In the past I have been very concerned about providing too much financial support for anything outside of infrastructural development. You know the buildings and equipment needed for the workers to train and serve.
Over the last few years I have had that concept challenged by what I have seen happening in Iberoamerica. We have organized a large number of events over the years with a key guide in place related to the financing of these events and ministry.
The guiding principle is basically this, “everyone needs to contribute to what is being planned and done.” At first the contributions were set at a lower level with the idea that as people learned the value of what was being done then, over time there would be a growing willingness to commit more finances to the ministry and work being done. Even the members of the Jibacam board contribute to the finances for board meetings and other events. They are expected to raise the money to cover their share of the costs.
The balance is then raised from interested people and churches who want to support the work being done. This has worked well and we have seen a growing willingness of the churches of Iberoamerica to increase their giving. It has a slow process but has been encouraging.
At one point I was thinking that it was time to bring an end to outside support. At some point you need to cut the umbilical cord so to speak. To this end I prepared some fairly complex guidelines for seeking help. They were well structured and laid out. A good set of protocols. But as I thought about them I realized they were designed to prevent the churches from wanting to run the gauntlet to get approval for such action.
I have rethought this and thrown it all in the garbage. Mostly because of all that is happening and the realization that it will be impossible to sustain the work God is calling the region to do if there is not outside involvement.
This has led me to review even what we do in raising funds. We seek out patrons to help us carry out the work. We talk to people, to groups of people, and churches, hoping and praying they will see the need and give, as well as pray. I say patrons because that is what they are. They are giving so we can focus on a key activity, much like the patrons of the arts who give so musicians, artists, and others can do what they do. Without this patronage we would be poorer in these areas.
If you think about this you will realize there are different levels of patronage. Ordinary people can be patrons, based on a specific level of giving. From there the scale ascends. The more you are able to give the fancier your title is and the more privileges you gain. An example, a first-tier giver may be given two free passes to events sponsored by the organization, while a top tier give has a free pass for every event, as well as other perks.
Think of E2E as just this, the chance to make it possible for gifted people to carry out their call. People who, without such patronage, will not be able to use the gifts they have been given by God.
If we apply this concept to missions then the local churches that are sending them, churches in poorer countries, would be the first-tier givers. (Another interesting fact is that the giving tiers are like a pyramid. The lowest level is populated by a great number of people. The farther up the pyramid you go the fewer people there are. Each level may give the same amount but it takes fewer and fewer people to reach that amount.)
Other countries could be involved in the patronage system as well. Each country could represent a tier in the structure. What will be different is that each tier will represent two key differences from the fine arts pyramid.
To understand this let me create a hypothetical structure. First we have the national church that is sending the person, second would be partnering national churches from that region. The third would be other national churches not from that region. In the case of this pyramid being part of a tier does not always define the giving capacity of the group. What it defines is nearness to the sending agency and the one being sent.
The other key relates to responsibility and supervision. This will be different from patronage of the arts where the higher you are up the pyramid the more authority and input you have. It is like a shareholders event. There are a lot of people with few shares and a few with a large number of shares. Who do you think has the controlling vote?
That will be different in this system. It will be the sending church who has authority over what is being done and how it will be supervised. But this needs to be done so that there is still input from those involved in supporting what is done. There always needs to be a process of accountability.
This structure will make people nervous. It should. But managed correctly we could find ourselves creating a system that allows those who have the greater access to finances to make it possible for those with limited finances to go where we cannot go and often at a lower cost.
As you can see my thinking on this concept has shifted from what it used to be. I used to be fully behind the concept of being self-sufficient in relation to finances. And I still am strongly in favor of this as related to the internal operations of a church. But this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about E2E which is clearly different.
Do we have a Biblical example for this? Nothing that seems clear but only hints at this. The first time Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to depend on the generosity of the people where they served. At the end he changed this and told them to take supplies with them. He knew that things would change and there would be a need to find new sources of resources.
Paul used a number of financial plans. He worked and earned a living (Corinth), he depended on local resources (likely in Ephesus), and at time he received help from others (Philippi). On at least two occasions he was involved in raising funds from his area to support the people and work in Israel.
There was no take care of yourself and do everything on your own. It was more we are serving together and we need to discover what will work in every situation so that the work will go forward.
I don’t have a final plan. In fact, I believe we will have to analyze each E2E situation and come up with the best plan that provides the right access to the funds from all the sources available. There is no one plan. What I have tried to do here is open our hearts and minds to the possibility of new avenues of combining what we have to carry out the work in the best way possible.
I hope that is what I have accomplished, opened the door to a greater vision of a united church working to reach everyone everywhere.