Letter from Joseph Tkach — September 2012

Posted by colin on September 14, 2012 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am often approached by people asking me to help them financially in their ministry. Most who ask for help are sincere and believe in what they are doing. They remind us that they have “stepped out in faith” and are “relying totally on God” for the means to continue, and they are often doing so in dangerous circumstances. The letters are heartrending and the need is usually genuine. But, have you noticed how this can have the effect of sending the rest of us on a guilt trip?

Have we stepped out in faith? Do we risk life and limb daily, living in poverty, wondering where our next meal might come from? Have we, as the epistle to the Hebrews asks, “resisted unto blood” (Hebrews 12:4) for the sake of the gospel? And since the answer is (for most of us)  “No,” it can leave us feeling that the people who do this have a superior kind of faith. So the least we can do, and should do, is support them.

There is something wrong with this picture. Recently a friend sent me a short article that was written some years ago by the Scottish theologian William Barclay. Barclay built a reputation for his practical and no-nonsense approach to the Bible. I’d like to share one of his daily devotionals about giving and responsibility:

Recently I received a letter from abroad. The writer said that he had given up a good position in life to become a missionary. He had no financial resources, but that did not worry him. Somehow or other he got all he wanted; God never let him down. Then the letter went on to say that this man had heard of certain books. He would like to have them. Would I send them to him “complimentarily” or, to put it crudely, for nothing? Of course, the man got his books: I was very glad to send them to him.

But the incident set me thinking. People who rely on faith for everything, who never think of money, who trust God for everything, are in a very curious position. They are, in fact, completely dependent on people who do think twice about money and how to earn it.

A person goes out on faith; he needs money, a check arrives, but that check has come from someone who had to think about how to earn and to save and to handle money with a sense of responsibility.

William Barclay makes an important point, one that we should never forget, that applies whether we are asking for donations or giving them. A work of faith is a partnership, between those who are on the front line doing the work, and those who support them “behind the scenes.” One is not more important, or in any way superior to the other. As Barclay explained:

Those who are dependent solely on faith oddly enough are dependent on those who don’t have that particular kind of faith. For the paradox is that, if everyone was dependent on faith, there would be no one to supply the money to answer their faith!… For if God wants to send money, he has got to get someone with money to send it.

What Barclay is discussing here is good stewardship. Both those who ask and those who give need to think responsibly as partners in that work of faith. The asker must never think of the donor simply as a source of funds, to be tapped whenever there is a need. Those on the asking side have a duty to use donations carefully, making themselves accountable not only to God, but to those who support them. They should not use emotional influences to persuade their donors to give more. You get letters like this sometimes – begging – almost demanding help “or else this very work of God may fail.” So potential donors are left feeling accountable for the crisis.

We who ask must remember that those in a position to give generously have learned to use their money wisely. It is theirs to use as they wish, and those who ask for help do not have an automatic right to it. The Bible, while reminding us that “God loves the cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) also has much to say about the importance of responsible stewardship.

When I write these letters, I realize I am in the position of the “asker.” I want you to know that I do not take your generosity for granted. I deeply appreciate that in these tough economic times you are wise stewards, who, as Frank Sinatra used to sing, make sure that “even when my chips are low, there’s still some left for givin’.”

We at Grace Communion International will do our part to use your donations wisely in administering our worldwide work, as outlined in our GCI Statement of Financial Stewardship (learn more by going to www.gci.org/aboutus/financial or contacting us directly). By working together, in partnership, we can continue to reach out to an anxious and hurting people with the gospel of grace.

With love in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach President – Grace Communion International

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