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If you’re called to full-time ministry, you know the day is coming—if it hasn’t already—when you will have to raise financial support. When I think about support-raising, I hear faint ominous chords playing in my ears. Okay, that’s somewhat facetious, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.

[pullquote]Let’s face it, raising support can be daunting, and I have yet to meet an individual eager to take on this sanctifying endeavor.[/pullquote] With this in mind, I have pondered the question: are there unique challenges within the African-American community that make raising support more difficult than for those in other communities?

Yes.

I have identified three potentially critical hindrances within the African-American community that could compound the already difficult work of support-raising: finances, distrust and lack of awareness. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good starting place.

Finances

It is no secret that the income and wealth levels of African-Americans have been disproportionately lower than our Caucasian brothers and sisters. According to CNN Money, “White Americans have 22 times more wealth than blacks—a gap that nearly doubled during the Great Recession.” Although this gap narrows as education levels increase, we still have a long way to go before it closes.

Debt is another concern for the African-American community, regardless of education level. Moreover, among African-Americans, there is a correlative relationship between higher education and debt incurred to finance that higher education. Consequently, saving money becomes increasingly difficult and discretionary income is negatively impacted, because many in our community are saddled with debt.

Distrust

Among some within the African-American community, there is an undercurrent of suspicion and fear that support money will be used for selfish gain rather than kingdom advancement. This suspicion is not unfounded. Rather, it is commensurate with the litany of pastors—both black and white—who have fleeced the flock for their own financial advancement. One needn’t look any further than the infamous Jim Bakker, whose insatiable desire for money gave the church a proverbial “black eye.” Her bruise is healing, but it still remains visible to some within and to those without.

Secondarily, some fear can also be attributed to the proliferation of the “prosperity gospel” and “word of faith” movement by false teachers who tear asunder the hopes of God’s elect and ride roughshod over their finances. This “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6) teaches its adherents to sow “seed money,” in order to “activate the harvest of the Lord” and “position” themselves  for unprecedented financial blessings from on high.  Unfortunately, many who have “sowed a seed” in hope, reaped thorns and thistles, which have left them jaded, disenchanted and suspicious of legitimate gospel-centered ministries and missions.

Lack of Awareness

[pullquote position=”right”]It is embarrassing and sad, but true that I once found myself ignorant of the biblical grounds for supporting missionaries and Christian ministries.[/pullquote] I had grown up in the church my whole life, but had never been taught that giving was one of many implications of the Great Commission.

In some churches —not all, but some—within the African-American community, there is a lack of teaching on support-raising and giving to missions. However, the biblical support abounds in both the Old and New Testaments (Num. 18:8-14, 21-24; Matt. 10:9-10; Luke 8:2-3; I Cor. 9:3-14).

Not until I joined my current church did I learn the biblical theology of support-raising. I met with one of my elders and his wife (both urban Philadelphia missionaries) and they helped me understand the important role it plays in our sanctification and spread of the gospel.

Hope

Although the hindrances above may seem insurmountable, I assure you they are not. Our faith and hope do not lie in man, but in God (1Pet. 1:21). He brings about his desired end despite our best efforts. We can also find hopeful truths in all three of the hindrances.

The problem within the African-American community is not that we are averse to support-raising.  On the contrary, reports that African-Americans give more generously to the community compared to their Caucasian counterparts. This is encouraging news for those who need to raise support within this community.

Whether we are lacking or have abundance, we all need to remember our call to faithful stewardship (Matt. 25:14-30), because all that we have belongs to God (Deut. 8:18; Ps. 24:1).

We can pray that God would exchange fear for peace, suspicion for trust, disenchantment for encouragement, and eyes to behold anew the glorious beauty of the gospel and the awesome weight of the cross. Undoubtedly, a complete unlearning of the prosperity gospel’s teaching on giving as well as a re-learning what 2 Corinthians 9:7 describes as the “cheerful giver” is essential.

[pullquote]Communication is key in building relational trust.[/pullquote] The same is true for the Body of Christ. It may prove helpful for a church body to partner with a local missionary or church planter who regularly communicates—via quarterly newsletters or presentations—the fruit that has come as a result of the church’s partnership. Even if there is some residual hesitancy, God willing, at the very least, the constant communication may begin to restore lost trust.

Spreading Awareness

Let’s combat lack of awareness through teaching. [pullquote position=”right”]It is incumbent upon the pastor to teach the whole counsel of God, which includes support-raising wherever the biblical text warrants such teaching.[/pullquote] Again, prayer is indispensable in this area as well, because the combination of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Writ are able to simultaneously convict and convince us concerning the truth of what is being taught.

Personally, I am encouraged to know that there is fertile ground for support-raising in the African-American community. We are a people whose only hope has been inextricably tethered to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This hope does not disappoint; it is unparalleled, otherworldly, eternal, and everlasting, because of the One in whom we hope. So let us lift our gaze to the One who is able to “make a way out of no way.”

Questions:

If you are an individual seeking to raise support, what challenges have you faced?

Have you been approached by someone seeking to raise support for their ministry. If so, have you struggled with giving financial support? Why or why not?

 

Resources:

  1. Support Raising Solutions is a ministry that equips believers with the necessary tools and strategies to raise support effectively.  Check out their website to sign up for their “Support Raising Solutions Bootcamp.”

  2. A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri J.M. Nouwen is a book highly recommended for its piercing insight into the heart issues that surround fundraising.

  3. Funding Your Ministry by Scott Morton is a book chock-full of godly principles and practical insights for those who are seeking to raise support.

Ekemini Uwan is a public theologian and co-host of the Truth’s Table Podcast. Her insights have been quoted by the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. You can find more of her writing at www.sistamatictheology.com and follow her on Twitter @sista_theology

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