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Is our work "sustainable"?

As many folks know, I operate a non-profit ministry for children. One part of my job is to raise funds for campers that can’t pay full tuition, or in many cases, for those that can’t pay any tuition. And so I “beg” for support. Presidents of universities do the same (“beg”) as do pastors (though they might call it “development efforts”). Begging might not be a very professional term, but that’s what I do—I am plead for help. Saint Francis was a beggar—and the world is a better place because of him and his begging. We love Francis because he really lived the beatitudes—he was the most beloved beggar in the world.

But lately, in my fund-raising efforts, I have come across some Christians that have made it clear that they only support “sustainable ministries”. I know it’s not polite to say things like this, particularly when only one side—mine—is being presented. But this remark, “How can I be sure that your ministry, or your church, or your orphanage is “sustainable”, really burns me up. I’ve been trying to remove “my pride” from this and have prayed about how to respond when people say things like this.

This “sustainable” line of thinking that you only support something that will continue is suitable for a bank focused on stock holders or a financier determined to have a very positive bottom line—but not for a Christian that’s giving freely from the abundance from which he/she has been blessed.

1. John the Baptist’s ministry was not sustainable—-he lost his head and his disciples were dispersed—so based upon “a sustainable ministry criteria” you would not support him.

2. Jesus Christ’s short work on this earth was not a very bankable investment either—it was just a three year ministry with zero assets at the time of His execution would certainly not qualify as a “sustainable” enterprise.

3. All seven churches mentioned in Revelation are gone—all of them. One would have been foolish, if you are a devotee of Wall Street, to have made an investment there.

4. George Muller and the Ashley Down Orphanage saved the lives and souls of thousands of children in the 19th century—- but a few years after he died the orphanage was closed and the children were moved to a foster care kind of existence. All he worked for was not “sustained” after he passed——-but thousands of people now who Jesus Christ is because of the time that that ministry did function.

It reminds me of a homeless person begging for food and a wealthy man with a bag of groceries walking by and muttering, “I’ll pray about this first, and then if feel led I might give him a loaf of bread — but only I am sure that it does not sustain this bad habit of begging”……. (God have mercy on such prayers.)

One Christian leader once remarked that he had, “never seen God’s children having to beg for bread or being forsaken by God.” The suggestion, of course, is that if we are beggars (as I am) or appear forsaken by God (as I am sure I do to some), we’re not a part of the “chosen” or “elect”, or somehow we deserve our hardships. That’s biblically indefensible, as any student of the Bible knows!

Was Job not “forsaken” by God? What about Jesus on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. And what of the millions of Christians that begged for food and starved under Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot and Stalin?

I have witnessed the mega-church growth in the USA and heard so much of the “feel good” and “God wants to bless you” canard till I have to say something! God did not save me to bless me, He blessed me by saving me. And when the New Testament talks about the “abundant life”, and God “giving us the desires of our hearts”, it is not in reference to making us prestigious prigs in the community, or sending us financial security in a fat portfolio, or producing a life protected from disease, heartache or financial ruin! We seem to walk to read into scripture such sophomoric spiritual dreaming! In fact, following Christ might lead to the precise opposite of the above mentioned “promises”.

We’re called to faithfully preach the gospel and make disciples. Dietrich Bonhoeffer did that till the day he was lead to the gallows to be hung with piano wire by Hitler’s henchmen. People were praying for Bonhoeffer’s protection and release………… but his death might have done more for the church than 30 more years of his preaching.

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