Over the last century, there have been numerous missionaries who have boarded a plane or boat with insufficient funding.
Is that a great step of faith? Is it an unhealthy testing of God? Is it a wise, informed decision?
This week I visited with a young man who is thinking about working overseas for a few months. I asked him if he had all the funding he needed, and he brushed off the question saying that he has faith God will provide.
Part of me wanted to thank him for his faith, and another part wanted me to offer a word of warning. On the one hand, we never want money to be our sole guiding factor. Money controls an unhealthy amount of our lives when we make every decision based on the Almighty Dollar. On the other hand, I know from experience that many people have failed in their missionary work because they didn’t secure the funds they needed before departing.
What would you have done?
The Complicating Factors in the Missionary Funding/Faith Discussion
1. A lack of funding can waste kingdom resources.
There have been far too many people who headed overseas without necessary funding. They walked forward on faith trusting God to provide. Within months, they were back on U.S. soil because they ran out of money. At that point, they discerned it wasn’t God’s will for them to be missionaries. Did God plan for them to stay, and was going a flesh act more so than an act of faith? Either way, it was an expensive experiment.
2. Does God use a lack of funding to communicate his will?
Some people see a lack of funding as a closed door. Others see it as an obstacle God has put in front of them to help grow their faith.
Both of these ideas are appropriate forms of discernment.
Personally, I’m not convinced God has a specific city he wants us living in at a specific time. As such, I wouldn’t read too much into the lack of funding initially. However, if I didn’t have the funding after more work, I’d probably drop the idea because wisdom dictates that if God isn’t blessing an effort, there’s probably something else a person should be doing.
3. Testing vs. Trusting
This is the most dangerous concern about going overseas before your funds are raised. In the Bible, testing is a dangerous thing that is only requested on the rarest of circumstances. How does one differentiate between walking by faith and putting the Lord our God to the test? I’d prayerfully consider the fact that getting on a plane without all the funds is very close to testing God.
4. If God and/or his Spirit can provide there, why not here?
I’ve heard people say they don’t want to prepare a sermon beforehand because they want the Spirit to direct their words. A teacher in college once said, “If God can direct your words on Sunday, can’t he also do it on Wednesday when you prepare your lesson?” If a person has faith that God will provide, why doesn’t that faith include that fact that God can provide on U.S. soil?
On the one hand, I know that some missionary organizations require a certain amount of funding before missionaries can go overseas. That seems like a reasonable balance. God has to affirm the decision by allowing some of the funding to happen before departure, but there is room for additional giving to happen afterwards. On the other hand, I know a lot of good kingdom work has been done by men and women of faith who went before they had everything they needed.
What do you think? Should missionaries go overseas before they have all their funds? Should we cheer on young people who want to go overseas without money, or should we caution them?