What does it mean to support a missionary?

A big part of my current role as a missionary is raising and maintaining support. That word “support” gets thrown around a lot, what does it mean? And more than that, what does it look like?

To find the answers to these questions we can look to another missionary who had a church that supported him. Paul, the author of Philippians (and many other New Testament books for that matter!) wrote a support letter to a church. We can learn a lot about what it means to support a missionary in this letter, especially in the last verses, verses 14–23 of chapter four. Paul outlines what it means to support a missionary, here are some takeaways from that text.

1. Support is a partnership in God’s mission.
In 4:13 Paul says he can do all things through God who strengthens him, but in the very next verse he writes, “yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” God could have provided for Paul is any way He wanted, but He chose to do so through a community of believers who believed in his mission. The Philippians shared in Paul’s trouble. They were truly partners, not just in name only. They were active sympathizers. I’m sure this meant they shared prayers, encouragement, affections, time, money…everything that a real community shares together.

These partners, Paul and the Philippians, were participating together in God’s mission. Verse 22 throws a side glance at this mission, where Paul writes that believers from Caesar’s household greet them. How could people of Caesar’s household become believers? Through Paul’s mission work, the same work the Philippians are a part of. God is doing something and we get to be involved, some in going, some in sending. Both roles are necessary and need each other.

2. The practicality of support doesn’t make it any less spiritual.
Paul is in prison when writing of this letter. That meant he needed clothing, food and money. These are really basic needs and don’t feel very “spiritual”. But this is what Paul needs and this is the trouble that the Philippians shared in. Most of the time writing a check or sending gifts don’t feel very “spiritual” but they are necessary. But this everyday kind of living is how God normally works, isn’t it?

Baptism, the sign of a spiritual re-alignment and God’s adoption is simply the submerging in or pouring of water. The Lord’s Supper, the symbol of Christ’s broken body and his blood, is merely bread and wine. Christ’s parables of the kingdom of heaven were agrarian based, literally earthy.

Support is practical, yes, but support is more than a euphemism for money. There’s clearly a spiritual aspect. Paul calls is a sacrifice and offering to God in verse 18. Giving to Paul was a way the Philippians could give to God. This is no less true today.

3. Giving is how we grow.
In verse 17, Paul isn’t so much concerned with the actual giving as much as he is concerned about their growth. This pastoral turn teaches us that supporting a missionary isn’t just about the missionary, it’s about the supporter, too. Remember, this is a partnership is every sense of the word. The generosity of the Philippians is evidence of the Spirit’s work in their lives. Generosity is hard because it requires faith and trust in God. Generosity isn’t hard because we have to give up stuff. The giving up of stuff itself isn’t the issue, it’s the underlying question: will I be provided for? Paul anticipates this question in verse 19 and gives us God’s promise that He will supply our needs.
The Christian, perhaps more than anyone else, has the foundation to be the most generous. Because our supply is according to Christ’s riches, we know we will always be cared for. To live as if that’s true means to live generously with all God’s given us. Not just money, but our time, our prayers, our affections and relationships, everything.

This letter to the Philippians doesn’t just teach about support, it also gives encouragement to the support they have already given. He praises the generosity of the Philippians as he teaches them about it. I can imagine Paul’s heart swelling with love and pride over this church that supported him when nobody else would. I can imagine Paul running through his head the names of the people in that community, and as he does so he feels the love of God. These people have shared in my trouble, they have given to someone who will probably never see God’s work through Paul with their own eyes.

I can imagine Paul’s situation because I often find myself there. When I think of everyone who supports us through prayer, finances, places to stay when visiting, etc., I am truly overwhelmed. The line I often use is you all believe in me more than I believe in me. Thanks to everyone who is sharing in our trouble, who share in God’s vision of seeing more churches planted, who want to see people come out of the darkness and into the light.

We are in this together and it’s a joy to be here with you all.

As Paul wrote years ago in verse 20:
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Day One

This is it, the first day of my new position. I am officially a Church Planting Resident at Riverside Community Church. My new office doubles as a storage space for chairs, and I’m actually not even there now because the desk is shared with some other people. Still I can’t help but feel excited. My work environment may be a little utilitarian, but, hey, this is church planting, people.

