Steve Wallace


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White Unto Harvest

Managing Funds in the
Mission Field


In this article we focus on a sometimes neglected subject. When we speak of the responsibilities of a preacher in the mission field the emphasis is often on preaching the truth, zeal for the lost, etc. However, the Bible also teaches that a preacher has the responsibility of seeing to the proper use of the funds churches or individuals have given him for his work. Concerning the funds collected for the saints at Jerusalem, Paul wrote:

    And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches; and not only so, but who was also appointed by the churches to travel with us in the matter of this grace, which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and to show our readiness: avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us: for we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Cor. 8:18-21, my emph., sw)

There are a number of areas wherein Paul and his company might, had they been careless, have been blamed in the matter of the money churches had contributed. Likewise, there are things that brethren need to consider today regarding the use of funds in foreign fields. Let us notice some.

Some Areas Where Care In Managing Funds Is Needed

  1. Allowing yourself to be gouged for services. The first time we went to Lithuania we caught a taxi from the airport to our hotel. When we arrived at the hotel the driver said, "Five dollars." This was many times over the normal fare for a Lithuanian. Being slow on the draw, I paid it. The hotel, finding we were Americans, immediately adjusted their prices accordingly. The price was about 25 times higher than the one we had been quoted when making our reservations! (We stayed there only one night.) These experiences are a microcosm of what one may expect to experience in various places in Eastern Europe and in some other countries as well. If one is determined, he can overcome most attempts to gouge. Have an interpreter call the taxi's central offices and find the actual rates they charge; then calculate accordingly. Find a place to rent which is looking for business and will not charge you more because you are from the West. (For longer stays we have found private flats to be much more reasonable than hotels.) Just because we can raise the support does not justify paying too much for services (Luke 16:1; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Mentally prepare yourself for responding to those who charge you more because you are an American. Don't let them gouge you!

     

  2. Willingly overpaying for services. In many countries where one might labor, the standard of living is far below that to which we have become accustomed here in the United States. This naturally leads to feelings of compassion and pity for local citizens. Upon finding the price paid for a given service to be far below what we might expect there can be a temptation to overpay. We would all admit that our custom of tipping allows some differences in judgement as to how much we might pay in any situation. However, we need to remember: When we are working in a given place it is not our purpose to raise the standard of living of the people with whom we conduct business. Also, there is the very real danger that, as people are overpaid they will raise their prices accordingly. Due to market forces alone we have seen prices spiral astronomically in Lithuania during the time we have worked there. To meet these increases we have had to raise the amount of support we seek. If you needlessly pay more now, you will have to raise more money to pay yet more in the future - and so will men who follow you in that field!

     

  3. Raising too much support for a preacher in another country. When the time comes that you consider one of the converts from your labors to be worthy of support, proper consideration of his actual needs must be given. This can be difficult. For example, in Lithuania, the income of many doctors and teachers is extremely low. (I have known men who are qualified for these professions that have sought work in other fields.) Hence, we cannot always use common American standards to determine fair wages. The Bible teaches, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). However, care must be taken to not be too generous in our estimation of a brother needs to "live." Legion are the cases of brethren who have been spoiled by too much support.

     

  4. Being too ambitious with projects. Probably all of us tend to think big in terms of the desired results of our labors. However, we must be careful to not think too big. Efforts have been made which cost a good deal of money and did little good. Experience has taught me that there are a number of projects which I should have either handled differently or never have started in the first place. Before launching into a given project, it would be wise to seek the counsel of other brethren with experience in foreign work. They may save you time and money. Remember Jesus' teaching about counting the cost (Lk. 14:28-32). Look before you leap. Much money has been wasted in overly ambitious efforts.

Conclusion

There are many needs in other countries which can only be met by the financial contributions of brethren in North America. (This is an understatement if there ever was one!) That having been said, it is tragic to note how many churches and brethren have soured on supporting overseas' work because of either the actual abuse of funds or the fear thereof. Further, all would lament the bad that has come from unwise use of funds. Let us all do our best to take care in our use of the funds we raise for mission work "avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us" (2 Corinthians 8:20).


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