From time to time I take a post on this blog to recommend books that I think are relevant to my audience. I’m a reading machine, and if I were to review every book I read, whether good or bad, this blog would be more of a review site than a blog. So, I truly wait until I feel like I should review one. That doesn’t mean each time I review something it will be a five-star review or a one-star review where I’m totally bashing something.
This is a book that I felt like I should recommend, especially to those who may have been called to some ministry or volunteer work that requires raising your own support or finding a creative way of funding yourself.
That being said, The God Ask by Steve Shadrach was a great book but I was compelled to give it only four stars. You can read the following review over on Amazon or below. However, what follows is an expanded version of my review on Amazon (if you find it helpful, please hit the ‘yes’ button to indicate that over there).
I have been living abroad or outside of my home country since 2009, and have struggled sometimes with raising and maintaining monthly support. I first read “Funding Your Ministry” by Scott Morton when I left for the mission field (it was mandatory for all FIRE missionaries at the time), and I had started implementing some of the things that the author outlined in that book. I’ve even lent my copy to others over the years.
Recently for my birthday, I shared my Kindle Wishlist on Facebook and one of my supporters bought me a copy of this book as I had hoped to get it. In a way, that was one of the most truly beneficial ways to sow into Lili and me as we’ll revamp a lot of our support raising efforts thanks to this book.
As I started to read it, I noticed that in the beginning, the author drives home the concept of praying about who to ask so as to not waste all your time asking and asking and asking potential supporters. You know, not scatter shooting it and hoping someone responds to your generalized impersonal appeal letter, but praying about who to ask, and then taking the initiative to ask them directly.
In fact, after our latest newsletter, prior to starting this book, my wife and I had prayed and asked God for names to put on a list of people we were going to start asking, and immediately the first four approached us before we could ask and they told us they felt led to support us. This helped confirm for Lili and me that if we commit this to the Lord, he’s probably speaking to the hearts of those we feel compelled to ask.
Reading this book lit a fire of boldness in us to start contacting others ASAP.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts:
First, the positive:
- I felt VERY encouraged, and a gentle slap on the butt to get going and do a better job maintaining a relationship with my supporters. I found the tips and suggestions in this book to be invaluable.
- The 11 appendices at the end of the book are what truly make this book worth the money. Morton’s Funding Your Ministry book has similar ones in his, but since I have that book in paperback and this one by Shadrach in Kindle format, being able to just click on them and get them from the internet directly is faster and more convenient.
- There truly isn’t anything unbiblical or unethical in this book, in my humble opinion. So there are no “bones” to spit out and reject in terms of taking the good leaving the bad. There seems to be little to no bad that needs to be ignored.
- I feel a renewed sense of confidence and initiative to view my supporters as partners with me instead of ‘donors’ or ‘supporters’. I kinda already did, but this book helped solidify that for me
- I have new ideas I’m already starting to implement.
The negative/questions I had after reading:
- Most of this book will be relevant and applicable to people beginning their support raising journey more so than those of us who have already made it overseas. Some of us who are already on the field just simply can’t drive a few hours to another state or province to spend time or go for lunch with our supporters like the author claims he does. In fact, some of us can’t really afford (yet) the ability to just call or text random partners on our cell phones as the author does. But contrary to the author’s suggestions, Skype/iChat and long-distance phone calls will have to do the trick until/unless the overseas missionary is on furlough and back in their home country.
- Which leads to my next question about how on earth the author actually does any ministry if he truly and honestly does everything all the time as he outlines in this book!? One of the other commenters over at Amazon suggested that this author appears to be a “career fundraiser”, always raising new support. I didn’t quite get that suspicious of a vibe reading this book, and I did not expect the book to outline what ministry he does since the goal of this book was to help people raise support. But still, I have a hard time believing he either does everything he says he does or that he does any ministry if he’s so busy maintaining all these relationships on a monthly basis and doing all the things he teaches in this book.
- I also don’t think I come to the same conclusion or agree with the author’s downplaying of tent-making ministry. In fact, from having done considerable research on the subject (read Missionpreneurs: Adapting To Changing New Realities in Funding Mission, and Missional Entrepreneurs for example), I feel the author is simply mistaken in his assessment of the apostle Paul’s life. Which leads to another concern of mine that people swing the pendulum from one extreme or the other when it comes to working instead of raising support.
Positive things the author says are along the lines of this:
Our experience has been that when organizations require their personnel to raise all their own support, it has a way of attracting stronger leaders—and sometimes repelling weaker ones.
Shadrach also makes comments like how funding your ministry is a type of baptism by fire that you’ll only experience if you go through the task of asking supporters to partner with you. I agree only to some extent with the author that if you had some kind of money-making income that caused you to not need to raise support or trust God the same way for finances, you will miss out on ways that such fund-raising helps build your character and increase your faith to trust the Lord to provide. I personally know a lot of people avoid personal support raising under the guise they’ll be tent makers and fully self-sufficient and that God has given them skills and talents to use for His glory.
Unfortunately, the author is very dogmatic that his way of support raising is the only or best way to do it, and others who don’t follow his advice will suffer and be unfruitful or ineffective in their efforts.
BUT who is to say God can’t or doesn’t do the same type of work in our hearts through starting businesses or other things? Why does it have to be an either/or instead of a both/and?
For more on the other perspective, I heartily recommend readers also read The Missional Entrepreneur by Mark L. Russell for a different perspective on the life of Paul.
As I’ve stated before on this blog, I believe it’s a both/and not an either/or when it comes to funding the mission of God.
Also, in a bit of irony, did it slip the author’s mind that he’s being entrepreneurial when he wrote the book to sell and profit from, and presumably fund his ministry with? So why can’t the rest of us do the same type of thing?
That being said, I still
whole most-heartedly recommend this book to people who are planning on going on the mission field, or who are already there or those who plan on doing any kind of domestic ministry that doesn’t pay their salary.
But don’t just read it. Implement as much of it as applies to your situation. You won’t regret it. But read The Missional Entrepreneur before or afterward so you can get a well balanced approach.
Get the Kindle version and you can upgrade to the Audible version at a reduced price and sync between the two versions.
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Aug 31st, 2017 Edit:
I’ve finally gone ahead and posted my review of The Missional Entrepreneur: Principles and Practices For Business As Mission. Click the image below to read my thoughts.