Someone once said, “The water is free, but someone has to pay for the plumbing.” The water of life is absolutely free, but the “pipeline” to deliver it to the entire world as Jesus has commanded is very expensive. Would Jesus leave us an unfunded mandate? No, God pays for what He orders—and He has ordered world evangelism!
World evangelism is expensive! A missionary has the same expenses that we have here in the U.S.A. plus many expenses that we don’t have. He might walk days through the jungle to reach his home or preaching place, or he can arrive in a few minutes by air. Do you suggest walking or flying? Remember that he has a wife and a few kids! Flying costs hundreds of dollars in a fixed-wing plane and at least double that in a helicopter. Another missionary may pay $2,500 a month rent and $7 a gallon for gasoline.
There does not seem to be enough money to meet the need. It is taking some missionaries four or more years to raise the support needed to live on the foreign field. If they could raise support in one year, the rest of that time could be better spent on the field learning the language and culture. (This would make the missionary a much more effective communicator of the most important message on earth.) Also, churches could save the money spent on meals, motels, and love offerings for the missionaries during those three extra years of deputation. Missionaries on the field are often times scraping by; lack of funds might lead some to leave the field temporarily or permanently. Many are forced to spend their entire furlough on the deputation trail to raise more support, and when they return to the field, they are as tired as when they left it!
Most churches do give to missions, but we need many more giving much more. Some churches give a small percentage of their income to missions. Though good, that has definite limitations, and it does not involve individual giving. There’s a better way. The One who ordered the Great Commission is helping many churches to support many more missionaries by a practice commonly called faith promise giving. Some prefer calling it grace giving. Whatever name you use, it involves individual church members seeking God’s will about a specific amount for missions and trusting Him to provide it. In recent years, this faith promise plan has been promoted by Oswald Smith, Clifford Clark, Charles Keen, and many others; but it goes back at least to the Apostle Paul. In the 8th and 9th chapters of II Corinthians, he explained the principle and showed how a group of poor, persecuted believers in Macedonia gave more than was humanly possible. This principle is illustrated by the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus put the burden of feeding 5,000 plus people on His disciples. They looked at their resources and concluded that it could not be done. Jesus told them to seat the people and promise them a meal. You know the rest, but we need to see that Jesus gave the bread and fish to the multitude through the twelve. They got the blessing of giving, and He got the glory! Jesus will put money into our hands when we promise to give it to send missionaries. Even as the disciples made several trips between Jesus and the rows of hungry people, so must we be faithful to give and then return for more. Jesus had plenty for all, and the disciples faithfully served the back rows, too!
A book could, and maybe should, be written about the people and churches that practice faith promise today. A church in Decatur, Texas, that has half of their approximately 120 Sunday morning attenders giving to missions, is supporting 112 missionaries at $80 per month (they want to increase it to $100). The pastor reports that when the people got a burden for missions, their church was revolutionized. The people did not rob Peter to pay Paul. The general fund did not suffer; to the contrary, it grew tremendously. The church is completely debt free. They recently built a fellowship hall and a new parking lot costing $640,000, and it was paid for within seven months! They have sent out their own missionary family, and others will probably be sent soon. A country church near Paradise, Texas, with an attendance of 200 has also caught on to faith promise giving. Traditionally, they gave 15% of the church income to missions. Over time, as their desire to obey the Great Commission grew, they raised that amount to 25% which amounted to a very respectable $60,000 per year. In 2008, the pastor suggested, “Let’s give 25% and also begin faith promise giving.” The first year they gave $120,000. Last year they gave $180,000. They divide each month’s mission offering between sixty-four missionaries, giving each one an average of $234 per month. God has also blessed their general fund beyond measure.
If time and space would allow, hundreds of examples could be given of people—even poor people—around the world that follow the example of the churches of Macedonia. They love Christ and want to make Him known to all. They have compassion for perishing souls without the knowledge of Christ. They first give themselves to the Lord and to His mandate. God puts money in their hands, and they faithfully give it. The need of the hour is not more churches doing what they can do; it is rather letting God do what they cannot do!