by STEVE MURRELL — As president of Every Nation Ministries I spend a lot of time focusing on the big picture. Over the years, I have had the privilege of watching many young men and women go from non-believers — to committed disciples —to disciple-makers — to vocational ministers with significant ministries all over the world. They come from every imaginable background. Some work with university students in urban centers and others work with AIDS orphans in small villages. Some reach out to college and professional athletes, and others serve military personnel and their families.
The one common denominator among all these people is that none of them responded to a job opening. There were no salary slots, no job interviews, no allocation of church funds. They all have become world-changers because they went out by their own initiative and developed teams of financial partners, enabling them to do what they felt God had called to do.
This is not a new concept. John the Apostle wrote to one of the early churches about becoming financial partners with ministers who were going out to labor outside the local church community.
For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
— 3 John 7-8
The modern mission movement began with William Carey (1761-1834) saying to a group of financial partners, “I will venture to go down (to India), but remember that you — Fuller, Sutcliff, and Ryland — must hold the ropes!” (See Holding the Ropes: William Carey and Financial Teams by Walt Walker)
Many of the greatest evangelistic movements of this generation, particularly youth movements, were found by men like Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Dawson Trottman (The Navigators), Loren Cunningham (Youth With a Mission), and many others who never took a salary but were funded from beginning to end by teams of financial partners.
Here are the inescapable realities:
— Each year there are thousands of seminary graduates looking for positions in local churches.
— There are thousands more dedicated young people who feel called to vocational ministry.
— In both cases, there are more people with a desire to serve in ministry than there are salaried positions in churches.
— Salaried positions for full-time Christian service related to youth evangelism and discipleship (where there is such a great need) are even more rare.
— Consequently, there is a very small on-ramp for young Christian leaders who feel called to ministry.
For instance, there are over 700 churches in the city where I live, a city with twenty-one colleges and universities and over 80,000 students. The aggregate budget for all those churches is enormous — easily over a $100 million dollars. Yet you could count on one hand the number of church-salaried campus missionaries sent to share the Gospel on any of those university campuses.
This is also often the case in churches around the world where there is usually an even smaller ratio of paid staff to church members — whether it is because the church is small, impoverished, or underground.
Whenever I think about the these examples, I am reminded of what Jesus said to his disciples when he looked at the multitudes:
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field
— Matthew 9:37, NIV
That passage from Matthew’s Gospel is interesting —Jesus’ focus statement was not the harvest but rather the need for workers to be sent into the harvest field. Agrarian metaphors are often lost on us today, but I think Jesus’ sense of urgency comes through clearly. Church planters, campus missionaries, and cross-cultural missionaries cannot and should not wait to be hired by a church in order to be sent into the harvest field. They recognize, as do you, that the fields are ripe for harvest.
I am so thankful for the people who partnered with me when I first moved to the Philippines in 1984. I had no church, no position, and no salary, but I knew God was calling me to that harvest field. After twenty-seven years of fruitful ministry in the Philippines, I am so glad I didn’t wait.