Giving Beyond Your Ability: Funding the Great Commission (3)

My last article on funding the Great Commission looked at a great example of giving by the churches in Macedonia. Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 8:3 mentions that these churches “gave according to their ability and beyond their ability”.  As I’ve thought about this “beyond their ability” phrase, numerous anecdotes come to mind of how I’ve seen people give “beyond their ability”, which I will share here. Also I will offer a few observations about “giving beyond our ability” to fund the Great Commission.

“Faith-Promise” Giving

Based on 2 Corinthians 8:3 and the broader context of chapters 8 and 9, some churches and Christian organizations promote the idea of “faith promise giving” as a way of funding the Great Commission.  The basic idea is that a person is encouraged to make a faith promise to give a certain amount to world missions over the next year.  Sometimes this phrase is used.

“In dependence on God, I will strive to give for the missionary work of the church _____ every month for the next year.”

It is also made clear that this contribution is made by faith and apart from the regular tithe – no robbing Peter to pay Paul here – trusting God to provide the means to give “beyond one’s ability”, based on God’s promises such as 2 Corinthians 9:8:  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” Or Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. “Faith promise” giving actually sets up a faith adventure for those who take up the challenge.

Examples of giving beyond what you are able

I’ll start with a personal example. Back in the 1993 my wife and I made a faith promise pledge to give $225 to Wycliffe Bible Translators over the next year. We did not know where these funds would come from, but we believed that God could and would provide.  Not a week later my father called and said he was coming by to bring me $200. He sold two rifles that we inherited from my grandfather, which I had forgotten all about, and $200 was my share. Boy, was I surprised! Our faith promise was largely met.  Then I sold some furniture what we were not able to use any more for $25. So in less than a month I was able to happily write a check for $225 and send it to Wycliffe, rejoicing in how God had provided means for us to give “beyond our ability.”

Since then I’ve seen and heard of other ways God has provided to give “beyond what you are able”

In 2005 I was asked by the Austrian representative of Wycliffe Bible Translators to write a chapter for the Romanian edition of Neil Pirolo’s book, Serving as Senders, for which I gathered a number of stories of how Romanian believers, who are no means materially rich, learned to “give beyond their ability” to world missions.

The Peniel Youth Conference in Romania regularly challenges young people to make a faith promise pledge to give to world missions. One year four hundred young people at this conference made a commitment to send a young man to Afghanistan as a missionary.  They pledged $850 per month and kept the commitment! Those who make such pledges have seen diverse way by which God provides. On one hand, God impresses some to sacrifice in order to save back money for missions by renouncing soft drinks or fasting a day a week.  Others discover ways to earn additional income for missions.  One young lady made a faith promise pledge at the Peniel Conference, having no idea where the money would come from.  A friend admired a bookmarker she had made and asked if she could buy one.  Others asked to buy bookmarkers too.  In a few moments she earned two Euros — her pledge for that month.  She realized that she could make and sell these bookmarkers to fulfill her pledge.

A small village church in Hunedoara has been sending $80 per month to a missionary in Chad for some time.  These people are not rich by any means but contribute what they can.  A widow lady from this church declared, “I don’t have much, but I have some chickens.”  She sells extra eggs and vegetables that she cultivates to contribute to the missionary work in Chad.

A representative of the Romanian Evangelical Church tells about Gabriel, a seven-year old boy.  One evening, at the end of the church service, he came to give a member of the missions committee some money for missionary work in Zambia, money that he saved over some period of time from his state assistance and other pocket money he received from others.  The representative was amazed when he opened the envelope which Gabiel gave him and found 1,000,000 lei. ($35) The member of the missions committee was astounded!  “I don’t know how Gabriel, the beneficiary of state assistance, a member of a family with modest financial means, was able to save such a sum, and what is more amazing, to give it all for missionary work.”

When I asked our administrative assistant, Alina, to share devotion on 2 Corinthians 9 at a missions seminar our team was hosting, I did not expect to hear her story of how God provided for her to give “beyond her ability”. It was our custom to increase her salary each year to keep up with inflation (which at the time was averaging over 8%/yr.) and to also give her a years-of-service bonus. Since Alina was content with her salary, she joyfully gave the increase to the Lord’s work.

The last few years I lived in Romania, I was involved in a building a school building for Bucharest Christian Academy. We had seen God provide miraculously for this project over many years. By 2011 the school had enough money to purchase property and raise the shell of the building debt free.  As the building project advanced, it seemed beneficial to install windows and doors to make the shell of the building weather-tight and secure. So in the middle of October 2011 we launched a campaign called See BCA Through, with the goal of raising $58,000 to pay for the windows and doors, trusting God to provide “beyond our ability” for this good work.  Donations began to come in from many unexpected sources – and in several cases people gave beyond their ability.

  • A former student gave the first $100.
  • The senior class gave 90% of the money they raised for their senior trip – $3350!
  • A BCA family then matched the seniors’ gift.
  • A kindergartner sold jewelry he made and earned $55 for the school
  • The 1st and 2nd graders sold plants and flowers raising over $200!
  • Friends and relatives gave generously – many who had never seen our school.
  • Churches responded positively to a challenge to give 1% of the goal – or $580 – and often exceeded it.
  • And BCA received one anonymous gift for $18,000!

By February 2012 BCA exceeded its goal of $58,000 – donations coming in from over 60 sources. The entire BCA community felt that God had provided in a miraculous way. It was exciting to see the faith of the students grow during this campaign! In retrospect, if there had not been this need to exercise faith, the students would have been robbed of a rich opportunity to see God provide abundantly and to learn how to “give beyond their ability”.  Also this “little” fund raising project was the tipping point that made it financially feasible to complete the building by November 2012.   So at the dedication service I felt it fitting to share “Thus this building stands as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

By the way, our family saw God provide for us to “give beyond our ability” for the BCA building project. For example:

  • Any money we found lying on the streets – a surprising amount – went into a jar we affectionately called “God’s Money”
  • My wife and children made and sold tortillas and bagels.
  • My wife enjoys crafting and was able to sell some of the things she made.
  • Neighbors insisted that I take some money for fixing things in their homes. That too went into the “God’s Money” jar.

And thus we were able to “give beyond” our ability to BCA.

A Final Observation

In all of these anecdotes of “faith promise” giving, I see two common elements. First is God’s ability to provide for his work. That should not surprise us – for he has promised to do so – but the means God uses to provide for his work do indeed surprise us and build our faith.

The second element has to do with the heart of the giver. In each these situations, people could have chosen to “consume” their unexpected blessings on themselves– but instead they chose to give it to God’s work, valuing it more highly than their own needs – or greeds! Cultivating this “Kingdom-first mindset” will go a long way towards funding the Great Commission.

How have you seen God provide abundantly so that you can give beyond your ability?  You are welcome to share your story here.

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