Last week, Tay and I got our first report on how much money we have raised: $990 of the estimated $10,000 we need. 10% earned! Or conversely…90% to go… For the first time in this process of raising financial support for our internships in Uganda I have gotten quite nervous. My initial, and I believe proper reaction, to this anxiety was to commit to praying more diligently that we would be able to secure funding in order to play our part in advancing the Kingdom of God in Northern Uganda. As I started this process, however, my highly analytical mind started to dissect the theology of praying for donations. My mind started churning over what praying for funds would mean from a schematic standpoint, and I came to some amateur theological scenarios. I want to get these thoughts out to the public so that I don’t drive myself crazy just keeping it all inside.
Here are a few of my conclusions for better or worse: If I ask God to help secure funding, the extreme conclusion of what is at play here is a hyper-Calvinist notion that makes God a puppet-master pulling the strings of donors and willing them to pay Taylor and I money in order for us to be his “hands and feet” in Uganda. I believe in the sovereignty of God, but this troubles me to think of my friends and family and perhaps even strangers as robots who have been “programmed” by the Almighty to give us money. I firmly believe that in order for us, humans, to truly love God and one another, there must be the choice to do so.
Extrapolating absolute human freedom to its logical conclusion brought me to the radical extreme of God as a “puppet-master” notion. If God cannot interact with humans, then why waste my time praying to a far-off deity who has no stake in the lowly affairs of some young Iowan couple. It would be better for me to get more creative, and more diligent in asking people for funds. This notion did not sit well with me at all. In fact, the idea of an indifferent God horrified me. This line of thinking did not last long, however, because I HAVE experienced and interacted a living and vibrant God on countless occasions.
I couldn’t turn my back on the many profound moments I have felt the Lord, not in a coercive or manipulative way, but rather a symbiotic and transformational way. Relating the two aforementioned scenarios—puppet-master versus couch-potato God—I think the “answer” lies between the poles of these situations. Rather than a controlling God, we have an influential God. Rather than having a lazy or hands-off God, we have a patient and graceful God. For those who love and seek the Lord, they will be transformed by God and start to think and act like His son Jesus does. This will always be a choice, however. The x-factor in this equation is the Holy Spirit. While I do not and never will fully understand the Trinity, I see the Holy Spirit as the “prompter” or “advocate” that moves us, without forcing us.
Going back to the original question; what does it mean to pray for fundraising? I’m still not entirely sure, there is a huge and many times frustrating amount of mystery to our God, and I really do not understand the means through which the Lord moves. I do, however, know that the Lord’s work is made manifest in his church body. We truly are the hands and feet of God, and that is why meditation, contemplation, and reason are vital pursuits of the church. I love to believe that there is an infinite amount of ways the Spirit can influence and partner with us, just as all of Jesus’ miracles were diverse and intimate to each person involved.
I promise that this blog post is not a ploy to elicit more funds from potential readers. The fact remains, however, that we have $9,000 left to raise. My goal is to be transparent to my thought processes and to get out what I’m wrestling with. I hate asking for money. Hate it. I hate it when so many people are struggling (ourselves included) in a bad economy. One thing that has given me solace is that fundraising is very biblical. Moses, David, Nehemiah and many others fundraised in order to secure supplies to build and rebuild the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, and the city of Jerusalem. Both Jesus and Paul relied on the generosity of others to travel and spread the Good News. Trust me that I do not put Tay and myself in the same conversation as these giants of the faith, but there is clear precedence for humbly seeking the means to mobilize from the church.
What I have found as I pray and wrestle with this process is that it is bringing me closer to God and to my wife. It is entirely humbling to rely on others for our livelihoods for 3 months, and to come back to an uncertain job and housing situation. Tay and I are making very difficult life decisions and we are doing it together in a relational and open way. In this process we are deeply digging our roots into the Lord. From now on when I pray to my Father, I will not ask that He possess people to write checks, I will simply pray for His will to be done. I will pray that he comes near to us, and that rather than a mere transaction taking place from donors, instead a partnership will emerge where it doesn’t become the “Clay and Tay’s Story” but rather the God’s Story—the Church’s Story. Lord have your way in us, Amen.