The relationship between missionary and supporters is based on shared eternal values, sacrifice of time and effort, and a vision of ministry. They pray, worry, and rejoice together.
The relationship between the missionary and his converts is made special by the sacrifice. The missionary pursues resources, prays earnestly, forms partnerships, questions and confirms his vision, and revises his methods, all the while envisioning the converts that might be reached. Imagine what those converts mean to him!
We are partners, servants, and children of God. We stay close enough to be certain about His will. We share His passion and follow His direction. We take for granted blessings such as air, water, and sunshine, but not ministry support. Easy, automatic providence would not help, but would impoverish, our relationship with God.
God “owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine;” and, as Uncle Bud Robinson said, “all the taters under the hills.” However, He has placed much of this wealth in the hands of His people, whom He calls to be faithful stewards. If God’s wealth is not getting into the hands of His workers in the harvest fields, who is responsible for the lack?
In Haggai 1:4 God found fault with His people because they spent their money on “ceiled houses” (comfortable, perhaps even lavish, homes) and neglected the rebuilding of the temple. One British missionary returned home and, in services that he held, noted the fine clothing and homes of the people. He estimated in his journal how many mission churches could be built with the money that purchased such finery.
Are we more concerned for our comfort than for the salvation of the lost?
The resources for missions primarily come from people obeying God’s prompting to give. While some might say that the problem is that people are not listening to God, is the only issue that “people just need to give more?” I believe that whatever God calls into being, He sustains. “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply,” Hudson Taylor said. If there is an apparent lack of resources, then perhaps we need to examine the rest of the equation. Are we truly doing the work that God has called us to do? Are we doing it in the way that He would have us to do it? It may also be that God is leading us to radically identify with the poor to whom He has called us to serve. Our standard of what is “needed” may need adjusting. Wherever the problem lies, it is surely not with God.
We need a symposium on this and related topics! The “use of resources” is a topic we need to properly look at in an open, transparent manner asking tough questions. Why do so many of His laborers work with so little? 1) Limited Vision: Too often we do not embrace an enlarged, dynamic vision. Thus, we have not because we ask not. 2) Dedication to the Cause: Most workers are so dedicated that they are willing to try to do a lot with limited resources. “Little is much when God is in it,” is the theme many workers embrace. 3) Tied in very closely with #2 is that God gives according to a person’s ability. God has endowed His workers with creativity. One way of glorifying Himself through His workers is when we use creativity . . . again, to do MUCH with LITTLE. To GOD be the glory!
Is it possible that:
1) We “have not, because we ask not”?
Sometimes we try to accomplish God’s work in our own strength instead of asking God to provide. He has the resources, but we fail to ask His provision.
2) We are not in tune with God’s purposes?
Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” If God is not providing for a work, perhaps we should ask, “Is this what God wants us to do? Is this the way He wants us to do it?”
3) God’s people are not responding to God’s call?
God works through people. The resources are His, but He has given us stewardship. He “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” – but He doesn’t butcher the cow Himself; He uses us! If God is not providing, perhaps He is waiting on His people to respond to the need.
We regret that, because of increasing demands in his pastoral ministry, Dr. David Fry has decided to withdraw from the panel of writers for our MissionSpeak page. Thank you, Dr. Fry, for your insightful writing and challenging perspectives!
Dr. Randall McElwain has graciously accepted our invitation to contribute to MissionSpeak. Having read this page regularly with interest, he will now add his own viewpoints to our monthly questions.
Randall is a teacher (Bible and music at Hobe Sound Bible College), writer (Shepherds Global Classroom study courses, Herald and Banner Sunday School lessons, contributor to Wesley and Methodist Studies Journal, God’s Revivalist, and others), and accomplished musician. He has twenty-five years of experience as a pastor and teacher, including service in Taiwan and teaching courses in at least seven countries.
Married with two grown children, Randall travels almost every summer to offer classes in cross-cultural settings.