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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.