(A version of this post was first published in Southwestern News, vol 72, issue 3, 2014, p.45)
The man was larger than life – the patriarch of a republic and state, an alcoholic, lawyer, and a life-long fighter in the political and military arenas. It took three pastors and a devout and praying Baptist wife to help this man surrender his life to Christ. All four were present at his baptism. On November 19, 1854 in a pond off Little Rocky Creek in Washington County, Texas, General Sam Houston was baptized. From that time forward, Houston became a generous supporter of Kingdom purposes, beginning with paying half the local pastor’s salary. When queried about this, Houston reportedly stated, “My pocketbook was baptized too.”
Houston realized that salvation is a heart transformation of all aspects of person. He would agree with Martin Luther’s amusing and convicting statement that “there are three conversions necessary – the conversion of the heart of the mind, and of the purse.” Transformed Christians give from their hearts. It is a natural outcome of whole-life transformation to be generous and rich towards God.
Working in Institutional Advancement is an exciting and fulfilling ministry. Yes, biblical fundraising is a ministry. It plays a critical role in the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Fundraising indirectly fulfills the Great Commission by gathering the funds necessary to send God-called men and women to “all the nations” to make disciples. Fundraising directly fulfills the Great Commission through discipleship, facilitating the transformation of people into the image of Christ by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” about possessions and generosity. That is, the staff of Institutional Advancement is called to present opportunities and allow God to move ministry partners’ hearts to give whatever time, talent, and resources He reveals to them as their proper participation.
Randy Alcorn writes, “We come to understand that our perspective on and handling of money is a litmus test of our true character. It is an index of our spiritual life” (Money, Possessions, and Eternity, p. 21). If I gauge the faith and generosity of Southwestern’s ministry partners by this, I can unequivocally conclude that Southwestern is blessed with saints that have been transformed into the image of Christ! Southwestern is blessed with ministry partners of every ilk, from the widow who gives her Social Security-based mite and takes Southwestern’s petitions to the throne of God fervently and consistently, to the wealthy ministry partner who wants to impact the Kingdom with his financial generosity and circle of friends, and the couple who sacrificially helps students who are in need of basic food, clothing, and housing. Southwestern reiterates the Pauline thanksgiving of 1 Thessalonians 1:2: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.”