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We all know that the Apostle Paul was one of the greatest missionaries of the first century (or any century). But did you know that he was also one of the greatest fundraisers? Paul mentions his fundraising activities in Romans 15.25-29:
Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
Notice several things about these verses:
First, Paul raised funds for a specific project, which he refers to as “a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” We are not sure why the Jerusalem believers were in such desperate financial straits. But Paul knew, and he believed that it was the responsibility of wealthy believers to supply the material needs of the Christian poor, whether around the corner or across the sea.
Second, the motivation for Paul’s fundraising was gratitude. Paul notes that he raised the funds from Gentile churches in Macedonia and Achaia, that is, modern Greece. “They were pleased to do it,” he writes, “and indeed they owe it to them.” Sometimes, we have obligations that we are not particularly happy to discharge. The Gentile Christians felt otherwise about their donations to the poor believers in Jerusalem. They owed their eternal salvation to the efforts of Jewish Christians who told them the good news about Jesus Christ. The Gentiles “shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings”; they returned the favor by sharing “their material blessings” with the Jews.
Third, Paul undertook fundraising with appropriate accountability. He wrote the Romans and other Christians about the funds he was raising. Not only that, he promised to “complete” the task and “make sure” the intended recipients received every dime. Paul stated his intentions and actions publicly and welcomed public scrutiny. Today, all churches do well when they follow his example.
Finally, Paul mentioned the end result of his fundraising activities: “the full measure of the blessing of Christ.” Paul wasn’t just raising money for the relief of the Jerusalem poor. In his day, there were many tensions between the Jewish and the Gentile wings of the Christian church, based on differences in their religious and cultural backgrounds. One effect of Paul’s offering was to release those tensions. Genuine compassion has a way of bringing diverse people together. And when it does, Christ’s blessing is the result.
More money equals more ministry. And more ministry equals a better church. Let’s give and serve for that purpose!