A Biblical View of Financing Missions

By Mike Pettengill, Jun 16, 2016

The concept of funding missions through the financial support of others is not a new concept. In fact, raising support for missions has a long and distinguished biblical history. Throughout the Bible God calls upon His people to give sacrificially so missionaries can travel the globe to bring Him glory.

Christians should develop a war-time approach to sacrificial support of missions. During great wars those who stayed behind sacrificed their comfort to help do their part so those in the trenches could fight on. The spiritual warfare that is being waged on every corner of the globe is no less deserving of sacrificial support than the great wars of man.

God has blessed American Christians with the ability to fund the global missions battle raging around the world. American churches are the richest in history not so they can provide their congregants with softer cushions for their pews. American churches are the richest in history to finance global evangelism. We must not mistake God’s financial blessings as a reward for our good service. We have been blessed to glorify God, not to create comfort and security for ourselves. Local churches should focus their time and talents on local evangelism and their treasure on global evangelism.

Tentmaking like Paul
Shouldn’t all those lazy, freeloading missionaries stop begging for money and start supporting themselves like the Apostle Paul did? Paul, who was a knowledgeable tent maker, did not encourage missionaries to earn their own way. In fact, quite the opposite. He taught churches they should financially support full-time servants of the gospel. People erroneously make the assumption Paul always supported his ministry by making tents. That was not his preferred method. Paul began by making tents, but quit as soon as church support came in.

For Paul, the concept of financial independence and apostolic authority were interwoven. In Paul’s quarrel with his detractors in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:12, 9:1-18, 16:5-6, 2 Cor. 2:17, 8:1-9:15) he argues in favor of the church supporting laborers of the gospel. The Corinthian church was in a season of plenty. He explains to them that their financial blessing is not meant for them, but to share with other Christian laborers in need.

Throughout his epistles Paul clearly encourages the financial support of missionaries and pastors through the church. He instructs the Galatians (Gal 6:6) that the church body is to financially support the teachers of the faith. He quotes the gospels (Luke 10:7 and Matt. 10:10) when in 1 Timothy he tells the church to allow the servants to eat (1 Ti 5:18). Paul thanks the church at Philippi for supporting him (Phil. 4:10-20).

Much of Paul’s letter to the Romans focused on financial support of missions work. Paul asked the Roman church to financially support Phoebe and her work (Rom. 16:1-2). Paul also sought the aide of the Roman church to fund his mission work in Spain (Rom. 15:20-24). Indeed, D.A. Carson says of this passage, “According to some scholars, Paul’s primary reason for writing this letter is to establish a relationship with the Roman Christians so that they would financially support his mission to plant new churches in Spain.”

Much of Paul’s writing was not focused on missionaries caring for their own financial needs, but rather Paul's desire for the church to provide for missionaries.

That freeloader Jesus
Jesus came from a working-class carpenter’s home. However, He chose a life where He and His full-time followers were dependent upon the contribution of those who supported His mission (Matt. 10:8-11, Luke 10:38-42).

Jesus’ ministry was funded by those who received his teaching (Luke 8:1-3). The women portrayed in this passage were paying the expenses for Jesus to travel through the cities “bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.” Jesus depended on others for support.

Jesus instructed the disciples to rely on others while ministering (Matt. 10:5-15). He repeated this in Luke 10:7 when he sent out the 70 believers. Those he sent were not to provide for themselves.

God wants us to depend on Him. He wants us to come to him with our needs. As our faithful Father, He is eager to meet those needs (Matt. 7:7-12). God’s way of disseminating blessings to his fulltime laborers is by providing those blessings through His Church.

Old Testament beggars
The concept of the church financially supporting missionaries and pastors is not confined to the New Testament. David presented his vision for building a temple to the people and they joyously responded with their time, talents, and treasures (1 Chr. 28:1-29:20). Nehemiah sought support for the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1-2:9). In fact, the entire Levitical system was based on God’s people financially supporting full-time ministers (Num. 18: 21-24). God’s workers have always received financial support from other disciples.

God’s teaching is very explicit. There are many examples of this principle being practiced throughout the Scriptures. How should missionaries receive financial support? Biblically, there is only one answer. As the Lord has commanded, those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Cor. 9:14). God’s hardworking missionaries are to be financially supported by God’s exceedingly blessed church. Churches support your missionaries and missionaries do not be intimidated to follow God’s instructions.

Mike Pettengill has served with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. He is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

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