Before you write the check
By Randy Hurst
When calamities strike around the world, the Assemblies of God is there — with the compassion of Christ — to offer help to suffering men, women and children.
Our missionaries and national churches are already in place in troubled regions throughout the world. So, in times of crisis, our missionary family and fraternal fellowships are the most efficient means of distributing relief and providing medical care. In addition, we have the opportunity — and the obligation — to help those in our spiritual family who are suffering.
But before writing a check or making a donation to any relief organization, you should ask these simple but critical questions:
Is this ministry meeting only physical needs?
Assemblies of God compassion ministries do not merely address people’s physical needs. They also reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. It is right and Christian to meet the physical needs of those who are suffering. But to the Christian who understands the issue of humanity’s eternal destiny, ministry to spiritual needs should be central to all outreach to the spiritually lost.
Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”* If we must choose between ministering to physical needs alone or doing so while presenting the gospel and providing a spiritual family where people can grow in Christ, the choice is clear. Unless the needs of people’s eternal souls are addressed, any effort to meet their physical and social needs is both incomplete and temporary. Historically, many missions organizations have diluted their missionary purpose and ultimately degenerated into agencies of mere social reform at the exclusion of proclaiming the gospel.
What is my relationship with this organization?
People in Assemblies of God churches are giving millions of dollars each year to secular humanitarian agencies without realizing they can be far more effective stewards of their resources by giving through Assemblies of God ministries. Many people in the Assemblies of God are unaware of the Fellowship’s extensive compassion ministries that touch the poor and suffering throughout the world.
Appeals confront us through a variety of means, including television ads and direct mail. Mailing lists with names of individuals who have given to various charities are regularly sold to other organizations. The Assemblies of God does not allow other organizations access to its lists of donors.
When you give to your local church or to a ministry of the Assemblies of God, rest assured you are giving to an organization that is accountable to spiritual leadership and that reports regularly to its contributors.
How much of my gift actually gets to the need?
Any ministry that serves people has operational expenses that must be met. The cost of feeding the hungry goes beyond purchasing food and transporting it to people in need. But the overall efficiency of an organization needs to be examined by those who help support it. That is why the U.S. government requires nonprofit corporations to break down their expenses to show how much of each donated dollar goes for program services (the actual amount that is used for the need) and how much is used for administration (the amount used to oversee and manage the ministry) and fund raising (communicating the need). This information is to be made available by all federally recognized, nonprofit corporations.
Assemblies of God World Missions has one of the lowest administrative costs of any organization — just 5 percent. Many organizations spend 20 or 30 percent of donations, and even more, for administration expense. In some cases, more funds are spent on administration and fund raising than the amount that actually gets to the need.
What will my gift accomplish?
In Assemblies of God World Missions, ministry to physical needs is always integrated with addressing spiritual needs. As stewards of the resources God has placed in our hands, we should want our giving to count. Efficiency is not the only issue. We should be concerned about effectiveness.
Dollars given through Assemblies of God missions are both efficiently distributed and effectively used. As Assemblies of God missionaries and national churches overseas distribute relief — whether feeding the hungry or giving medical care to the suffering — they also share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In almost all cases, a church home is available where people who respond can be discipled and grow in Christ.
In some countries, especially in recent years, ministry relief has been the means through which doors have opened to the gospel. Compassionate response to disasters or civil wars has resulted in believers being born into Christ’s eternal kingdom and churches being established.
How long will the impact of my gift last?
Effectiveness is not just about what happens now. True effectiveness has a long-term impact. In Assemblies of God World Missions, relief is always done in partnership with established national churches. When lives are touched, the impact is not temporary or fleeting. People are connected with a church where they can grow in Christ and, in many cases, receive long-term help — learning how to improve their economic circumstances by practicing biblical principles of labor and stewardship, and learning to care for one another in Christian love.
Is God’s hand of blessing on this particular ministry?
As people of the Spirit, we can seek and trust the Holy Spirit for guidance. We want to give to ministries that please God and pay eternal dividends. It is a legitimate spiritual question to ask ourselves if we see God’s blessing on a particular ministry, venture or initiative. When we invest our dollars in a particular outreach, we should pray God’s blessing upon it. We should also prioritize giving to ministries that are doing an effective work for Him and are operating under His hand of blessing.
*Mark 8:36, NASB
Randy Hurst is commissioner on evangelism for the Assemblies of God.
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