Live Productive Lives

How is fund-raising affected by people who live productive lives?

Titus 3:4 “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

The Apostle Paul gave this counsel to Titus a young pastor he had put in charge of a small group of new converts. The advice he gave was simple, teach the people to devote themselves to doing what is good – why? – in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. (Or instead of a double negative we could say that they should live productive lives.

live productive lives

I grew up in a family, community and culture where children were taught to be useful and productive in the daily necessities of the house and farm. I learned to do dishes, scrub floors, babysit young siblings and hack weeds in the garden with a hoe from early on. I cannot even remember the first time I did such things. I didn’t realize that I was trained to live a productive life.

My mother was sickly, especially after gored by a cow, so I, as the eldest child had responsibility thrust on me before I was fully ready and willing. The family still had to be fed and the laundry washed and ironed; I confess I didn’t always do these things gladly, but I was often told, “You are too big to put in the china cabinet, so make yourself useful.”

When I finally moved away to a far place and found a new Christian/church community, I was surprised to discover that other families did not teach their children all these practical skills. In childrens ministry and among adults I found many who had never had to do a stitch of work at home. They had grown up being served or allowed to do as they pleased. it was then that I truly began to appreciate my upbringing.

I tried to do my part in teaching pre-teen girls the value of work and to cheerfully live productive lives, but it wasn’t as effective as when it is taught in the home from preschool days.

I see the wisdom of Paul’s advice to Titus, but just now my mind is stuck on the problem a pastor would have in teaching a whole congregation to provide for their own and their family’s daily necessities, and to live productive lives.

The very connected next step is – that if they live productive lives they will not only provide for those immediately with and around them, but also have enough to share with others in desperate need.

I happen to know that among those raised as I was in our industrious, hard-working community, many – yes, MANY, have grown up to prosper quite well, and those who have a strong daily walk with Christ are heavy supporters of missions.

In Waldheim about 40 minutes drive from my home town, every summer for about 60 years, the churches go together to have a missions conference. Missionaries who have grown up in that area are given a platform to share about their work abroad, and that 3 day conference raises anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 (and often more each succeeding year), to contribute to their projects. Nowadays most of the people who attend are retired Christian farmers. Some worry about what will happen if the next generation doesn’t have the same work ethic.

Guest speakers who come from other parts of the world are astonished at this. It is very uncommon to see both missionaries and supporters live productive lives.

Back to our theme for this series of articles; how could this principle, “Live Productive Lives”, help a church or ministry raise support for their work?

Here are my suggestions:

1. Learn to model this lifestyle yourself. if you don’t have such upbringing, walk with the Lord, and ask Him to teach you where you can be more productive in little ways. As others around you see you doing this, some will imitate you, and some will be willing to learn, if you teach them what you’ve discovered.

2. When you are looking for people to work in your ministry, search especially for those who have the humility to do the little things that make life smoother and more productive for everyone. They are the people who tidy up around themselves, who do dishes or other little chores without being coaxed, and very often they have creative minds for how to do ministry more effectively too.

3. Research and study up on ways to live more practical and productive lives. Then use every opportunity to teach and share this with others. Over time you will teach the willing ones to take up these ways and your ministry will be blessed with provisions and growth.

4. When campaigning for financial support, seek out the godly people who live humble, productive lives. They will not go for flashy, show-off presentations, but if you focus on God’s call to your work, and can report His activities in your ministry. That is going to appeal to these hard-working people who understand the value of a dollar, and who like to help the Lord out when they find He is at work somewhere.

Ask Your Personal Friends

Do you ask your personal friends for financial help?

The apostle Paul had an unusual situation, but the way he handled it can give us some insights for getting support for our own ministries today.

Paul had led Philemon and his family to faith in Christ on one of his stops in his missionary journeys. Philemon was a well-to-do man with a large household, including slaves and servants. One of his slaves ran away to Rome, where Paul was waiting a long time in prison for his case to be concluded. Onesimus, the slave, must have admired Paul when he preached in
his master’s house. So he sought Paul out.

Paul counseled and led this young man to faith in Christ too, and Onesimus quickly became very useful to Paul. But Paul was not about to take advantage of his friend, so he persuaded the runaway to go back and take his personal letter to Philemon with him.

It is this short letter that gives us so many details of the story. Paul greets his friend Philemon heartily and praises God for how he has blessed himself and many other believers and Christian workers with his hospitality and encouragement.

Now he asks Philemon to show that same kind of hospitality and encouragement to Onesimus, whom he is sending back, a changed young man. Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus just as he would if Paul himself showed up at the door.

