By Scott Rodin, PhD
I believe that there are seven deadly sins that face every Christian fundraiser. I base this belief on my understanding of Biblical stewardship and the reality of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged as Christian development professionals. As a result, I am convinced that God-pleasing development work carries with it a whole series of unique challenges and potential pitfalls. The following points form the context for this discussion.
- We were created to live as holistic stewards of our God-given relationships at four levels; our relationships to God, ourselves, our neighbor and our creation;
- We are called to be one-kingdom stewards, placing everything we have and everything we are under the one lordship of Jesus Christ;
- Our development work is ministry when it challenges and nurtures the stewardship responsibilities of our donors;
- We face significant spiritual warfare when we deal with issues of money and obedience in the kingdom of God;
- We must be prepared to enter this warfare and ensure that our work is God-pleasing ministry and does not become accommodated to worldly standards.
With these factors in view, here are seven deadly sins I believe face every one of us involved in the profession of Christian development.
Sin One – Being Unprepared for the Battle
As a Christian development professional, are you spiritually ready to engage in this battle? Are you willing to walk into the enemy’s territory, put your stake in the ground and say ‘we are not going to do our work according to worldly standards and secular values’? Are you ready to engage in the hard process of calling our people back to whole, one kingdom living? For anyone involved in Christian fund raising work, before attaining the skills and training for what you do, you must first focus on who you are. I believe that who you are as a child of God and where you are in your relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than any tool you will learn in any seminar at any conference that you will attend for the rest of your development life. Cultivate the disciplines of a spiritual walk with Christ that keep you prepared daily for the spiritual battle.
Sin Two – Self Reliance over Spirit Reliance
When we ask our people to pray for God’s guidance about their giving decision do we really mean it? We may hope that giving decisions are made because God’s children come before the throne of God and ask what God would have them do, and then respond obediently. But what role do we really leave for the spirit to do? Do we really step back from the threshold of manipulation and allow God’s spirit to have the final say in the giving decision of our donors? When we cross the line and take it upon ourselves to be the final motivating force for that coveted ‘yes’ from our supporters, we have committed the second deadly sin, and stolen God’s glory in the process. Cultivate a total dependence on the working of the Spirit in the hearts of your donors and refuse to take that role for yourself.
Sin Three – Money over Ministry
Despite the pressure to raise funds ministering to our donors must take precedent over asking for gifts. Our work is to facilitate the process that leads to God’s people cheerfully and joyfully doing what God puts on their hearts to do. Yet we continually face the pressure to secure funds in order to balance budgets and meet operating needs. So how do we respond when care for the donor – the ministry into which you have been called – seems to conflict with doing what it takes to get the gift? This deadly sin is committed whenever ministry is lifted over care for our donors. It’s a hard choice but relationships are the mediums in which we work. Relationships and trust must always come first. The enemy will use pressure, doubt and a false sense of urgency to shift your focus away from the ministry of development and onto the pursuit of immediate returns. We must cultivate a ministry mindset in your development work and never let it be unseated as your first and highest calling.
Sin Four – Unwillingness to Invest the Time
Building trust and relationships takes time. Godly development work is the investment of time to sit with donors when things are difficult, time to call them, to demonstrate in word and deed that we care about them. Ministry requires presence where short cuts almost always involve some level of manipulation and coercion. Impatience is a deadly enemy. The enemy will create an impatient spirit within you and tempt you to use manipulation and coercion to close the deal. Build the necessary time in your developmental planning and don’t deviate for the sake of expediency.
Sin Five – Decisions without Discernment
Godly development work requires an abundance of wisdom and discernment. What is your process for making sure that you have heard God’s word in every decision you make in your development work? And how consistent are you in seeking God’s guidance in everything you do? Put more bluntly, when do you stop seeking to hear God’s voice and simply ask him to bless what we were going to do anyway? The enemy will temp you to listen to your own voices, trust your own ideas, and short cut the discernment process. Cultivate a discernment mindset. Commit the time and be willing to be held accountable. The people working in the developmental profession must be spiritually mature people who have a passion for Christ who want to listen for the word of the Holy Spirit in everything they do.
Sin Six – Activity without Accountability
In this spiritual battle, accountability is critical. What systems do you have in place in your ministries to ensure that funds are spent like they are designated? That donor calls are undertaken with the ministry intent? That hearts are prepared before donor visits are made? Are development plans made on a biblical basis with the guidance of the Spirit? Are development staff committed to ongoing spiritual growth in their personal walk with Christ? The enemy will seek to drive wedges of secrecy and deception into your development work wherever there is no accountability. Develop a clear accountability system in your development program at every level and give it authority.
Sin Seven – Stealing the Glory
In our work we are called to balance acknowledging donors, rewarding successful fundraising work, and giving God the glory for all good things. How do keep our priorities straight? First, we acknowledge donors appropriately for their obedience to what God has laid on their hearts. Second, we recognize development staff in ways that understanding their role as ministry and not as a detached sales force. Finally, we glorify God completely and absolutely as the true source of all funds and blessings of every kind. We also glorify God for the ministry accomplishments as much as the fundraising accomplishments. The enemy will do all he can to divert our attention away from God and give glory in any other possible place. Cultivate a process of appropriate acknowledgement of donors, appreciation of staff, and give all glory and praise to God.