I had no idea that support raising can evoke so much shame in people, me included. Therefore, this post is part confession, part testimonial.
It explains how shame sometimes plays a role in the support-raising process. I’m writing with two people in mind––those who raise funds for their ministry and those who support said ministers. To rid shame of its power, we have to name it and face it in community.
Make or Break Me
I told my wife, “This support raising process will either make me a much better person… or it’ll break me.” The first few weeks overwhelmed me emotionally. I didn’t realize how much I would hate asking people to become financial supporters.
More importantly, I didn’t know that God would show me why I hated it so much. The reasons exposed flaws in my own character, theology, and faith. As the sermon went on, I began jotting down the following:
What does this support raising process expose in me?
- Utilitarian view of relationships
- Insecurities about people skills
- Associating people’s giving with my skill, character, or likability
- Lack of faith that the Lord provides
- Sense of self-sufficiency in accomplishing the goal
- Distaste for being dependent on others
- Lack of prayerfulness
- Lack of faith in prayer
- Assumption that others don’t want to help either me or others
- Fear that I was too unloving in the past and so people would not support us
For full disclosure, I’m an Enneagram One, so I was born with a Ph.D. in self-criticism. My wife told me I’d lost touch with reality and was listening to lies. Fair enough.
Sometimes, my stray thoughts ventured into the comical. The idea that someone might “pay me back” because I wasn’t loving enough in the past veers into bizarre delusion. But those are the lies the Enemy plants in our minds amid those tough days when we’re called to exercise faith.
And this is where shame comes in.
Shame for Being a Sham
I’m not alone. Many gospel workers who raise financial support have feelings and thoughts similar to those listed above. That fact itself causes much internal turmoil and even shame. They ask, “How can I be a Christian missionary or minister if I have these thoughts and if I lack faith like this? Am I a sham?”
Support raising reminds us that we’re human. We’re not God. And sadly, this reminder can evoke shame. How so?
Shame takes your limitations, flaws, and failures and then turns them into wholesale marks of your personhood. The most insidious shame uses humanity’s natural finitude as “proof” of our infinite worthlessness.
If a person isn’t mindful of these dynamics, they jump into self-defense mode psychologically. The thought of being a “sham” can be too much for them to bear. So, they begin to doubt the Lord who is faithful to lead and provide for his people.
Notice how shame distorts everything. All of a sudden, you’ve forgotten about your calling, the church’s mission, and, more significantly, the grandeur of God!
How to Respond?
What can we do?
First of all, we have to shine a light on these dynamics. Shame dies when exposed and opposed in community.
Second, ask yourself how Scripture speaks to the underlying causes of shame. Guess what. It does. Yes, we have limitations, flaws, and failures, and yet, Christ dies for us! He still provides his Spirit! The Father still calls us!
For me, I am choosing to let this season of support raising become a case study that showcases the power of the Bible’s message of honor and shame.
Here’s a suggestion: Go (re)read Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child or something else that reinforces the truth in your heart.
What about yourself? Have you seen fear and shame creep into your heart when you’ve raised funds for your ministry? What recommendations do you have to shine Christ’s light on the lies that ensnare us?
In the next post, I’ll explore ways that God calls people to raise financial support in order to honor himself and his people.