Paul explained that Onesimus was now a very useful slave, but he didn’t want to just claim and use him without Philemon’s consent, as that would just not be right. Based on their own close partnership as friends, Paul asks Philemon to treat this slave as a Christian brother – or, as if he were Paul himself.

Despite being in prison, Paul has hopes of being able to travel again, and asks his good friend to prepare a guest room for when he will be able to visit again personally. See, you can ask your personal friends for favours.

We do not know what Philemon’s response was, or if they ever got see each other again this side of Heaven, but judging from the tone and Paul’s message in the letter, we can assume with some certainty, that Paul’s requests were granted.

You may be thinking that you can’t ask your personal friends, as you have none as rich as Philemon, or you might try writing them a letter too.

Pause to think — it would be just like God to place people like Philemon into your circle of acquaintances, but have you taken time to develop a friendship with them? Do you make a point of keeping in touch with the friends you have so that it can grow to the point where you can write and ask favours and know your letters will be well-received?

I have been learning over the last couple of years that these days, on the internet, is a new marketing philosophy. In fact, it has probably always existed, but now it has a name, Attraction Marketing, and there are a number of flourishing methods being taught and passed on to others online in relation to this. Many testimonials are coming forth so that it is a common expression now, “People don’t do business with strangers; they buy from those they have learned to know, like and trust.”So building up relationships through social media and sharing valuable information, etc., is the way to do business.

There is a transferable principle in that. Your best supporters in your ministry will be those who have learned to know, like and trust you. So it behoves those of us in ministries to show ourselves friendly, to work at building relationships of trust and respect. It is among these contacts that God will raise up “friends” willing to support our works for the Lord.

Yes, make time to keep in touch with the friends you have, and any others that come your way. Develop a mailing list and write to these friends as personalized and frequently as you can, to let them know what God is doing in your life, and how you are serving Him. Not all of them will become ardent supporters, but some will become close enough so that you can freely ask your personal friends for support.

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Appeal Letters and Visit Your Supporters

We can learn from the Apostle Paul to write appeal letters and visit your supporters. We can study at least three of Paul’s appeal letters in Romans 15:24-33, I Corinthians 16:6, and II Corinthians 1:16.

It is well-known that this is something most missionaries and people in ministry most dread and do not like to do. For one it feels humiliating to have to write appeal letters and visit your supporters. Some mission organizations work hard at preparing their new missionaries how to do this, pointing often to Paul in the New Testament. Paul seemed to have no qualms about writing friends and people he had taught to receive and follow the Lord before. He promised to come visit them and openly suggested that he would be expecting their financial help to send him further along on his missionary journeys.

Therein lies the key to fundraising for our ministries. In fact, we can spot several keys;

1. Paul wrote to people who had good reason to respect and love him. He had shared the gospel with them, and they had received it and experienced God’s forgiveness and transforming power. In a sense they owed Paul some loving assistance.If we appeal to fellow Christians, particularly ones we have blessed and helped in the past, we should have a clear conscience about asking their help.

2. We need to keep in mind WHY we are asking for support. This is not for our own selfish indulgence, but for our ministry for the Lord. This is a tried and true way for God to meet our needs for the assignments He gives us.

3. Notice that Paul wrote them and promised a visit. Something they would likely look forward to, and would warm their hearts. His request for help to continue his journeys gave them time to prepare their financial gifts. This a good reason for us to write appeal letters and send them to our Christians friends and supporters. it alerts them to the need to think and pray about how they can support us.

In our present Christian culture, particularly in the Western world, we have some rules and regulations for missionary sending ministries. This is to ensure that individuals do not pretend to be real missionaries, but use this means of tricking people into supporting them but for selfish reasons.

Third world countries do not seem to have the same laws and rules in place, so many who begin a ministry with just themselves, or their family involved, like to send appeal letters too, or mass email campaigns, to beg for support. This does not always go over well with Christians in Western countries – especially, if they fear being scammed. This is probably a discussion for another article or series.

Personally, I think if they set high moral and financial standards for themselves, and go about it in ethical ways, it may well work for them too. But the onus seems to be much stronger to show themselves honorable and godly in how they ask for financial support, and how they report on their use of such funds.

On the other hand, maybe we as potential supporters, need to learn some skills in discernment when we get these appeal letters, or emails, and perhaps we need to make visits to these ministries to discover the facts, and get a clearer sense of whether God would have us support them.

Personally, I have been in email correspondence with a number of such indigenous ministry leaders for some years, and getting to know them. But I still dream of going to visit them in person, so I can see for myself, how they run their ministry, how they serve the Lord, and what their true needs are. I suspect there are not all financial. Sometimes they may need better administration, or training, or resources.

