Funding For Evangelism and Mission

Jun 28, 2010 | Blog

Lausanne Issue Group #27

This material is an excerpt from a longer article I co-wrote, which can be accessed by clicking here.


Lausanne 2004 … Conference on World Evangelization … addressed many of the key issues facing the church and its mission in this decade.  Participants at the conference were invited to join one of over 30 “Issue Groups,” with each group assigned on a specific topic to present a paper reflecting their work.  Group #27 was asked to address the issue of “Funding For Evangelism And Mission.” 
Group #27 consisted of 27 ministry leaders representing several types of ministry and various countries.  The majority of the participants lead ministries in what is commonly called “the developing world.”  The Group was co-led by Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks (USA) and Dr. MacMillan Kiiru (Kenya).  Dr. Charles Roost (USA) and Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks (USA) served as co-editors of this article. 

The Challenge:

God often chooses to use the resources of this world to accomplish His work.  Human resources and financial resources seem to be those most significant in the work of the church.  History proves that funding for evangelism and mission is very important for the work of the kingdom.
The funding of evangelism and mission has hosted both great achievements for the benefit of the kingdom and significant pain and economic abuse within the body of Christ.  As was demonstrated in Christ’s ministry and the life of the early church, money is a God-given tool for catalyzing mission but when used without integrity and good stewardship it has the potential to create significant harm.  
The challenges faced in the funding arena seem to fall into three categories:

1. Shortage of funds to accomplish reasonable goals.
2. Misuse of funds on the part of ministry personnel and organizations.
3. Distortion of biblical principles and standards in fund development.

The Current Scene In Mission Funding:

The current environment in funding evangelism and mission is generally characterized by a vertical, top/down arrangement where the money from donors “trickles down” to the recipient organization or ministry.

This vertical model, because of its hierarchical nature, has created major problems within the body of Christ.  The donor has been reduced to a “source” for funds.  The ministry organization has been reduced to “operators” of fund raising schemes primarily related  to organizational budgets.  Missing in the model is the character that honors biblical principles for the effective use of God’s resources to accomplish His purposes.  The top/down relationship within the body of Christ disfigures stewardship and cries out for redemption and transformation. 

A New Model

What is required is acceptance of the proper theology of funding and subsequent practices that will point the church to fulfillment of the task of evangelism and mission while affirming the equality of all believers and unity within the body of Christ.
The challenges in funding evangelism and mission in the current environment can be traced back to the lack of an adequate theological framework for the role stewards as they manage financial resources.  In the absence of a comprehensive theology and a reflecting set of principles for financial resources, the world of non-profits has fallen prey to ineffective models and strategies characterized by the following:

1. Lack of a functional theology regarding fund development and resource management.
2. Lack of mutual understanding, effective strategies and clear funding models concerning the biblical relationship between giver and receiver.
3. An assumption of limited local resources available to the emerging church and the lack of effective leadership in the management of resources.
4. Education and training that is sufficient . . . 
                     …in stewardship and fund development at both ministry leadership 
                     training institutions and local congregations.
                     …for funders in mission strategy.
                     …for mission agency executives and their development staffs.
5. Attitudes of dependence on the part of receivers and co-dependence on the part of providers.

The new model, strongly recommended by Lausanne Issue Group #27 “Funding Evangelism and Mission,” changes the way giving and receiving is perceived, approached and accomplished.  It is recommended with the understanding that such a major paradigm shift will not be easily adopted.
This model, called the “Mutual Commitment” model, is horizontal in structure, placing all parties in the fund development effort on an equal plane.  In this model, all believers enjoy an equal standing before the throne of Christ.
This new model can best be understood in the reorientation of five key concepts within giving and receiving: stewardship, relationship, accountability, dependency and the role of intermediaries. 


