ArticleChurch Life & Ministry

How to Give to Missions After You Have Been Burned: 8 Fresh Ideas for Responsible Missions Giving

Just one bad experience can hurt a person’s view of missions, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from finding healing to try again.
“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

This is a biblical reality that all Christians strive to implement in their own lives—cheerful giving.

But we also live in a fallen world. That means that sometimes, the ministries we support let us down—even that God has led us to give to support. Whether due to burnout, poor management, or selfish ends, this is a reality the church has always had to face:

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former, however, preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can add to the distress of my chains” (Phil. 1:15-17).

How can we respond to God when we have given to ministries that let us down? Here, we’re going to look at eight God-glorifying ways we can recover from a bad experience giving to missions.

1. Ask God to guard you from cynicism

Our first response to a bad experience giving to missions will be to develop skepticism toward missionaries—maybe even a cynical bias or stereotype that all missionaries are crooks.

But let’s take this back to the basics. Jesus was a missionary on behalf of the Father (John 3:16). The Apostle Paul was a missionary. There are good missionaries. In fact, many of them are perfectly competent at managing money and succeed in staying on the field for the long haul, producing much fruit.

Take the Apostle Paul’s command to heart: “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (Rom. 14:13).

Paul himself experienced hurt in the context of ministry: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds” (2 Tim. 4:14). But that didn’t stop him from ministering to people. Neither should one bad experience giving to missions be a seed of cynicism that prevents your joyful participation in God’s mission to reach the nations with Christ.

The book of Proverbs says: “the righteous give without sparing” (Prov. 21:26). Don’t allow one bad experience to shave a sliver of generosity out of your life.

2. Ask friends who they’re sponsoring

If you’re lost for where to begin giving to missions, ask a trusted friend from church what are some trustworthy ministries to which you could give. Proverbs says: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Prov. 3:27). What ministries exist that align with your heart and your ability to give that could amplify the gospel into the darkest places in the world?

3. Ask God to place a specific cause or people group on your heart

Again, Proverbs says: “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25). Ask God to place on your heart a particular people group, country, or need, and then find and fund someone who has been consistently and reliably addressing that cause.

Be patient and keep your eyes open. We live in a lost and hurting world, and there is no lack of venerable causes in need of funding. Prayerfully seek God, pray over his Word, and ask him to give you a heart for an opportunity that expands Jesus’s Great Commission and the missionary work of the early church, beginning with the 12 disciples.

4. Support missionaries through a credible missions agency

A good missions agency will not only vet its missionaries—it will give them the resources they need to see their mission through in the long term. If you are looking for a missionary to partner with who will leave a legacy with the lost, the first place you should look is a credible missions agency like ABWE.

At ABWE, we list all our missionaries and projects in need of support. Pray over them. Ask God to give you a heart for one of them. Sign up for updates, and when you are ready, partner with that cause to the glory of God.

5. Build a relationship first

If you are reluctant to partner with a missionary again, try starting with a relationship. Ask to Skype (if they are able), or begin a slow email correspondence that gives you a better sense of their heart for missions, their reliability, and whether they are doing the kind of work your are looking to support.

6. Ask missionaries what their goals are

In building a relationship with a missionary you are looking to support, one window into their mindset for God’s kingdom is to ask: “What are your specific goals?”

The Apostle Paul writes that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9).

  • Have they put thought into exactly what God’s purpose is for their ministry?
  • Are they intending to reach a particular people group?
  • Do they have goals by which to measure whether their methods are working?

Paul writes to the Philippians: “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2). Discern whether you, and the missionary you intend to support, are “intent on one purpose” so that your joy may be complete.

7. Set up criteria you’re comfortable with

Determine for yourself what boxes a missionary needs to check in order to fund them.

  • Do they need to be doing particular work (Bible translation, medical missions, etc.)?
  • Do they need to have a specific theological belief?
  • Do they need to be reaching a specific people group?
  • Do they need a certain track record of proven consistency in order to make you feel comfortable with supporting them?

Honestly answer this question for yourself. It’s not less spiritual to be wise about how you support your missionaries. Once you have found a missionary that checks the right boxes, let your conscience relax and cast suspicion aside. Trust them with your financial, your prayers, and your Christian hope that God is doing good work to grow his kingdom in the world, even today.

8. Give as an act of resistance against resentment

God does call us to give. Christians who don’t give are somehow spiritually misaligned.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Not only does it make God glad when you support missions, but it’s actually the most effective way to grow the kingdom of God in our world. Proverbs says: “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great” (Prov. 18:16). Your financial support could be the very thing that “opens the way” for a missionary to grow their ministry results from good to great.

Conclusion

Nobody likes bad experience. Nobody likes broken trust.

But God loves a cheerful giver.

When we’ve been burned by a bad experience, this is harder. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s still something we should strive toward, because as Christians, it is in our best interest—and in the best interest of the church—to align our hearts, minds, and wallets with God’s delight.

May God prompt in you, and in all of us, a heart of hope for his global kingdom work, even in a dark world where things don’t always work out.

Again, skim through the ABWE projects and missionaries in need of support through ABWE. Prayerfully consider supporting them. This could be God’s moment to get you back into grace-filled habit of giving.

About the Author

P.C. Maxwell is a writer and theologian. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor’s in biblical languages from Moody Bible Institute. He resides in the Chicago area with his wife and contributes regularly to ABWE’s blog and communications strategy.

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