I feel that when I’ve been able to make such visits to a number of them, I will be in a better position to write helpful counsel and guidance for them in how to write appeal letters and ask for support – wisely, effectively.

Trust God for Utterly Everything

Have you ever tried to trust God for utterly everything for yourself or your ministry? You might well tell me that you fall to that as a last resort, whenever you and find no other method of putting food on the table.

That sounds like crying out whenever you feel like you are drowning. I wonder if God has decided to let you get to that nth degree enough times so that gradually, you may learn that You can trust Him to provide even your daily meat and bread.

For about two years, in the early 1980s, I resisted God’s gentle call to go home to care for my parents in their old age – partly because I resisted the idea that I would have to depend on God for all my personal and daily needs. My parents could not, and would not pay me. I would be able to eat at their table, provided for by their meager old age security checks, and there was a spare bedroom in the basement, but any other need that might come up, I would have to ask and trust God to provide. I didn’t think I could muster that much faith – not to trust God for utterly everything!

Eventually though, the Lord won me around to making that commitment.

Our Bible example today, in this series on how to fund your ministry, comes from Exodus 15:13-17 and it ends in Joshua 5:12. God had brought His people, the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the desert. Now all their food in their knapsacks was gone. The sand dunes didn’t have volunteer gardens or orchards that they could raid. True to human nature, the Israelites panicked and grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

God gave Moses His plan for providing for the people, and asked him to explain it to them. He would rain down bread in the mornings, but they would have to gather it, and at twilight they would have meat – enough to get sick of it.

Six days a week, God provided for them on this daily basis. (They called that dew-like bread, Manna, meaning, “what’s this?”) On the sixth day they were to collect extra for the Sabbath, so they would be able to rest that day and not have to gather their daily food. The first evening they got a flock of quail dropping from the skies, and they had a fowl supper – until they were throwing up! (I don’t see that God bothered them with quail after that).

They did this for some 40 years. They learned to trust God for utterly everything.

But when they came into the promised land, they were done with that dry, barren period in their lives, and just like that these miraculous provisions halted. The Israelites now had to hunt and gather their daily food in the land they were claiming for their own.

Like myself in the early 1980s, many Christians squirm and try to avoid getting into a situation where they will have to trust God for their daily food. Which basically mean, all their needs. Yes, trust God for utterly everything. Period. If we have not had any living examples in our lives of people who trusted God like that, we just cannot imagine that an invisible God will be so faithful to us.

I’m afraid I grumbled considerably too, in the beginning, though I tried to be very noble and spiritual about my great sacrifice of my life of ministry in the far province. More and more I had to give things up; I’d reach the place where I could pray, “Okay, Lord, I won’t die if I don’t have this, or that, on a regular basis. I could get by with very little.

Food was not a problem as my parents had always had a garden. As Mom got weaker, I spent more time working in the garden, and I got to plan what vegetables to grow. As I took charge of the kitchen, I was the one who did most of the grocery shopping for all three of us (though Dad always liked to come along and push the cart). With time, like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, I managed everything for my parents, and they had nothing to worry about.

Clothes were not a problem for me either, after God convicted me that I should be grateful and use up what I had before I needed a whole new wardrobe. Then I got a penal, a godly older woman with a taste for fine-quality clothing, and she would send me a parcel from time to time with suits and dress shoes and things I would never have thought I could afford. Mom bought a new coat for me out of her Old Age Security money. Other pen pals sent gifts of money from time to time. In fact, I realized after a while that those money gifts usually arrived just about the time I needed something.

I became more relaxed about trusting God. He seemed to have better taste and timing than I’d ever realized before. Mostly He was concerned about my attitude. The more I worked on that, the better were the practical gifts He sent me. What’s more, my faith and delight in the Lord increased proportionately too! it became quite comfortable to trust God for utterly everything.

So now, when I get emails from ministry leaders who are in a panic because they are out of money I sometimes marvel at their lack of faith in God to provide.

One man from Tanzania wrote that his people regularly prayed for healing and even raised people from the dead. Yet, when his church needed funds, he would appeal to me in a panic. Do some fund-raising for us!

My thinking would go like this; I don’t have the faith to raise anyone from the dead, but if you can do that, why not just trust God to provide your financial needs too? That would come much easier to me!

Do financial problems plague you, or your ministry? Why not make a decision to trust God for utterly everything, and then cooperate with Him as He allows you to come into situations where you must practice that faith in Him. Over time your faith will increase, so that it not nearly so hard to trust the Father to provide all your needs.

When you have learned to have such faith, God may graduate you to other lessons, and the provisions will come easily. (I don’t know, perhaps He will teach you to raise the dead after that. I haven’t got to that point yet).