The first day of anything is easy to romanticize. It’s hard for me not to think of grand possibilities, not just in this year, but after my residency is up and the actual planting process begins. It’s also hard for me not to dwell on all the events, good and bad, that God used to direct me here. So in between the future and the past, I’m here now thinking of my new desk, surrounded by other people’s paperwork and other people’s chairs. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

New city, new church, new friendships and new risks. New fears, new disappointments, new sufferings and new mistakes.

The first day of anything is easy to romanticize, but I don’t care, I’ll do it a little anyway.

Transition Time

a poster made by our friends

a poster made by our friends

The latest update from us has just been emailed out. If you aren’t on that email list and are interested, you can sign up at tinyurl.com/willsonlist.

We are less than a month out from making the move to Columbia, South Carolina. We’re also getting closer to our support goal, we’re right near 80%. If you’d be interested in helping with that gap, here’s more info.

You can read the email update online here.

Sacrifice Is Good For Us

In the previous post, we looked at the call to sacrifice, primarily using Romans 12:1 as our jumping off point:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

So we know we’re called to do it, but we often don’t think it’s a good idea to sacrifice. Sacrifice is often a burden and we do it out of some kind of inner guilt trip.

altarBut sacrifice is actually good for us. It’s something that’s in our best interests, as strange as that may sound. That sounds strange to us because freedom is one of our gods. Because sacrificing something means giving up doing something we want to do…surely that can’t be a good thing, right?

Continue reading

The Call to Sacrifice

With raising support for my upcoming church planting residency, I’ve been thinking and talking more about sacrifice recently. I’m calling people to sacrifice and we’re sacrificing in new ways. What does that call to sacrifice really look like, what does it really mean?

Romans 12:1 says this:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

cathedral altar

Cathedral Altar

We are a sacrifice. And not just once, but continually, this is how we worship God. I heard a quote the other day that said the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keep crawling off the altar. A living sacrifice is one that requires constant attention.But do we even get what a sacrifice is? For us rich people living in the first world, we often think sacrifice is what we do with the overflow. After we’ve had our fill, if there’s something left over, we will give it away. We’ll call it a sacrifice then feel good about ourselves. But that’s not a sacrifice at all. Continue reading

Dots on the Horizon

Our new place in Columbia!

Our new place in Columbia!

The newest update is out. If you aren’t on that list yet, you can join up here: tinyurl.com/willsonlist. I send monthly-ish email updates out and would love for anyone to read them and pray through it with us. It takes a community to build a community.

For us, things are starting to materialize- even literally, with finding a house to rent (pictured at the right). Plans are being made, things are coming together. Financial support is coming through, though we still need to raise 30%. God is good and He provides, and that’s what we’re leaning on. You can read the newest email here.

Halfway there!

I just sent out our newest email update…wait, you’re not on our email list? Sign up here! The exciting news is that we are officially over the 50% mark in our fund raising. It has been incredibly exciting to see how God has been providing for us through His people. Practically every meeting or conversation we’ve had has been so encouraging, God keeps telling us that we’re on the right path. If you weren’t on the email list but wanted to read the update, you can check it out here.

We continue to be amazed and humbled at the generosity of all who are in this adventure with us. And even though the giving of time, prayers, money or anything else goes to me and Christina, it doesn’t end with me and Christina. It goes out to others, to those who are far off, to the homeless, the wandering and the thirsty. This is bigger than us. Indeed, even bigger than a church plant. This is God’s Spirit moving in the world for His glory. Praise God for allowing us to play a (small) part in it!

Jumping Off

I created the website. I drafted the first support letter. So…we’re really doing this?

Christina and I have been through some trials the past couple of years that severely eroded our safety and security in this world. So why in the world would we want to get into church planting? Why would we leap off the cliff of stability into the rocky world of planting a new church? Surely it’s not because we are extraordinarily heroic. In fact, we can probably say that it’s because of our recent trials that we feel led to go this way. God often uses times of intense suffering to draw us closer to Him. 2 Corinthians 1 teaches that as we share in suffering, we also share in His comfort. Continue reading