Straight Line or Circle?

Written By Myles Wilson

 

I spent a week recently with a mission organization in South Africa whose staff come from backgrounds ranging from economically deprived to comfortable middle class.  They wanted to explore examples in scripture where people were supported in God’s Kingdom work so that they could build funding models consistent with these principles.

One question that came up with was Should we use a straight line or a circle?

Traditional MPD, we realized, is often quite linear.

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We start at stage two (resourcing) asking people to support us, hoping that they already have generous hearts.  We then use their resources to be involved in proclamation.   Sometimes we need to start at point one, encouraging generosity so they will give.  But our preference is meeting with people who are already generous - makes it easier!

The New Testament seems to offer a more cyclical model.

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It starts with proclamation which creates generosity among those who respond, leading to resourcing, leading to more proclamation, creating more generosity............., etc, etc, etc.

We see this with the women whose lives were impacted by Jesus and who then supported Jesus and the disciples (Luke 8:1-3); the early church where the result of proclamation is described in terms of generosity among those who believed (Acts 4:33-34); the church in Philippi planted by Paul who immediately became his supporter (Philippians 4:15); Paul’s criticism of the church in Corinth for not following the expected pattern due to their lack of generosity (1 Corinthians 9; 2 Corinthians 8+9).

This leaves us with two crucial questions.

  1. What is missing in our proclamation of the gospel if it doesn't automatically create generosity in the hearts of those who respond?  John the Baptist’s measures of repentance were primarily related to stewardship and generosity - giving to those in need, being honest in business and not being materialistic (Luke 3:1-14).  Those are not measures we normally use to determine if repentance has taken place, so what's missing?  I’ll leave it to others more qualified than me to offer answers to this – but it does need answered.
  2. How can we move from a linear MPD model to a more cyclical model if we can't start the proclamation until we have 100% of the resourcing in place?   What steps can we take to bend the straight line into more of a circle?

Here I’d like to offer three part answers:

a)  We need to see our request for support as proclamation in itself.  If those we are asking to support us have accepted a message of salvation that has not automatically created generosity in their lives, then their gospel (but not their salvation) is incomplete.  Asking them to make decisions that help develop generosity is, in itself, proclamation of that unfinished part of the gospel in their lives. 

b)  We need to encourage those involved in gospel proclamation to understand that the gospel is a message of generosity (John 3: 16, God GAVE) and not just of salvation.  We talk of inviting Jesus into our lives, but actually Jesus invites us into his life - and that is a life of generosity. Perhaps we need a higher focus on the important over the urgent in our proclamation, taking time to build a more complete biblical quality into our message, not just pressing for quantity. 

c)  We should offer those who come to faith through our ministries, and those we are disciplining, opportunities to be generous, including, where appropriate, opportunities to support us.

With our 21st century mission patterns so set we may never get back to the patterns of the New Testament.  But let’s see how much we can bend the straight line back into a circle.

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MYLES WILSON HELPS MISSION ORGANIZATIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE DEVELOP PERSONAL SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT ARE BIBLICAL AND PRACTICAL. HE AND HIS WIFE PHYLLIS LIVE IN THEIR NATIVE NORTHERN IRELAND. 

MYLES IS THE AUTHOR OF FUNDING THE FAMILY BUSINESS, AVAILABLE IN THE U.S. AT WWW.TWR.ORG/FTFB

Why is the widow even in the story?

Guest Blog written by Myles Wilson

They asked if I’d help them explore examples in scripture where people were supported to be involved in God’s Kingdom work.

As we looked at 1 Kings 17, where God used ravens to provide for Elijah and then used the widow in Zarephath, one of the guys asked, What’s the widow got to do with it?  Why is she even in the story?

Good question! 

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Was Jesus Poor?

©The Navigators

©The Navigators

If Jesus was poor—how poor? Homeless? An itinerant beggar? Or was He wealthy?

Let’s look at scriptures on both sides of this age-old argument.

Jesus was poor:

  • In Luke 9:58 a man approached Jesus who appeared eager to follow Him without counting the cost. Jesus told him, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Implying: “I don’t know where I will be sleeping tonight—think it over!”
  • A missionary once told me Jesus was poor (and we should be also) because of 2 Corinthians 8:9: “Though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich.” But if Jesus became physically poor does this mean you and I will become physically rich? Jesus “became poor” compared to the “riches” He enjoyed in the Godhead
  • He was born in an animal stable or cave of parents with humble means. His father was a carpenter/stone mason.
  • He was buried in a borrowed tomb (Matthew 27:57-60—recorded in all four gospels).
  • There is no record of Jesus owning property except possibly a house in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13, “settled in Capernaum” could imply home owenership—kataoikeo).

Jesus was not poor:

  • He had cash flow. In John 4:8 the disciples went into town to “buy food.”
  • Jesus and the Twelve had a “money box” to buy food or give to the poor (John 12:6 and 13:29).
  • They were financially supported by women who had been healed by Jesus. Six to eight are named in the crucifixion accounts, but Luke 8:3 says “many others” also contributed.
  • The Roman soldiers at the crucifixion would not tear his seamlessly woven robe but cast lots for it—implying the robe was of high quality (John 19:23-24).
  • Scripture is silent on Jesus living as an ascetic desert hermit, which was common in those days.

So, what is your answer? I’d love to hear from you! (Comment below)

Why is this question important for gospel workers?

I’m venturing into ‘opinion-land’ here, but I strongly suspect that some gospel workers give themselves permission to avoid working on fundraising because they secretly believe that Jesus was poor. They might have an official budget, but they do not take it seriously. Since Jesus lived hand to mouth, they can too. It’s normal.

Hmmm.

By contrast, today’s health and wealth preachers use these same verses to try to prove that Jesus was rich—he owned a house, an expensive robe and had a cash box—therefore you should be rich too. Nonsense!

Personally, I believe Jesus was neither poor nor rich, but that He had generous resources to accomplish the calling God gave Him. His lifestyle did not detract attention from His teaching. The Bible teachers of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, had a reputation for being “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). That accusation was never made of Jesus—yet he frequently challenged his listeners about money!

If you are not fully funded, please do not use Jesus as your secret excuse! He had enough money to be at maximum effectiveness to accomplish the His calling.

How about you?