I’ve found I really don’t enjoy reading most books more than once–even if I really love the book. But recently, I decided to reread Friend Raising: Building a Missionary Support Team That Lasts written by Betty Barnett. When I first read it in college it was for a class in my minor—I enjoyed the easy read and learned a few things. This time I picked it up with more than a little vested interest.
You see, in several months my family will be embarking on an adventure of trusting God to meet our financial needs outside of a traditional, bi-weekly paycheck. As we begin support raising, I find myself both anxious about whether our needs will be met and also embarrassed to “ask” others for money. However, the principles Barnett shares in her book do much to alleviate both of these emotions as I grow in my understanding of God’s view on money and biblical sharing.
Within the very first chapter, Betty Barnett establishes an important “Kingdom of God” principle that stands in almost direct opposition to our western mindset regarding money. She observes, “Contemporary cultures breed independence and self-sufficiency.” And, it’s true. Much of my hesitation about support-raising has to do with the feeling that we are not taking responsibility for ourselves. As Barnett develops her line of thought she quickly points out that God’s economy has never been about human autonomy and self-reliance. In fact, it is just the opposite. God’s economy requires dependence on God and even a level of interdependence on others. She points to the fact that both Satan’s original sin and Adam’s original sin rest on a wicked choice to step outside God’s boundaries in an act of independent defiance. When Christ came teaching the kingdom and its new principles, he taught “Apart from me, you can do nothing” and “Love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:5,12 The New Testament church is an interdependent body abiding together in the vine—Jesus Christ—and loving one another as we are loved by Christ.
How does that relate to money?
So, naturally, the next question to ask is how this relates to money. What is our responsibility towards each other as believers—or towards those with physical and financial needs? Surely, we are not to foster irresponsibility or laziness. For example, even in 1 Timothy 5:5 we see a caution to only help those widows who have been devoted to doing every good work. I like how Barnett clarifies the issue of personal responsibility, “Interdependence does not avoid responsibility, but rather assigns it to diversified activities. It is not a matter of self-preservation, but of preserving and furthering a mutual work. For instance, I am responsible not only for my work, but also for ours!” So, the missionary is a “sent messenger” doing the work of the entire church body that cannot “go.”
Dependence on God, Interdependence on Others
Barnett challenges the missionary, “We, therefore, must consciously break independence in our own lives, and conscientiously cultivate interdependence with one another and with God.” As Christian and I have begun meeting with mission committees, sharing at churches and writing letters to friends and family, the need for this is growing clearer. And of course, we never want to put undue pressure on people to give. We plan to present our needs and allow God to move hearts as He wills. God has many works and people serving Him all over the world. We never need to feel like we are in competition with these other missionaries or ministries. Moreover, we want to be givers to other God-glorifying ministries and persons around us!
We know God is calling us to trust and obey Him in new ways. In fact, this is part of the excitement—the anticipation of seeing God work powerfully. Please pray for us to be faithful and careful to walk according to the principles in 1 Thessalonians, 2:1-8,
“You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
We pray this would be true of our lives as we learn to walk more fully dependent on God the Father and in interdependence with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus.