As a church planter, I dreaded fundraising. I grew up in an Indian immigrant community that knew the ache of hunger. They left the land they loved and traveled to America so their children would not experience the same kind of vulnerabilities they did. Their stories of God’s faithfulness often recalled the ways he carried them from lives of poverty to prosperity, as seen in their children having education and career opportunities not afforded to them.

Additionally, I knew the way people spoke of Indian pastors. In the state of Kerala, where I was born, there were rumors of people who became pastors because they were not smart enough to become anything else. And because they didn’t have another trade, it was assumed that if a pastor came to visit, he would likely ask for money. 

Therefore, to be a pastor was to be vulnerable. It meant returning to the kind of vulnerability that my community left behind. The kind of vulnerability that ran counter to the stories they celebrated, counter to the dignity they now had. And I wanted no part of this. But then God called me to plant a church, to face my fear of fundraising, and find dignity in what I once dreaded. I never realized how doing so would prepare me for the ministry ahead.

Show Us the Way to Courage

The church planter’s journey is paved with vulnerability. Fundraising is merely one example. Every opportunity for traction is also an opportunity for rejection. Asking people to join our core team carries the possibility they won’t. We ask landlords to lend us their spaces, city officials their permission, and local businesses their friendship. And in most of these scenarios, we sense that we’re the ones in need and everyone else is in a position to provide. God called me to plant a church, to face my fear of fundraising, and find dignity in what I once dreaded. Click To Tweet

In that sense, fundraising becomes the training ground for dealing with the vulnerability that permeates our ministry. We learn to find courage when we sit across from someone we’re tempted to believe holds the cards and determines our church’s fate. Over time, through success and failure, we discover that the only path to courage is to fear God alone. We learn to regard him, not them, and not ourselves, as the most decisive person in every conversation. 

Show Us the Way to Dignity

I don’t know if I truly believed that God called us to plant a church until I had to ask someone else to believe it. That’s when I had to determine whether it was worth it. Was it worth asking others to invest their resources? Did I believe enough in the vision, was I convinced enough of the call, to swallow my pride and scorn the shame associated with asking for money? 

Many of the people we pastor will find their worth in their wealth. They’ll equate God’s favor with their comfort, security, and ability to avoid financial vulnerability. As a result, we’ll spend a considerable amount of time showing them a better way: that our identity is in Christ, our dignity secure, and God is the source of our stability.

Therefore, is it any wonder that God leads church planters to embody these truths before we instill them in others? That he requires us to walk the arduous path of discovering for ourselves where our dignity lies? That he teaches us first that, while those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion because there is One who sustains us all?  

Show Us the Way to Pastor

We assume fundraising is a necessary evil to our real calling. But it prepares us for the vulnerability we will consistently experience and provides an opportunity to confront the ways we think about money, power, dignity, and stability. We begin to embrace vulnerability, knowing that God is positioning us to behold his grace and power.

We assume fundraising is a necessary evil to our real calling. But it prepares us for the vulnerability we will consistently experience and provides an opportunity to confront the ways we think about money, power, dignity, and stability. Click To Tweet

And in this process, God helps us relearn how the world really works. We gain the conviction to tell others that they really can seek the kingdom first—and not the added things first—because their Father in heaven feeds the sparrows of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, and they are worth more than many sparrows. 

But even if they don’t seek his kingdom with us, if God calls them to invest elsewhere, we need not be afraid. For if he remembers sparrows that are purchased for two pennies, how much more will he remember the church planter whom he purchased with the life of his Son? We can still call others to partner with us, knowing that he will show us the way to courage, the way to dignity, and through it all, the way to pastor. 

Jason James
Written by: Jason James on mai 3, 2022

Jason James is the pastor of New Hope Church in Harlem, New York. He serves on the advisory council of the Advance Initiative. You can follow more of his writing on Substack.

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