A letter from Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
Summer 2014 - the ministry of fundraising
Each month Becky and I receive a financial report on the gifts you make to our mission account at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). These gifts support us in our ministry at LCC International University, where we serve as teachers. Mission co-workers like us are ambassadors for our global partners and storytellers of God’s mission in the world. We are to connect with local churches and individuals, inviting them to be part of this ministry to students. Our role as mission co-workers includes responsibility for developing financial support. In the PC(USA) a new mission funding paradigm has emerged. Congregations can participate in the ministry where we serve through our sharing with them. This includes an ongoing invitation to support our work as co-workers in God’s mission through prayer, communication and financially. We are to issue a concrete invitation to our readers to support our work in prayer and with financial support.
But how can such an invitation be “real,” meaningful, compelling, even winsome? And more important, what’s so Christian about fund raising? In the past I’ve been the board chair for the fourth largest United Way in Pennsylvania. I’ve also headed nonprofits serving the poor, each with the task of raising several million dollars annually. But this was “secular” work. So what is the basis of a Christian approach to fund raising? Two resources provided us with a theology of fund raising. Both stress that fund raising is a form of ministry.
Henri Nouwen has written much about the spiritual life of a Christian. His booklet A Spirituality of Fundraising (2004)offers a theological perspective on Christian fund raising. Nouwen says: “Fund-raising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission.” Fund raising has three aspects: proclamation, invitation and conversion. Proclamation involves stating the vision and mission of what we are doing. We craft a clear and confident invitation for donors to invest in this vision. Conversion is part of fund raising because those asking for money and those giving money are drawn together by God in the spirit of Isaiah 43:19: 'I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?' Conversion is 'a shift in attention in which we set our mind on divine things.' The spiritual nature of fund raising is profound; it requires that we are 'prayerfully committed to placing our whole trust in God.'” Nouwen concludes: “Fund raising is a very rich and beautiful activity. It a confident, joyful, and hope-filled expression of ministry.”
Scott Rodin, former president of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I studied, concludes his book Stewards in the Kingdom: A theology of life in all its fullness (2000) with the chapter “A theology of asking and giving.” Christian fund raising must be seen in light of our radical commitment to upbuilding of the kingdom of God. The critical question for Christian fund-raisers is “what it really means that we are children in the kingdom of the triune God.” We are to live “according to the ethics of the kingdom of God—a radical departure from the norms and values of the world.” Our task in Christian fund raising is not to adopt secular techniques simply because they work and then dress them up in “Christian clothing” to make them acceptable. His point is that the Holy Spirit is the motivator of donors to give. And what is our motivation to give? It is to serve God as our only Lord and master, the foundation of kingdom ethics. The result is we are set free from a singular focus on money: “We will still ask for funds. … We will ask simply, honestly and confidently, and then … watch God do great things through his people.” Obedient Christian giving frees us from the bondage of money and thus leads to spiritual growth. The result is new, lasting relationships, a spiritual communion that bears much fruit.
So what is our vision and mission? And how can we be as confident as Nouwen suggests we must be? After nearly 14 years as mission co-workers we looked again at the qualifications. Such a high calling! We are to exhibit “trust in Jesus Christ as Savior” and to live a life “exemplary of Christian service with willingness and dedication to serve others.” In addition, we should “be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord” (Book of Order). We continue to strive to be worthy, to a deeper commitment to service and witness.
Our vision and mission is to be present in the lives of the young people we encounter. Recently a young LCC graduate came to see me. Since graduation she worked in Kyrgyzstan with another LCC grad to develop a nonprofit to provide mentoring services for orphans and neglected children. She offered that God was now calling her back to Lithuania for new work. She had heard about our work at the men’s prison. “I believe God is guiding me to open an NGO, or a more specific, academy, inside the prison.” We spent several hours in discernment of this call. Her trust is apparent: “Thank you again for your time, stories and advices you have shared. Every word was important to me.” Time will tell how this moment of faith unfolds.
Please join us in being part of the lives of young people in Eastern Europe—our students at LCC International University—from Ukraine and Russia and Moldova and Belarus and Lithuania. They long for authentic relationships with trustworthy adults. They are seeking answers. They want to hear the promises of the gospel. And we know they will respond to calls for a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Please join us in this vision and mission. In Nouwen’s words: “Asking people for money is giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the Kingdom. To raise funds is to offer people the chance to invest what they have in the work of God.” Pray, Holy Spirit, come.
Becky & Eric Hinderliter
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 313
Read more about Eric and Becky Hinderliter's ministry
Write to Eric Hinderliter
Write to Becky Hinderliter
Individuals: Give to E200361 for Eric and Becky Hinderliter's sending and support
Congregations: Give to D506434 for Eric and Becky Hinderliter's sending and support
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).