May Gospel-workers Ask?

 
Do we not have a right to eat and drink [at the expense of the Church]? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the Gospel of Christ.
— 1 Corinthians 9:4 and 12
 
© The Navigators - Do not use without permission.

© The Navigators - Do not use without permission.

In my early ministry I struggled with “asking for money.” My conscience plagued me: If I truly trusted God, I would not need to lower myself to ask. Plus, I did not relish the idea of people saying “NO!” 

I soon found that I was not alone. Around the world Gospel-workers feel awkward in asking others to give—it feels like begging. And we are joyful but perplexed when we hear about a colleague exclaim, “The money came in miraculously on the last day, and I didn’t ask anyone!”

Also, we have been told, “Don’t ask, just pray. God’s will done in God’s way never lacks God’s supply.” Hmmm.

But the Bible contains examples of asking to advance God’s kingdom:

  • Moses asked the Israelites to give for the desert tabernacle (Exodus 35:1–9).

  • Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes for timber to build Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 2:4–8).

  • Elijah asked a Gentile widow for support of his prophetic ministry (1 Kings 17).

  • Paul asked the Roman Christians to fund his ministry to Spain (Romans 15:20–24).

  • Jesus instructed the Twelve and the Seventy to ask worthy hosts for lodging during their evangelism travels—twice (Matthew 10:5–15 and Luke 10:1–12).

Let’s be clear: The asking in these examples was for Kingdom purposes—not because “I’m a little short, please help.” 

In our passage today, Paul declares that he and other gospel workers (we) have the right to be supported by the Church—by believers. Like a lawyer, Paul methodically lays out his argument in chapter 9. The gospel-worker may receive support because:

  • A farmer and a shepherd eat the fruit of their labor (7).

  • A soldier doesn’t serve at his own expense(7).

  • The law of Moses allowed oxen to eat some of the grain they tramp out—"don’t muzzle the ox is my favorite kitchen quote!” (8-10).

  • Spiritual sowers are allowed to reap material benefits (11-12).

  • Priests who perform sacred services are given some of the sacrifices for their pay (13).

And Paul’s most powerful reason for a gospel-workers’ right to support is verse 14:

So also the Lord [Jesus] directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

Paul’s argument shows that you have the right to receive support, and that implies the right to inform and invite others to join you.

But Paul does not demand his right (use this right). Immaturity issues (quarreling and sexual problems, to name two) among the Corinthian believers temporarily held him back from inviting their support.

My colleague, you have a right to be supported by believers. It is not sub-spiritual to invite partners to support your ministry. But you are not “entitled.” When missionaries feel entitled they come across as pushy. That dishonors Christ and hinders the gospel.  

Yes, we’ve heard wonderful stories of last-minute deliverances, but for most missionaries that is not the norm. We don’t hear stories where time ran out and God did not supply. “God’s will done in God’s way” usually involves inviting others to join you in accomplishing God’s will.

You are not merely seeking money! You are building a team of partners whose lives are blessed because they are giving to advance the Kingdom—like Moses, Nehemiah and the Twelve. Yes, you may ask—invite others to experience the joy of giving.

 

Prayer: Creator of the universe, I confess I often feel shame or awkwardness in fundraising. Help me to be confident in my right to receive support, but help me not to be pushy and demanding. Amen.