Being generous and giving to church and charity is an important quality that Christians encourage each other to do. Giving generously is not only an act of obedience that flows from accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, but it also supports churches and Christian organisations to further proclaim the Gospel.
Out of Christian compassion, giving generously is used to support social action causes in helping the weak and vulnerable. Good giving habits teach and remind us of many good Biblical principles such as being content, blessing others with our blessings and trusting in God about our money and possessions.
In practice, what it looks like with people in my social circles is that we set aside a value or a percentage of our income and then give to church, ministries outside of church and other charities or causes that we may support. At my local church, we would also encourage our youth and young adults to start early and start small in order to build up good habits of cheerful and generous giving.
Recently, I was challenged to think more holistically when it came to giving and generosity.
Two way partnership
Late last year, I attended a supporter's evening for a Gospel worker who was raising funds and looking for partners to support him and his family to do mission at a university.
I was particularly challenged by their emphasis on looking for and (ideally) only wanting to accept support from people who were keen to commit to genuine two way partnerships with them on their assignment.
A two way partnership in giving is where both the Gospel worker and the person supporting the Gospel worker proactively shares, prays, financially gives, promotes and volunteers to the level of commitment agreed upon by both parties.
In the past, when supporting ministries or charities, I have taken a backseat approach. For example, I would set aside some money to give, read a periodic newsletter that gets sent out and pray for the missionary or cause when that newsletter came out. I would not think about it too much outside of those points of contact. This is okay in circumstances agreed between you and those you support.
However, I was being challenged to take giving and generosity one step further and be more involved with them. One way I could do this was to actively share in the joys and struggles of their ministry, similar to how the early churches shared in the joys and struggles of Paul's ministry. It could mean proactively sharing life and prayer points with each other as opposed to waiting for the next newsletter.
Another way was to promote their ministry to my wider social circles. If I knew someone was going to attend that university to study, it would mean letting them know of the Gospel work that is taking place there and encourage them to consider participating in it. Alternatively, if I was in the area, I might organise a visit and spend a day there to join in with the mission work.
How it can work
A proactive, two way partnership in giving is beneficial to all involved. For the missionary, they can take encouragement that they have Christian brothers and sisters who are like minded in their passion for mission in the area they are working in. For the people that partner with them, they are encouraged and reminded of the great need for the Gospel everywhere. They also hear about how God has been working in the lives of the lost.
This experience has also encouraged me to rethink how I go about with giving and partnering with my local church and other ministries and charities that I support. Today, at my local church, I give financially, actively promote and invite people to church and help out wherever I can. However, for another Gospel worker I support, I only chat with them once a year, at most. Am I really partnering with them in their cause?
The challenge for me is to have a conversation with them about their expectations of partnership and then to prayerfully consider whether or not I want to commit to it or respectfully withdraw. This in turn might mean I support less of the ministries and charities, but my aim instead would be to focus my efforts and support on a deeper level than I had been doing previously.
We give to ministries and charities because we have compassion for the lost to hear the Gospel or compassion for those who are afflicted, vulnerable or suffering. In being genuinely compassionate for a cause, our responses can range from praying for it, to volunteering in it, to supporting it financially, or to devoting your whole life to it.
As all forms of charitable giving can be a partnership, how compassionate are we for the causes that we support? In turn, how deep do we want to these partnerships to be? Are we being intentional about who we partner with and what causes we support?
As we seek to bless others with what God has blessed us, let us also seek more wholesome partnerships with the people in the causes that we support.