Becoming a missionary is daunting by itself. But then there’s the topic of money.
Fear of support raising keeps countless individuals from embracing missions. Some are simply intimidated by asking for money. Others question whether support raising is even biblical.
It’s one thing to show that there’s some biblical basis for missionary support raising. It’s another thing to actively recommend it as a best practice. After all, many would prefer to get a salary and not have to worry about building partnerships. But what is God’s best?
We believe support raising is not only biblical but is also the most effective way to build one’s faith and experience God’s faithfulness.
To see how God works through support raising, consider these five passages below.
1. Luke 10:1-8
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way, behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.
When Jesus sent his disciples throughout Israel, he gave them interesting instructions. They weren’t supposed to bring their own physical provisions. God would provide.
While this passage doesn’t require missionaries today to leave their wallets and suitcases at home, it does illustrate the fact that God wants to get credit for providing for his workers. Other parts of the New Testament also encourage ministers to be willing to work for a living so as not to be a burden (see 1 Thessalonians 2:9). But at the root, God claims responsibility for giving full-time ministers what they need, whether at home or abroad, and he wants them to rely on him in faith. This is why support raising is often called “faith support.”
2. 1 Corinthians 9:9-14
For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?… Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
The New Testament shows us how Paul made a living during ministry—how he made tents in Corinth (Acts 18:1-4) and how he chose not to draw a profit from his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:15). But this passage shows us Paul’s explicit teaching. And in those clear instructions, Paul says that every gospel worker has the right to receive compensation.
According to God’s word, ministry workers should be paid. Therefore those who engage, by faith, in support raising should not be ashamed to make the “ask.”
3. 3 John 1:5-8
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
Here the Apostle John applauds the church for supporting traveling gospel ministers. He then says that by supporting people like them, we become “fellow workers for the truth.” Clearly, John was a believer in the local church—or churches—providing for those in ministry.
The type of support John is talking about is more than just financial support, but it is not less than financial support. Note the phrase “accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” The idea is that, rather than rely on pagans to provide for their material needs, these ministry workers chose to rely exclusively on God and his people. So, the biblical picture of support raising is that it includes not only prayer and encouragement but also a person’s livelihood.
4. Philippians 4:14-19
And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except only you. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Paul writes as the recipient of the Philippians’ generosity. Not only does he express gratitude, but he implies that he wishes other churches were also partnering with him—not so that he’d have more, but so that they’d experience the spiritual benefits of partnership. And to drive the point home, he expresses confidence in God’s ability to provide through Christ.
While it’s a great blessing when a church can single-handedly support a missionary, it’s interesting that Paul wants to partner with more than one church. The biblical model for raising support does not limit someone to only receiving help from one congregation.
5. Romans 16:1-2
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
Another critique of support raising is that the model depends on connections with wealthy individuals (friends, family members) rather than leaning into the local church as a whole. But Paul does not condemn wealthy individuals for giving, nor ministry workers from partnering with them. Rather, he speaks highly of Phoebe, a wealthy woman so, from what we can tell, was single-handedly supporting many.
From these verses and others, we have seen that biblical support raising must be done in faith, that ministry workers are worthy of financial support, and support partnerships can (and perhaps should) extend across multiple churches and donors.
If support raising makes you feel nervous, turn back to these passages and ask God to build your faith as you build partnerships.