JohMore 06-10-150      


Successfully raising missionary support in the 21st Century


Paul I. Johnson, Ph.D.

Copyright 2006 by Paul I. Johnson


Paul Johnson is involved in partnership development with Wycliffe out of their Southwest Office in Temecula, CA.  His realistic and biblical philosophy of partnership development will be of practical help to many who must raise support for their ministries.  The book begins with a touching story of Paul’s own miserable experience as an under funded missionary.  He uncovers common myths and ideologies that tend to be self-defeating, provides a biblical rationale for fund development, and offers a practical model.


“My hope is to present raising support in such a way that it cannot be used as a reason for rejecting the call of God on one’s life.” (2)


“Missionaries are expected to take risks, and to face the possibilities of sacrifice and suffering, but I think it is presumptuous to place life and limb in jeopardy as a result of deliberate failure to generate and maintain a complete network of prayer and financial partners.” (3-4)


According to J. I. Packer,

To live wisely, you have to be clear-sighted and realistic—ruthlessly so—in looking at life as it is.  Wisdom will not go with comforting illusions, false sentiment, or the use of rose-colored spectacles.” 

Unrealism is a faulty attitude. Missionaries can be unrealistic by leaving for the field without full support. (14)


The author’s financial situation was bad and deteriorating but when asked, he had such a passive attitude that he couldn’t admit he needed funds.  It seemed to him that it would be admitting a lack of faith.  This passive attitude was also an unrealistic, slothful attitude. (15)  Early on he began to blame God for the shortfall.  He was living by faith; why didn’t God supply? (16)


A missionary’s budget in today’s market can easily be $5000 per month.  (22)  How can a missionary be so unrealistic about it?  Miracles occur but they are few and far between.  However, in missions, “miracle stories tend to dominate reality.” (25)  There is a common feeling that living by faith means not asking for money.  Stories of William Carey and George Muller tend to overlook the “full information” they provided.  Muller actually published in the newspaper the names of donors and how much they gave! (29)  “Muller and Taylor used public means of propagating their ministries and made it clear how people could help.” (33)


Perhaps prayer without the use of means when means are available is an extra-biblical doctrine. (46)  In the Matthew six passage, Jesus is not forbidding foresight but worried fear.  “Jesus was saying know the principles of the kingdom, live by them, and you will not have to worry about the necessities of life.  This is living by faith.” (47)


“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7).  “There is no special system, with separate rules, for the missionary.  That’s part of the myth.” (48)


Beliefs have consequences.  “When I asked myself the question, ‘Why have I been so irresponsible about financial support?’ I was led right back to my belief: It’s because it was God’s responsibility to provide, not mine.” (59-60)


In I Cor. 9:16-18 Paul shows that ministry or service in the lives of others in the local church is critical. “How could missionaries expect God’s people to send them to some other place to serve if they had not demonstrated their spiritual gifts and Christian virtues, and willingness to serve?  In short, earning the right to be selected, supported, and sent.” (69)


“Why does anyone invest in someone else?  One reason: we invest because we trust.” (76)


If asked why someone supported them, a missionary would most often answer “because they know me.”  Intimacy.  “Personal relationship is a key ingredient in partnership development.” “Partnership follows trust.” “Trust relationships are based primarily upon character.  But trust alone is not sufficient.  Partnership also follows value.  There must be, on the part of the missionary or prospective missionary, a demonstration of value.”  “Value is demonstrated through service and ministry.”  “Service to others should be a lifestyle, not limited in expression through spiritual gifts alone.” (76-78)


“Every Christian worker who expects the support of God’s people must be engaged in a local fellowship, or church.”  “The missionary is engaged, not a spectator.”  “The local church is the central agent in sending missionaries.  The local church has fundamental responsibilities that cannot be delegated.” (83)


“…the emphasis made in Scripture is never upon an individual volunteering or upon his own subjective sense of call, but always at the initiative of others.  No one selected themselves.” (84)


“Local churches have the responsibility to select and to send.  Wise missionaries involve their churches in major decision making at the beginning and throughout their careers.  Wise missionaries maintain accountable relationships.” (88) 


“If you are a missionary or considering missions, be the kind of person (trust) doing the kinds of things (values) that will cause God’s people…to say, ‘You’ve got the right stuff.  We think you should be involved in Christian work.’” (88)


It seems clear from Scripture that both the missionary and the body of Christ are to be involved in fund raising for missions. (97)  It’s a team effort.  “Ownership is the second level of partnership.”  When someone “owns” your ministry, they go with you in prayer, financial support, and encouragement.  “The prevailing characteristic of the partner/owner is a willingness to be involved—to own the missionary’s challenges.” (98)


Among your family and friends, who is most likely to own your ministry?  Make a list.  Your primary network is the people with whom you have a high level of trust and value. (99)  Primary network people already pray, encourage and invest in you. (100)


Ask about each person on the list:

1.      “What is my actual personal relationship with this person?

2.      Do I need to renew, restore, or strengthen this relationship?

3.      Should I put this person on my priority list of people to visit?” (100)


“If you haven’t seen this person for say, five years, and have not been in regular communication, you should not assume too much.”  Personal contact should be renewed at every opportunity.  (101)


Has God used me in this person’s life?  This is value.  Have they seen you in action?  (101) This is a self-evaluation exercise.


“Don’t stop building trust and demonstrating value.  Partnership development is a lifetime venture for the career missionary.” (103)


Some missionaries have high deposits of trust and value but they don’t ask! (103)


Missionaries must provide opportunities for ownership.  “Get accustomed to asking for help.  You won’t get to the mission field without it.” (105)


“People do not want a relationship with a ministry (impossible) they want a relationship with the missionary.” (108)


“Notes and letters are an excellent way to serve your friends.”  “Start a program of writing personal notes to those whose friendship is important to you, apart from whether they become partners or not.” (112)


“Be honest, open, and transparent with your friends.  Have no hidden agendas.  Be alert to potential partners.” (115)


“Build a foundation of personal relationships and service.” (116)


The partnership model consists of three principles: trust, value, and engagement. (119)


“Missionaries serve the body of Christ at home first, and then serve on behalf of the body of Christ on the mission field.  Leaving for the field does not end the responsibility for serving those at home.  Thus, every missionary, whether at home or on the field, has the wonderful privilege of ministering in two dimensions.” “A two-dimensional ministry is the key to seeing the Lord provide the prayer and financial partners the missionary needs for service on the mission field.” (127)


“The concept of partnership strengthens the role of the folks at home.” (129)


“When God’s people withdraw from the support of missionary causes it is possibly due to the missionary’s negligence.” (139)


“Maintaining a monthly financial log is a simple way to keep track of how God is providing for your needs through financial partnership.”  “If you don’t keep any other kind of partnership records, don’t fail to keep this one: the monthly financial log.”  (149)  If someone suddenly stops giving, something has happened.  Give them another month to catch up and then contact them.  Send a note or call.  Ask about them.  Let them know.  (150-51)


Letters are a gift.  (159)  Write brief, sincere, personal notes.  They affect people.  Add a personal note to your printed newsletter.  It may make the difference whether the letter is read or not.  Personalized notes are a lifeline.  “It is not distance that separates us but silence.” (163)  “Start writing (handwritten) notes that build bridges to people.” (168) 


The last chapter has great suggestions for creating an attractive newsletter, pp. 175 ff.



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