The past three years of church planting have revealed some areas where I lack gifting. But the work has also revealed other areas of gifting in me. One area of surprise giftedness is fundraising.
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners on both sides of my family. Early in planting, I viewed fundraising as the easy way. Simply asking for a handout instead of grinding on my own. My great-grandma even taught us a saying, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” I was a functional atheist when it came to fundraising.
When failure, even despair, began to creep in, I had to press into allowing my theology to infiltrate my efforts at fundraising. God is sovereign, God is generous, God uses those with more to help those with less. I needed to not just believe but walk in the reality that if it’s to be, it’s up to God. As I did this, I discovered a natural bent and gifting toward the work of fundraising.
Here are three realities I reckoned with as I more fully embraced the call of a church planter to be a fundraiser:
1. Fundraising is connected to joy.
A few years ago at the Acts 29 national conference, I heard a quote from Ross Lester that has been permanently burned into my memory: “Money is missionary ammunition.” We are in a cosmic battle and the only victory belongs to Christ. Through trust in him, we get to share in his victory over sin, Satan, and death. When someone inherits this victory through repentance, the angels of heaven party with much joy (Luke 15:10).I was a functional atheist when it came to fundraising. When failure, even despair, began to creep in, I had to press into allowing my theology to infiltrate my efforts at fundraising. Click To Tweet
New believers get the joy of their own salvation (Ps. 51:10–12) and we get to witness this eruption of joy on the frontlines of church planting. When fundraising, we get to cast the vision that each penny is directly connected to the salvation of souls and the joy that instinctively follows.
Additionally, Paul shows us it’s not just the joy of the Father, the angels, and the saved. It’s also the joy of the giver and the one doing the work (Phil. 4:10–20). Being the ones who get to preach the gospel, watch supernatural life happen, and have the privilege of discipling new believers is the fuel of joy for planters. And we get to tell our generous financial partners that this gospel work is credited to their account (Phil. 4:17). Fundraising is intimately tied to joy.
2. Fundraising initiates the work of legacy.
Our church recently celebrated our second anniversary. By every measure, we are in infancy. Still, we’re planting with the next century in mind. One day the name, pastors, and the location will change, but the gospel and mission won’t. As we fundraise, we are initiating the next century.
I like to think of it in stages:
- Starting: The starting stage is expensive. All the legal fees, design fees, equipment costs, banking fees, and more. We want future generations to inherit a church with a solid foundation. We fundraise to make sure this happens.
- Surviving: The early days are full of financial insecurity. Plainly, new believers need to be discipled into generosity. As we experience spiritual momentum, financial maturity slowly follows along. Financial partners ensure that we survive through these early years and enable us to do the spiritual work without fretting over the finances.
- Sustaining: Depending on how growth goes and the context we live in, our internal giving slowly replaces our external giving. Financial sustainability is one of the most important markers that move us from being a church plant to a church. Continuously fundraising makes sure this sustainability becomes a reality as we don’t have to prematurely close our churches due to a lack of funds.
- Stewarding: As we become sustainable, we get to move into the space of stewarding. We get to (not have to!) increase in our own generosity, so we move from the receiving end to the joyfully generous end. Our church has begun to move there. In addition to 10 percent of our budget being allocated for missions, we have generously given to several local and global works. Our church now gets to experience the joy of watching two churches in Colombia move to sustainability as we financially support them.
- Succession: Finally, when the current pastoral team of Story Church eventually moves on or retires, we want to hand off a church that is debt-free, wildly generous, and about the work of multiplying. We fundraise with this day in mind.
3. Fundraising is both strategic and worshipful.
Our motivations matter in fundraising. When we see fundraising as both strategic and worshipful, we discipline our hearts to have proper motivations.
The strategy is to plant a gospel outpost in a place that needs it. The souls of our city seeing the beauty of Jesus and following him is the pursuit of every church plant. It’s not about moving faster, getting yourself paid, and viewing partners as piggy banks. It’s about fueling the good news of Jesus Christ into every corner of our target area. So we should set goals, have accountability, be diligent, and cast vision, but do it with the proper motives—sinners repenting and parties in heaven.Our motivations matter in fundraising. It’s not about moving faster, getting yourself paid, and viewing partners as piggy banks. It’s about fueling the good news of Jesus Christ into every corner of our target area. Click To Tweet
The foundation of that strategy is understanding that fundraising is worshipful. God is honored and glorified in our fundraising. How? He gets to flex. God has an endless checking account. He owns everything and has no need (Ps. 50:10). And when we fundraise, God gets to show how wealthy, generous, and benevolent he is. When our fundraising goals were not only met, but exceeded, we didn’t walk with a strut, we hit our knees with glad hearts full of worship. This worship has undergirded us in seasons of plenty and seasons of famine.
Our two Acts 29 sending churches, Foothill Church (Glendora, California) and The Village Church (Flower Mound, Texas) have been wildly kind to us in the work of fundraising. They’ve shown us that fundraising is deeply connected to the Father’s heart for his children. He desires to meet our needs and for us to grow in dependence upon him.
We know this in a salvific sense: Jesus has met our needs of righteousness and the only way to this righteousness is by depending upon Christ in faith. Do we know that God also desires to meet our needs and have us be dependent upon him in fundraising? When we fundraise, we are simply swimming in the stream of the Father’s heart for us.