There are a number of notable ‘fundraising stories’ in the Bible: Moses’ fundraising for the tabernacle (Ex.25, 35 & 36); David’s fundraising for the temple (1 Chron. 29:1-20); Hezekiah’s fundraising during his reformation of the temple (2 Chron.31); Nehemiah’s fundraising for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh.1 & 2); Paul’s fundraising and instructions on giving for the early churches (1 Cor.16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Phil.4:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). All these stories can be mined for the ore vein of insights and principles on fundraising.
Let us focus on Paul’s fundraising in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, and draw some Scriptural principles for raising money for the church or ministry work.
First, we find that Christian fundraising is SPIRITUAL. In Paul’s fundraising in the Corinthian church, he sets the Macedonian Christians as an example of Christian giving. He says that ‘they [the Macedonians] FIRST gave themselves to the Lord’ (8:5). He then urges the Corinthian churches to abound in giving JUST AS they abound in Christian faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love (8:7).
The important principle here is this: The people from whom fund is sought are to be urged to give themselves FIRST to the Lord. Their Christian GIVING must be consistent with and part of their Christian LIVING. Their FINANCIAL life must be part of their SPIRITUAL life.
When Christian giving goes together with Christian living, several dangers in fundraising for the church or Christian organizations are removed. It removes the danger of seeking only money from people; it removes the danger of the church or the ministry becoming unduly indebted to givers, especially big givers.
It removes the danger of big givers having an excessive influence on the church through their giving (givers who give themselves first to the Lord are humble, non-manipulative givers); and it removes the danger of churches and ministries deliberately seeking funds from non-Christian or sub-Christian sources.
Second, Christian fundraising is SOLICITATION. Paul says that his asking for financial and material support from the Corinthian Christians was ‘not a command’ (8:8). He also says that the Macedonian Christians gave ‘entirely on their own’ (8:3). Christians, he again says, must not give ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’ (9:7).
This means that Christian giving cannot be coerced; it can only be solicited. While funds can be sought and urged, the giving itself must be voluntary. This principle is a warning to churches and church groups against becoming coercive and manipulative in raising funds for the church and its projects.
For Paul, there is no warning of punishment or curse; no compulsory deduction of salary; no prophetic utterances of his fundraising being ‘the Lord’s program’, or the like.
Third, fundraising for the church must be SACRIFICIAL. Paul says that the Macedonians gave generously out of their ‘great ordeal of affliction’ and ‘deep poverty’ (8:2), and that they gave ‘beyond their ability’ (8:3).
Paul also uses the sacrifice of Jesus in urging people to give sacrificially. In verse 9, he says that the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’.
This means that our giving must also be sacrificial. Christian giving must pinch us financially and materially. Our giving must make us poorer materially and financially. It also means that while soliciting funds, we should not make false promises that givers will be blessed materially and financially even more. They may or may not.
Another principle that can be drawn from here is that, just like the poor Macedonians gave generously, the poor and the oppressed must also share the responsibility – and blessing! – of giving to the Lord’s work.
Solidarity in Giving
Fourth, fundraising for the church must be out of SOLIDARITY. Paul’s fundraising from among the Corinthian Christians was for the Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor.16:1-6). He had also instructed the Galatians to give to the Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1). The poverty-stricken Macedonian Christians were also begging and urging – but begging and urging, not to be given to but to give. Why? So that they might be participants in the support of the Christians in Jerusalem (8:4).
The point is this: Gentile Christians stood in solidarity with Jewish Christians through their act of giving. Giving and receiving among Christians is a demonstration that we have become one in Christ, whatever our racial, ethnic, linguistic and other differences.
It’s also important to note that Paul was not raising funds for himself. He was raising funds for others. Here’s the principle: Funds must be sought and raised not just for our own churches, ministries, and needs, but also – perhaps, even more – for other fellow believers and churches. Raising funds for others in the work of the Lord and supplying funds for others in the work of the Lord is an act of solidarity with others in the body of the Lord.
In sum, Christian fundraising must be SPIRITUAL, SOLICITATION, SACRIFICIAL, and out of SOLIDARITY. This, I submit, is SCRIPTURAL fundraising.
And, by the way, Paul did not sell lottery tickets to raise money for the Lord’s work!
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