Should Mission be about Funding? | Small is Beautiful

Dollars PicOver at TallSkinnyKiwi Andrew has posted some thoughts on How To Ask Foundations For Money.

This isn’t the first time Andrew’s posts have made me feel a little uncomfortable. And it won’t be the last. And I’m glad about that. He’s a guy who keeps me itching. But, I have to say, the post did flag some questions for me about some of the foundations of the emerging movement.

Andrew notes:

This kind of thing really wears me out but its a necessary part of mission work and getting the job done. My previous mode of working was to ignore the Foundations and do everything without money as much as I could. But Donors also want to play a part in the Great Commission. Especially the more exciting stuff that I have been involved in this past decade -the mission of God in the global emerging culture – and I have a responsibility to make space in the playground for them also.

It seems trite these days to go back to asking what Jesus would have done, but I think it’s a serious point. The gospels suggest that the merry band shared a common purse, and that they probably welcomed gifts. But did they go out fundraising? I wonder if it’s a point about gift theory. If you put together a Christmas present funding proposal to your parents about how exactly they are going to get that great gift you so want, and what a boon it would be to your life, is that present still ‘gift’? I think something of the gift is destroyed by the proposal.

Vaux was a very small project. I remember going to see the Bishop of London at the House of Lords and him sitting down saying ‘So what do you want to see me for? Do you need some money?’ His jaw almost hit the floor when we said we didn’t. We accepted gifts, sure. But we never went out fundraising. Why? Because it seemed right to live within our means.

I love Schumacher’s principle of Small is Beautiful and sometimes wonder if much of the industrial mission machine has moved away from this. The subtitle of his work is ‘A Study of Economics As If People Mattered’, and it is of course the relational that is central to all we do. How much funding should we need for that?

If these donors want to ‘get in’ on the global emerging culture, why not just give freely? Oh – because they want to make sure their money is being used wisely. How can they do that? As Andrew hints, they need to get relational. But much more so than they might already be doing. Forget the funding forms and spin culture.

I recently went to speak at a large, modern, beautiful church and was speaking to one of the congregation about the building. ‘It’s horrendous!’ they moaned. ‘It’s costing us so much to keep up’. So sell it. Live within your means. Accept gifts. And if that means scaling back some big projects, fine. The Church™ will survive.

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8 responses to “Should Mission be about Funding? | Small is Beautiful”

  1. A fair critique, giving me something to think about. I will say, however, that the way Jesus & His disciples were supported was very clearly a culturally familiar and appropriate model. Not sure we can take it completely into our context without missing a great deal.

  2. I agree with you, Kester. I also appreciate Andrew Jones, and also feel uncomfortable with some of the money posts. I don’t want to say its wrong, but I think it is wrong for me. So, I don’t have a PayPal donate button on my blog.
    We try to live within our means, and generally avoid having savings (though as we sold a house last year, we have some at the moment – and we’re living off them). Whenever we’ve had an unforseeable expenditure come in, I’ve asked God to provide the amount we need. I don’t mention it to anyone else. Time and again, the money has arrived, as gift – often anonymous. I don’t post that to appear holy; it’s just a matter-of-fact of our life.

  3. Nice work Daniel. Signal to Noise. Gets the mathematician in me frisky.
    In terms of ‘culturally familiar and appropriate’ models, I’m worried that the unprecedented levels of personal debt that people in the West are taking on are skewing the measures of ‘appropriateness’. We pay extortionate interest on mortgages lasting 25 years to live in brick boxes. Credit cards ‘take the waiting out of wanting’…
    I think the waters are so muddied, but I’m fairly sure that generous donors with long application forms funding bloggers are not the answer to the great commission.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. Funding in some instances may be the way to go, but for me the emerging journey is all about relationships. Reading about people existing in the world of work and toil whilst meeting and celebrating God is an inspiration. Reading about projects to establish a kingdom or fund this initiative or that focus thing make me feel like I am in work.
    Live within our means and dream within God’s. Gifts do come, and funding is rarely (if ever) a gift.

  5. Kester,
    On that count, I think you are dead on. We have a very strong value in our ministry centre when it comes to support your missional habits through irresponsible use of credit (which is frighteningly common). Well said.

  6. kester
    this is the third time i am attempting to comment on this post.
    are you keeping my comments and questions off the post for a good reason?
    my first and second comment is recorded here
    would love to hear your response to my question about your wife working in partnership with Foundations and Donor organisations with her managerial role in Greenbelt and if she has any wisdom to add to the conversation.
    see you next week

  7. Andrew – I’m sorry, I’ve no idea what happened to your comments. I’ve never edited or deleted any comments on this blog, so sorry if you’ve had problems commenting… hopefully it’s not a wider problem. (Might be to do with CoComment? Not seen it before. Great idea.)
    A couple of things in response.
    Greenbelt is now pretty financially independent. It has had some historic debt, which is now paid off. It does have ‘partners’ – organizations who put money into the event – but I think this is a different sort of relationship to simple donor funding. Firstly, they are clearly identified as such. They are on site, usually bringing a particular focus, such as Christian Aid or DFID do, and all GB materials have their logos on them.
    She’s away on site at the moment, but I’ll ask her if she has any thoughts.
    The stories of people getting to events like you mentioned are great. Sacrifice and generosity are so key.
    You mention in the comment on Jordan’s post that “finding creative ways for dozens of missional networks across the globe to fulful the Great Commission does need partnership and resources”. I would agree with this to an extent. But what worries me is that having to apply to foundations such as Maclellan is ‘old world’ – rich patrons buying into stuff – very top down. What I think we need to work towards in mission is ‘sustainable development’ – bottom up, and I’m not sure that such funding processes encourage that.
    They might also actually encourage compromise – insisting (as Maclellan do) on signing up to certain doctrines. If we need the cash, do we economise on the truth of our position in order to please them? It’s a tough one.
    The central tenet has to be meaningful relationship. And some of the ‘big business’ industrial missions funds don’t strike me as holding to this. Your original post was all about cheeky ways to improve success rates in funding… If we are in meaningful relationship, I’m not sure if application forms ought to be needed. What do you think?