Why We Need to Give Deeply Personal Invitations

By on December 20, 2022   /   Leave a comment

“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:3-6

Imagine Paul getting to Europe the first time around. His expedition was altered by the Holy Spirit, taking him from Asia Minor and into Greece, not as he had planned.  Upon arriving in Philippi, Paul had no starting point in the synagogue. “On the sabbath day he went outside the city gate to the river, where he expected to find a place of prayer. He sat down and began to speak to the women there.” (Act 16:13)

The first act of response is the generosity of Lydia, housing Paul. Next up, a demon-possessed, fortune-telling girl follows Paul and Silas for many days shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved,” before Paul released her from its grip. And voila, they are sent straight to jail for disrupting the local economy. That night the jailer was saved before the next morning when Paul& Silas are asked to leave. 

All in all, Paul & Silas had at most a couple of weeks of active ministry before setting out to Thessaloniki. However, the most amazing thing happens. Lydia, the former fortune-teller and a presumed ex-jailor (and their families) become the first church in Europe.

This unlikely group of people, more than once (see 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and Philippians chapter 4:15), send someone (no western union or PayPal available) to walk three days (see Google Maps between Philippi and Thessaloniki with today’s roads) with a gift to relay their gratitude and PARTNERSHIP to the Gospel.

Fast forward to near the end of Paul’s ministry time where we find him once again in jail. Settled for long enough (no Zoom or Skype) that the Philippians could trace his whereabouts to give a gift again. It begs the question what would he need it for if he is in jail? As an old man, what would his living expenses be?

Paul’s response:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. Not that I desire your gifts…

This attitude mimics Acts wording of Jesus teaching: It is better to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

But wait! There is more, on a deeper level  their gift is not a financial transaction but a way of showing their concern for Paul. All those years after planting the seeds of the Church in Philippi, they want to keep involved in Paul’s life and ministry. They show their concern, their care for him. Paul makes sure to establish this gift is accepted in heaven as a fragrant offering, pleasing to God.

So what happens if our giving is NOT personal?

In taking a collection for Jerusalem, we encounter two major indicators of a giving attitude that is un-personal. When one is coerced by inside or outside pressure, the person’s heart is not engaged, therefore, the person is not engaged. It states in 2 Corinthians 9: 7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” So our potential partner must be made aware that his giving is only beneficial if it’s a personal decision and made under God’s favor.

What do we hope to gain from having the whole person involved in their partnership? Look at Paul’s dealings with the Philippians. He shared his life story on a deeply personal level, weighing his options of wanting to go Home versus staying on earth with the option of meeting them. Compare that to the general style of his writing in the Corinthian letters (hint: commanding, prescriptive) and let me know which Paul you want to be friends with.

In addition, this partnership stretched over many years, seeing a relatively young Paul starting that church and an old Paul, considering his Heavenly reward, as the sender of the letter. Personal connection is what we are made for. Our origin story speaks of a Triune God in perfect harmony in Himself, willing and speaking life into existence to share. To share what exactly? Relationship! The actual thing we are made for is relationship so that we can commune with God.

What are we so afraid of?

We would love our lives to be neat and tidy, like uncooked spaghetti. To separate work life from private life, calling from occupation, friends from co-workers.  But uncooked spaghetti only looks nice on the kitchen shelf. It’s not good for anything until you cook it. 

“But I don’t want my friendships to change”. But do you want to see them transformed in a Christ-like manner? Then adding partnership and sharing a giving opportunity enriches our friends’ lives to have a place close to their heart and home to invest into God’s kingdom. They are totally allowed to say no. Just don’t make that decision on their behalf.

So, how do we start a partnership with our potential partners? Start by changing your choice of words from “friend-circle” to team of partners. Next, we address the expectation-management in the conversation with our potential partners. We use the GIFT acronym by asking: Will you be a gift to Gods kingdom and partner with me with a monthly gift of x euro? 

Gift stands for: 

  • Putting God and faith first
  • using your Influence and Finances for the Kingdom
  • being open for a Two-way connection.

Expecting your partner to put God and faith first is somewhat of a paradox, aren’t we having this conversation about what you are doing for God’s kingdom? Yes- but what I am looking for is a person with a stewardship decision to partner with me. For that, I am going to ask you to take my question of partnering for 100 Euro per month and go back to your place of prayer to connect with God to see if this giving opportunity is the right one. And when I get a yes or a no as a response, in both cases I can be satisfied and trust the Holy Spirit to have led the process.

Next, I want to make sure my partner knows they have influence on behalf of the Gospel: can I use your network, referrals and expertise in the task that is set before me?

Two-way connection is the last of the elements of this partnership you are about to embark on. It is asking the question on any aspect of GIFT (God and faith, Influence or Finance) you can draw from your experience or insights to help improve your partners’ impact on behalf of God’s Kingdom. How can I pray for you? How can I assert my influence or finances on your behalf?

Therefore, partnership is to be personal if we want to follow Paul’s example of his long lasting relationship with Philippi and his grateful attitude between those who gave and those who were sent. We need new ways to make explicit what this partnering should entail if it is up to us as the ones being sent, so that we can be spiritually healthy, vision-driven, & fully funded.


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