We need generous gospel giving not poisonous patronage

As a small church we have always depended on others for our financial survival.  We are immensely grateful for the gracious generosity of our partner churches and individuals who partner with us in accepting that where we are we’re unlikely to be become financially self-sufficient.  These partners are prepared to commit themselves and their money to give long-term to enable a gospel presence and witness where we are.  We exist in part because the gospel has influenced these people’s wallets.

It’s a picture we see again and again in Acts.  Be it Barnabas with his generous giving or Paul’s collection for the churches in need.

If we want to reach the unreached parts of Britain with the gospel we need more people, and more churches, to grasp this kind of big-hearted generosity and commit long-term to supporting churches in tough areas.  Too often church planting is targeted at areas of affluence, areas where churches that stick can become self-sustaining financially, ideally within 3-5 years.  But that severely limits where we plant and who we reach with the gospel.  As well as establishing unhealthy correlations between numbers, finance and gospel success(?!?).

The other problem I sometimes see is a poisonous patronage.  An expectation that because I or we give we expect some measure of control, some influence, some say.  It goes back to feudal lord mentality.  The haves hold the purse strings so they give but those strings stay attached to their money.

I am so grateful that those who support our ministry are humble enough and trusting tough to give, pray and encourage rather than dictate because they feel their giving has secured some patronage.  The question the church in the UK needs to ask how do we facilitate more of this type of giving to support more of these types of plants in these needy areas of not just gospel deprivation.

If we are going to train up leaders for these gospel deprived areas we need leaders trained in them and yet it is these very churches that so often do not have the finance to do so.  Most assistant pastor positions are in middle class churches that have the resources to train the next generation.  But with the best will in the world they can only prepare someone so far for ministry in a deprived area and context.  The best place to train more pastors and planters for these areas is in these areas.  What will it look like for the church to grasp this challenge?


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