Unfortunately, most teaching on the subject of stewardship takes place in the church when there is an urgent financial need.  “Stewardship” has become the inappropriate synonym for “fund raising.”  As such, it is true impact is lost in the struggle of funding. 
Closely attached to the fund-raising misconception of stewardship is the assumption that stewardship is only for the “rich.”
A steward is anyone who manages resources that are owned by another.  Stewardship, then, is the exercise of resource management.  It is a trust given by the owner to a trusted manager.  That trust includes provision of assets for management and a set of guidelines or expectations as to what is to be done with the owners assets.  The effective steward understands that some day a report must be given to the owner as to how those resources have been used.
Scripture clearly indicates that God owns everything.  This being true, every individual’s possessions, be they little or much, are not owned by the individual but by God.  The wealthiest oil barren in the middle east owns no more than the impoverished resident of one of the world’s mammoth slums.  Every person is simply a manager of what God owns.
Stewardship of God’s resources in harmony with His purposes universally runs counter-culture to our humanity.  We want to own.  Ownership is a highly valued secular economic principle. Yet stewardship, not ownership, is God’s design.
How then does one become a mature steward?  The biblical record is clear.  The workshop in which stewardship, (the management of another’s resources) is matured is in the workshop of giving.  “It is better to give than to receive.”   Giving, for most people, is a discipline that matures into a grace.  For some, it is a gracious gift of God’s spirit.  The grace and gift of giving have little to do with quantity, and everything to do with the steward’s effective management of God’s resources.
The role of Christian leadership in the fund development journey is greater than meeting the budget.  The donor is more than a potential source for more money.  He is a steward, learning and growing in the grace of giving.  The ultimate goal of the receiver, as funds are sought, is to stimulate that stewardship maturity, rather than just wring another dollar out of the donor’s pocket.  The solicitor of funds, whether directly related to the receiving organization or an intermediary, will increasingly benefit from the potential of the donor only as that donor is blessed with the full impact of the joy of using God’s funds for those efforts that are close to His heart.  The donor becomes a partner in ministry, not just an “absentee landlord of economic potential.”  It is the growth of the steward in the grace or gift of giving that unlocks his potential for significant financial, prayerful and personal involvement, not the clever manipulation of a message from the receiver.
As the steward grows in stewardship maturity, the desire of that steward will be to more completely understand and identify with the ministry, the receiver.  This produces the quality of commitment that unleashes lay energy for expanded ministry.  It also opens the ministry leader to a broader responsibility for constructive accountability and communication that feeds stewardship growth. 
In the “Mutual Commitment” model for fund development, all parties in the transactions related to God’s resources give and receive so that each participant is more qualified than before to manage God’s resources in a manner that reflects His value system.  In such a commitment, the giving and receiving is elevated to a true spiritual act and freed from the potential of manipulation and abuse. 


We are members of the Body of Christ and as members we are all interconnected.  When one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers, and when one member of the body succeeds, the whole body succeeds (Romans 12:4ff; I Corinthians 12:12ff).  It is also imperative for us to remember that the Lord is especially pleased with us when we serve “the least” (cf. Matthew 25:40,45).
As members of the Body we have all been endowed with God-given resources, differently and unequally.  God provides differences to require sharing in the Body life of the Church.  God’s resources are given for a purpose:  for the common good, and particularly for the task of the Great Commission.
As members of the Body, we have a horizontal relationship with one another:  not of the have and have-nots but as members of the body of Christ; not of the superior to inferior but as brothers and sisters in Christ standing together at the foot of the cross; not of those from the North and those from the South but as citizens of the New Jerusalem.  It is in this family relationship that true fellowship in ministry takes place.
The “Mutual Commitment” model dictates that in giving and receiving, relationship must be of utmost importance.  In this relationship we are bound by the following:

Our relationship must never be defined by, nor become limited to, the mechanisms of financial transfers.  Relationship value reflects the Body of Christ, not some economic standard or potential.
The remainder of the article (click here) focuses on accountability issues and outlines an implementation strategy. I welcome your comments.

LeBron Fairbanks
June 28, 2010

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