It was with frustration and a bit of anger that I read an article today about a megachurch pastor in Texas, Bishop Hilliard, who asked his congregation for “seed” gifts to help him upgrade his helicopter with new blades. Yes. You read that right. He even went as far as using that old prosperity gospel ploy of promising that those who give will see some kind of financial breakthrough in their lives within 52 days or weeks if they give. You can read the sickening story here: http://bit.ly/1bWItvE.
I confess that I feel the frustration over this kind of thing more so, perhaps, than others because I am also a person involved daily is raising money to fund my ministry—in my case, a media ministry targeting difficult and challenging countries where the Gospel is rarely heard or even allowed. I talk regularly with people about our work asking them to come aboard as supporters to fund our ministry at whatever level they can afford and feel comfortable with. Now let me be honest, it can be frustrating work. Twenty percent of the people I talk to become supporters—and I praise God for every one of them. But 80 percent do not. That means I spend a lot of time reaching and presenting to people, the majority of which will not help us in any way. They don’t upset or frustrate me in the slightest—and that’s the truth. People need to give where their hearts lead them and that’s not always with my ministry; I understand that. What is frustrating is to see that when people like Bishop Hilliard ask for money to upgrade his helicopter, many in his flock will give for such a luxury item—and expect God to reward them financially for doing so.
Meanwhile, people are going to hell.
Does that sound harsh? You see, I can understand upgrading a helicopter or a plane that is used in difficult areas to transport missionaries or Bibles or relief supplies or medical supplies and so on. Need new blades for that? No problem, where can I sign up? Blades for a copter for your use that doesn’t do these things? May I suggest you take a taxi? For ten years in Mongolia my family took taxis and hitchhiked everywhere they went and it wasn’t always a safe ride.
The average missionary, like me, isn’t getting rich off the donations of his supporters. He isn’t living in luxury and stockpiling cash or getting the latest vehicle fitted with all the latest gadgets. And he’s certainly not equipping himself with planes and helicopters. So when he approaches you and asks for help with travel for additional training, or to an area for an outreach you can be sure that he means one thing: real ministry is to be done. There are people to be saved and discipled. There is suffering to be soothed, hurts to be addressed, even lives to be saved. There are people to be snatched from the gates of hell, and no, that’s not an exaggeration. This is serious work and none of it happens without the prayers and financial support of generous donors whether they give $10 a month or a thousand.
My friend, every single day people are dying and going to hell. What more important work on earth is there than to rescue men and women from the terror of a godless eternity? Our love for the lost compels us to go wherever we must go and do whatever we must do to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.
Except for rare cases, helicopters are not involved.
What will you give to save the world? You can give Bishop Hilliard his $52 to fund new blades for his helicopter. But is that really a wise use of your money? I can point you to a lot of ministries where that money will make a real difference in people’s lives, like International Justice Mission. How about sending that $52 to free a woman enslaved by a human trafficker? When I give that’s the ministry at the top of my list to support. That’s what moves me. How about relief supplies through Samaritan’s Purse for war-torn areas or hot spots for natural disasters? They even fly children to the US For heart surgery. They’re also high on my list. Ministries like these are addressing real human suffering but also sharing the Gospel at the same time. How about supporting a missionary with Cru? Cru missionaries are bringing it to almost every country in the world, winning millions of people to Christ annually. That’s millions snatched from the gates of hell. I’m a Cru missionary but every month I also support another Cru family understanding the strategic importance of the work they are doing in challenging areas of the world.
What are you willing to give to save the world—a few dollars? That’s easy, how about your whole life? That’s what we need. We need people willing to live and die to reach the world for Christ. Men and women who know that no price is too high to pay to rescue people from a fate worse than death. I’m pouring it on pretty thick, aren’t I? That’s because this is a message we don’t often hear anymore. But it desperately needs to be heard.
So let’s get practical. You want to give to ministries that are making a difference. So how do you know if what you are giving to is the real deal? Let me close with five things to look for in a ministry. Don’t be afraid to ask your church or ministry if they are doing these things. And don’t settle for a simple yes, ask for the evidence—a report, stories of changed lives, or get the numbers. You have a right to know that the money you are investing in the Kingdom is doing exactly what it should be doing.
1.) Does the ministry tell people about Jesus?
A ministry that isn’t telling people about Jesus can’t rightly be called a ministry. Our primary commission in life is to take the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20)
2.) Does the ministry teach people about how to grow in and live for Jesus?
Studies show that if a new Christian doesn’t receive some measure of discipleship within the first ten weeks of coming to Christ that most, 80 percent, will fall away from their faith. Jesus said to make “disciples.” A ministry that doesn’t disciple is birthing spiritual babies and leaving them on their own.
3.) Does the ministry plant churches or establish other ministries or projects that reach more people, like orphanages, education centers, community centers, or daughter churches?
In Cru we call some of this “spiritual multiplication.” If the impact of your ministry is totally dependent upon the missionary then something is amiss. Those who are reached must be growing and also reaching others for Christ.
4.) Does the ministry alleviate human suffering?
Not all ministries do this. Some are focused primarily on proclamation ministry. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if a ministry does alleviate human suffering make sure they are sharing the Gospel at the same time. Because without the Gospel you can feed a hungry man but he can still go to hell.
5.) Does the ministry live within its means?
Does the ministry live in luxury? Are there huge six or seven figure salaries drawn from donor dollars? Do you see a problem with that? Are most of the funds going for admin costs rather than real ministry, tools, and outreach? This is why I like Cru so much, the vast majority of funds are used for ministry with a minimal amount used for administration. And nobody’s getting rich off your gifts.
For a third time I’ll ask, what are you willing to give to save the world? Most people who will read this article are not involved in ministry giving above normal giving to their church. So if you’re already giving to a ministry like what I’ve outlined don’t feel attacked. But for the rest of us, we should take that question seriously to heart. There’s a world to be saved and to be downright honest, compared to the world most of us are rich. We can afford an extra $100 here and there to help change the world. So why not make a real difference in the world, for someone’s eternity, and do it?