serve in south-east Asia. They have been back in the states on furlough for almost 5 months now. My friend wrote and told me they weren’t receiving enough funds since being stateside and they were having to go on welfare to feed their children. Of course on the outset that sounds pretty sad, until you really get to thinking that these are young (early 30’s) folks who could be working jobs in the US and actually (G-d forbid) hold down a job. But nope, their not going to work despite planning to stay in the US for another year, because…wait for it….they want to travel around and raise support.

    **sigh**

    I want a right heart attitude in giving and want to honor G-d with His money…but come-on, 3+ vacations, asking for cars, refusing to work!?!?! And yes, playing the manipulation game seems to be a forte they all possess.
    I am very troubled/frustrated and would appreciate your insight.

    Thank you.

    Comment by A | Thursday, September 1, 2011 | Reply

    • Your experiences resonate with mine. The only way in which I would support someone doing what you describe above is if I was closely connected to their work and could actually witness what was really going on. But I have seen what you describe time and time again – people asking or begging for money but then having far better vehicles than I have, far better computers, sending their children to private schools, sending their children on overseas vacations. And I don’t really care whether they testify to the fact that God gave them the money to do all of this. I think it is insensitive to ask people to support you financially and then to spend that money on luxuries that many of the donors do not even have or experience. Obviously I don’t think that missionaries need to live in a shack. But I do wish that they would be just slightly more sensitive. As to the examples you’ve given: I cannot see how I would support people with that attitude.

      Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, September 1, 2011 | Reply

      • Thank you for replying! It helps to know that I’m not crazy for thinking and feeling this way. It’s incredibly sad to me. Is there any benefit in responding when some ask you point-blank why you’re no longer supporting them? I’ve never responded because there just doesn’t seem to be a tactful way to talk about it without causing a riff. Plus I’m not sure I understand the audacity of actually asking someone why they are randomly handing you cash every month.

        I digres…

        A

        Comment by A | Friday, September 2, 2011

  9. The answer is NOT to stop giving. The answer is to give where you can sense that God is working. I still like Blackaby’s viewpoint that we need to discern where God is working and then to get involved with this. If you feel that you want to stop giving to someone, you could tell that person that you’re not ending your involvement with missions, but that you feel that there is someone else or another project in greater need of your funds. There are a number of projects that I personally support. I have also stopped supporting people when I had the same feeling you described above. I consider myself a steward of God’s money and therefore I need to take responsibility of how that money is used.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, September 2, 2011 | Reply

    • I agree 100% to keep giving — it’s vitally important. Also have been making a shift in who I give to, and I just realized that I had become thoughtless about giving; you are right, it is about stewardship.
      Just feels awkward when you don’t feel right in supporting friends — and they ask you why. I like your answer in how to respond to their questioning (honest, but tactful) — thank you.
      It helps to be able to talk it through and get some wisdom on the subject from objective sources. I asked an older couple in my church and was scorched for even questioning whether or not to support some versus others.

      Thank you

      A

      Comment by A | Friday, September 2, 2011 | Reply

  10. Since we are stewards of God-blessed talents, materials, etc, we can check with Him to whom He desires us to write those checks , when He wants them delivered and for how long do we keep up the commitment? i suppose how our financial planners may work with us. Financial planners can make recommendations, but we make the decision. We can propose the ‘investment’, He is free to tell us what’s His decision.

    Comment by ValiantValerie | Thursday, August 30, 2012 | Reply

  11. I just read in a book by Clive Pick that no ministry ever has to beg for money if they are tithing their income to their church. Wow what an eye opener. If God is calling you into a ministry, then God with provide everything you need supernaturally. When missionaries write manipulative letters, they are exercising witchcraft. There is no need for this.

    God can speak to people in many ways to tell them to give a financial gift to someone. The bottom line is this, God’s money does not add and subtract like in the world. When we tithe, the Windows of Heaven open up and pour out all blessings intended for us, not just financial ones. He does the same for ministries. We must walk uprightly before God, and we must tithe and we must give gifts or offerings as the Holy Spirit directs us. Our hearts must be pure. Should I respond to a missionary manipulating my finances? I say no because chances are they are abusing the funds they receive, not tithing or lack integrity somewhere. Let the Holy Spirit tell you where to give your financial gift.

    If I was a Missionary, I would be afraid to start begging for money. God told the Apostles to go out and preach the Word, not beg. By the way, I have only seen this practice with American Missionaries. I wonder why?

    Comment by Debra | Monday, February 18, 2013 | Reply

  12. As my name says it all am an african lady aged 23. I trained as a pre-school teacher and I have also been trained in child ministry . From the time I was a little girl I always felt that my propose was to help people less fortunate than I. At the time I did not know that there are people called missionaries all I knew was I wanted to be the one to help and bring hope . In africa people have no idea what missionary work is and the few that do always think that missionaries are people with lots of money to buy and give them things. As I grow older God made a way for me to meet real missionaries and hear about what they do and how they do there work. I have a gift of bringing people together and that was how we came up with a small teens group it was on holidays that we did our work. We put our money together and bought books from one of my missionary friends . We would go round selling and asking for donations a few gave because we were kids and but most of them thought we just wanted to steal from them. My friends gave up hope but I still had hope that I would become a missionary. Now am 23years of age and have done my teaching course to help children but the problem is that every time I ask for help here in my country they think I just want to steal there money and when I ask from people around the world they think because am an african thet I can’t be a missionary that am looking for a way out of being poor. Which I think is not right if I have clothes to wear food to eat that to me is all I need but I just want to serve people girls in india who are left every day to die on the street I wish to give them a home but how do I do that when people don’t believe . Please help me. How can I make it known that I just want to serve and that is what God has put on my heart. Please forgive my english I know it has a lot of holes put I wish you understand what am trying to say.

    Comment by Dora moono nyambe | Thursday, April 24, 2014 | Reply

  13. Is it reasonable for a missionary ask for $40,000 USD for a Church construction when he is spending more than $125,000 for his child computer education in USA ?

    Comment by sam | Tuesday, December 29, 2015 | Reply


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