How many financial appeals do you receive each week? Two? Six? How many do you receive a month? A dozen? Or have you stopped counting?
A lot of sincere people are frustrated, confused, and sometimes angry about the increasing pressure of these many appeals.
So, what is a concerned Christian to do?
One thing we should not do is classify all appeals as promotional rubbish and reject them all. Why penalize the valid organizations because of the high-pressure methods of the religious salesmen? Wherever you find something genuine, you will often find the counterfeit as well; but nobody throws away his good money because he knows fake money is in circulation.
Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to those faithful ministries that want to keep in touch with us. How else could they share their message and help us become a part of their burdens and opportunities?
As never before, we Christians need to know what is going on in the world of Christian ministry. The fact that so many options are before us makes it that much more important that we keep in touch with these ministries.
But how do we know which ministries to support? Receiving information is one thing, but writing checks is something else!
The Local Church
To begin with, our first obligation is to our local church. No matter how many other people may bless us from the Word, our own pastor is our shepherd, and he ought to have our spiritual and financial support. No radio or television preacher can do for us and our home what our pastor can do, if he is faithful to the Lord.
If every church member is faithful in giving to his or her own local church, our churches will have more than enough for their own ministries and enough to share with other ministries around the world.
Second, we can’t give to every ministry or support every work—nor does the Lord expect us to. He can direct us to those ministries that He wants us to “adopt” and support. Over the years, we may be drawn to certain works and workers that we feel the Lord has selected for us. While we appreciate all the fine Christian organizations, we may be able to give faithfully to only a select few, and it becomes a joy to have a closer contact that enables us to see their ministries grow.
Many believers support missionaries and schools primarily through their local church’s mission budget or denominational program, but not every good work is on the church budget! We should put our church first and then, as the Lord directs, share with those people and ministries He has laid on our hearts.
The Lord’s Direction
This leads to a third suggestion. We should sincerely seek the Lord’s direction in our giving. Where we give what God provides is very important, because giving is a two-way street. Paul made this clear in Philippians 4:10–20. Sharing in the Lord’s work involves “giving and receiving” (v. 15) as well as “fruit” that is credited by the Lord to our account (v. 17). For this reason we should know the ministries we are supporting and have confidence in them. Nobody can afford to waste the Lord’s money by giving to organizations whose purposes and practices are not biblical.
Try not to be influenced by slick promotion and highly emotional appeals. Find out the doctrinal position of the ministry and the kind of people who serve on its board and staff. Ask for a copy of their most recent audit or financial report if you have questions about their financial responsibility. If they refuse to send it, you can pretty well conclude that the work cannot be trusted. If the organization is a “family affair,” you have another reason to beware.
There is no substitute for dependable information. If you were going to put money into a bank or get involved in some kind of investment, you would certainly get all the information available before making a decision. Giving to Christian ministries is a “spiritual investment,” and you have every right to know something about the people who receive your money and what they are going to do with it.
A Broader Vision
Here is a fourth suggestion: We should keep our “spiritual investment” balanced. Christ has commanded us to take the gospel into the whole world (Mark 16:15), so we should not limit ourselves to one work in one part of the world. Nor should we focus only on evangelism, as important as that is. The Great Commission commands us to get churches planted—“baptizing them” (Matt. 28:19). We are also to provide for Christian education—“teaching them” (v. 20). Other Scriptures remind us that it is Christlike to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.
As Christians, we want to encourage social work that is related to the gospel; there are plenty of secular agencies to do the other. This is not to suggest that digging wells, encouraging agricultural improvement or building clinics of themselves are not Christian ministries, if they are done in the name of Christ. It is just that these good works, apart from the gospel, leave the person better off physically but give him no spiritual help. It isn’t a matter of either/or but of both/and.
After You Give
Here is one final suggestion: We should back up our giving with prayer and keep in contact with the various ministries to learn what our giving has accomplished.
No successful businessman makes an investment and then forgets about it. He reads the financial pages daily to see how strong his investment is, and he keeps in touch with his broker. If the Lord directs you to give to a special need, find out if and when the need was met. Expect reports from those to whom you send your money. As an investor you have every right to know the problems as well as the successes, because you want to “water” the seeds of your giving with prayer.
It Takes Faith
If you follow these simple suggestions, the Lord will direct you in your giving. When the various appeals arrive, you can spread them out, read them carefully, pray, weigh them, and have an exciting time discerning the will of the Lord. You will probably find yourself especially burdened for certain kinds of ministries, and these will become very dear to you over the years. You will discover that you will grow as you become partners with others in reaching the world for Christ.
After all, we who give must live by faith, just as those must to whom we give. It is a partnership of faith. If God doesn’t provide, we can’t give; so the ministries are praying for us even as we pray for them. What a thrilling thing to be a part of this kind of fellowship! The potential for blessing is tremendous! i
Reprinted with permission from the booklet “Where Should You Give?” Copyright 1998 by Back to the Bible. All rights reserved.