Today, TEAM Chief Advancement Officer Arnie Adkison shares his thoughts on the privilege of fundraising.
I travel quite a bit in my line of work. When you talk to strangers on an airplane, there are very few things that tend to shut people up faster than saying “I’m a pastor.”
“I’m a fundraiser” is definitely one of those few.
Fundraiser is right up there with used car salesman and lawyer when it comes to negative perceptions. What is it about fundraising that makes it such a cringe-worthy profession?
I think it boils down to a couple of scary myths, and a few falsehoods, coupled with the damaging example of those who have abused the name of Jesus to line their own pockets. But we can’t let myths and bad examples keep us from the truth. As Henri Nouwen explains (better than I ever could) in his classic work The Spirituality of Fundraising, helping people grapple with biblical stewardship is one of the most valuable discipleship tools in our Great Commission kit.
What other topics so vividly expose our personal places of doubt, and our private thoughts of “can I be sold out for God?” like how we handle our money? It’s one of the reasons Jesus talked more about money than he did heaven, hell, or several other important topics.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus begins with the phrase “For it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property” (Matthew 25:14 ESV). The story Jesus tells reflects the real-life situation – God is the owner of all of creation, and he has entrusted a great deal of creation-stuff to humans, as those reflecting his image and doing his work in the world. One day the master is going to return, and he will ask for an account of what we’ve done with his stuff. This understanding of our accountability to God is a huge part of our fundraising work. We’re discipling people into a deeper walk with Christ, a deeper level of joy, a life without bondage to money and things.
Our use of money points to our level of submission to Jesus and reveals how deeply we’ve entered an apprentice-relationship with him. Jesus once said “any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33 ESV). This does not necessarily mean a vow of poverty (although for many throughout the centuries, it has meant that), but that nothing—relational or material—can get in the way of Jesus’ calling on our lives. It’s better to give it up than to let it suck away our spiritual vitality.
Ultimately, there are few things in which a follower of Jesus will find more joy than living a generous life. Jesus did not expect us to give from a purely altruistic soul; he challenges us to think about the rewards we get from generous giving—“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4 ESV). Paul pointed out that the sacrificial giving of the Philippians would lead to God supplying their “every need … according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV).
Fundraising is no “necessary evil” that we must do in order to get to the real ministry. Fundraising, done well, can be some of the deepest, most rewarding disciple-making ministry we ever experience.