Did the Apostle Paul, as our model missionary, make his needs known on the mission field? Furthermore, did he expect a response to those expressed needs?
I Corinthians 1:15-16:
15And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;
16And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea.
24Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you,
Paul expected help in being sent on his way. What does that mean?
The greek word (sorry, I've got no Greek font here) is propemfthenai
, derived from propempo
, and Baur and other Greek scholars state that this word denotes an expectation of "help on one's journey with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc." Thus, Paul is stating an expectation that the church will provide for him materially as he goes out beyond them with the Gospel.
What is more, Paul had never even personally visited this Roman church before, and still has the audacity to expect help from them as he continues westward!
Furthermore, Paul is so bold as to assert, in Philippians 4:15-17,
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
Paul wants the Philippians to give in order that they may be blessed by giving.
Furthermore, though he desired not to appear like the travelling paid teachers (sophists) and so personally made tents, the Apostle Paul did vigorously defend the right of other servants of God to be recompensed; "the laborer is worthy of his hire."
I have heard some missionaries pride themselves on not "begging like other missionaries," meaning that they either never vocalize their needs or else never ask supporters to give towards those needs. They, in contrast, were just "praying and trusting in God."
Wow, now imagine how that makes this missionary feel? I, after all, always make it a policy to be very open and transparent about all my needs? I have never thought of myself as a begger before. And the last I checked, I am still "praying and trusting God" also; I merely add the common-sensical and permissible means of informing supporters of those needs, since the normal means by which the church moves is through known information.
Concerning personal views regarding missionary support raising, my wish is that we allow the same measure of freedom that the Apostle Paul allows for (and which the Apostle even practices on occasion, making known his hope of material support on the occasions quoted above) when it concerns this thorny issue of missions and money.
George Muller does not trump the Great Apostle, and Muller's personal calling should not be made normative for all missionaries.
Missionaries are not beggers, but we are extensions of the established church who are sent out to do the work of missions in the name of the church.
May I be so bold as to say that, when I communicate missionary needs on the field, I am not at all begging, but giving churches the opportunity to be blessed. After all, if I am truly working towards the spread of the Gospel and following the Apostle Paul's motives, then I, too, "...seek a profit which increases to your account" (Phil. 4:17).