Raj (Kunal Nayyar), on the Big Bang Theory TV series, once said to someone during one episode from whom he had asked something, “Please, don’t’ make me beg. I grew up in _ , and I know how to beg.” (You can guess the country.)
As a world evangelist for several decades, we also could say the same. We grew up as evangelists, and we too know how to beg, for there is a little begging in every evangelist.
It seems that in the past we were always asking (begging) someone for something to support somewhere. But those days are long gone for us. We terminated “most” of our begging, finally concluding that if the Lord wanted it done, then He would provide the funds. Nevertheless, we still have a little begging left in us. We cannot help but beg on behalf of so many lost souls throughout the world.
Therefore, we continue to beg the Lord on behalf of others, especially those evangelists—we really do not care what the nationality of their passport is—who are worthy of our support (1 Tm 5:18). Since we have wandered the world for fifty years, we would consider ourselves “foreigners” in reference to our origins in America. Only our passports indicate that we are “American.” But in reference to culture, we are as mongrel dogs straight off the world streets.
Unfortunately, it is the culture of the world to ask. Local poverty-stricken folks have a hard time supporting their evangelists, both in reality, and in mentality. There is a historical reason for this. In the nineteenth century, the colonial nations of Europe ventured throughout the world and built schools, hospitals, roads, and then supported for almost two centuries the administration of the government networks that they had set up in their various colonial “possessions.”
For example, in the scramble for African territory during the nineteenth century there developed a sociological culture that did not exist before the coming of all the well-meaning humanitarian western folks. Most of the colonial arrivals had forgotten that for centuries Africans had existed, doing their own thing and presiding over their own survival. Unfortunately, the colonialist moved independent thinking locals aside in order to teach a “civilization” that would make them dependent on foreign support and control. The self-confidence, or arrogance, of the foreign visitor sometimes moved him to assume control of the local situation.
Of course all the do-goodness of the colonials would filter into the church. The building of schools, hospitals, church buildings, and the supporting of national preachers who lectured western sermons to an assembly of western-nurtured dependents, produced a dependent thinking in the minds and behavior of local folks.
We may have been innocently naive in our desire to clone the “Western Christian.” In doing so, we lost our independent thinking and behavior. As a result, we seem to have never weaned ourselves off the western source of financial benefits. And now, it is unfortunate that local evangelists often have to “beg” local members for support, though the local evangelists continue to faithfully sow the seed of the word freely for the local church. Too many of our faithful preachers have turned into “church thieves” because local brethren have not taken ownership of their responsibility to support them (Study 2 Co 11:7-11). The local church has forgotten that those who preach the gospel have a right to live of the gospel (1 Co 9:14).
We could conclude from the secular society that was groomed after colonialism that it would produce a “colonial church,” which church lives on today in many areas of the world. In other words, if something is needed, or to be done, then we lead ourselves to believe that we can look to an endless financial resource from the colonials in order to fulfill all our local needs, including the support of our preachers.
Since colonialism occurred over a period of centuries, we even now question why the colonial source would refuse our humble pleas (begging). Nevertheless, we continue to ask, though we often do not receive. But we want you (the West) to understand that we do not beg for ourselves, but for the ability to go forth in all our nation, paying bus bills, in order to evangelize our own people. So we beg in the name of Jesus for the mission of Jesus.
A good example is here in order to highlight some problems that have developed throughout the centuries. In our area, the church in America built a particular local church building. After thirty-five years, the roof of the building completely collapsed. (Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time of the fateful event.) Immediately after the collapse, however, the leaders of the small group of about twenty-five members met in order to determine how they would rebuild the roof.
The members met with one particular church leader who had contacts in America, but had never lost his independence. They were about to ask this one wise old member, “Could you go to America and raise funds for this building that the Americans built for us thirty-five years ago?” The wise brother abruptly interjected, “Don’t even think about asking me to do that. After all these years, we must ourselves take ownership of this building.” The wise brother was right. Unfortunately, since the local brethren refused to take ownership of the building over the thirty-five years of their “use” of the building, the building has remained a heap of rubble after all these years since the calamity of the collapse.
Social media now plays the role of making possible sources only a click away from what is believed to be a bottomless pit of money in the West. Whenever a church building is to be constructed—or repaired—emails, facebook and whatsapp accounts often light up. One of the most interesting pleas we received was from one good brother who emailed, “Because of the Covid pandemic, the government will not allow us to meet in the local government school. Therefore, it is necessary that we build our own building. Can you help?”
If we constructed a church building with funds that were contributed mostly by colonial sources, then it may be that the constructed building will never become “our own building,” even after having the keys to the building for thirty-five years. In these matters, it is best that the local folks and foreign folks go into some kind of percentage agreement where everyone is investing in the construction and support.
Nevertheless, we will continue to “beg,” especially for those evangelists of the world who must be supported full-time for the sake of the preaching of the gospel. It is simply right to support such men because they often live in very financially depressed economical environments. They are goodly men who should be supported in order that the gospel of the kingdom be preached in other areas. At least this was what the apostle Paul did in order to prepare the Roman disciples to support him when he passed by them on his way to Spain: “Whenever I make my journey into Spain, I hope to see you in my journey and TO BE [financially] SUPPORTED ON MY WAY THERE BY YOU” (See Rm 15:24). In other words, if you support a worthy evangelist, it makes little difference what the nationality of his passport indicates, as long as he has a passport and is on his journey, as Paul, somewhere to preach the gospel. The following statement is still a command of the Lord: “Even so the Lord has commanded that THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL SHOULD LIVE FROM THE GOSPEL” (1 Co 9:14).
Our purpose for writing the preceding is based on changes that are rapidly taking place in our world. Consider the fact that the pandemic has greatly minimized church budgets, particularly in the West. Inflation around the world is devastating the contributed dollar, that is, people have less to contribute. As inflation bites into the income of every Christian in the world, especially the West, contribution coffers are being greatly diminished.
Also consider the fact that the West is religiously changing into a nonreligious culture, just as Europe. Subsequently, the Western church is essentially minimizing the number of evangelists that is sent forth into all the world. Missionaries are becoming a rare breed.
Nevertheless, God’s work of gospel preaching should never be confined to contributions. We see contributions as a serendipity in reference to world evangelism. Therefore, we will be content with the widow’s mite that is given out of a dedicated heart. We will continue to beg of you, but we will preach the gospel regardless of whether were are supported.