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The Receiving End

By Myles Wilson | 7 June 2013

Receiving End

This blog is part 8 in The Art of Giving email series. Want to sign up to receive all ten emails for free? Enter your email address here.


This story starts a generation ago, in 1947. It was a year after my parents, Joe and Annie Wilson, had got married and they faced a challenging decision. Would they go to China as missionaries? They were a young working class couple, my dad an electrician, my mum a waitress in a transport cafe until they moved town after their marriage. A friend was going to China with China Inland Mission (now known as OMF) and they had the chance to go with her.

In the end they didn’t go. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to. It was because they recognised a clear call of God on their lives to ‘send’ instead of ‘go’. They spent the rest of their lives doing exactly that – supporting and encouraging missionaries wherever and whenever they could.

My parents even included their future children in this 1947 commitment and gave us all away as missionaries before any of us were even conceived. They had enough wit not to tell us this as we were growing up (that would have been some serious spiritual blackmail!) but it meant I grew up in a home where supporting missionaries was a privilege, an excitement, a delight and a fantastic way of being involved in God’s kingdom work. A generation later, all three of their children are missionaries and have been for a combined total of over 100 years. We all made our decisions independently in the 1970s and 1980s, not realising that the decisions were really made for us in 1947. 

My parent’s decision to be conscious senders created a DNA in our family. It gave us a bias, a prejudice towards supporting people in Christian ministry. Supporting missionaries wasn’t just an activity, it was who we were as a family. All three of us were supporters of missionaries before we went into mission ourselves, and we all still greatly enjoy supporting others.

When my wife and I started living on a support basis and switched from being mostly givers to being mostly receivers it was a challenge for me. The emotions were different and it felt strange, sometimes even uncomfortable. I talked to others who lived on a support basis and there didn’t seem to be anything like the joy among the receivers that I experienced as a giver. So where did the joy go missing? What crack in the floor did it fall through as the money changed hands from supporter to missionary?

I knew that I needed to sort this out if I was to continue living, and enjoying, the calling God had put on our hearts so I started exploring what the Bible says about it.

First of all I realised that because Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)those who live by the gifts of others in Christian ministry will always be at the lower end of the blessing spectrum. It is an occupational hazard, a reality that I needed to recognise and accept.  It also meant that our supporters were much further along the blessing spectrum than I was so I didn’t have to worry about them. They were doing fine. I was the one with the problem!

Secondly, I was encouraged by Paul’s comments to his supporters in Philippi. His letter to them is the first recorded thank you letter from a missionary to his supporters so I reckoned it should give a useful foundation for me. Far from being embarrassed or confused by their support, Paul saw it as a fantastic connection. He says that he appreciated their partnership (Phil 1:5), their prayers (Phil 1:19), their joy (Phil 1:25), their messenger (Phil 2:25) and their concern (Phil 4:10). He also says that he is delighted to receive their support because he knew that by giving to him their account (not his account) was in more credit (Phil 4:17) and that their needs (not his needs) would be met (Phil 4:19).

I wasn’t going to argue against Jesus’ teaching or Paul’s experience. I started to view our supporters as real partners in God’s kingdom work, not just a source of money. It was also helpful to think like a reviver in this process, focussing on the benefits to them rather than just seeing how we could benefit. And we kept our own giving as high as it could be, not expecting our supporters to act in a way that we weren’t already acting ourselves towards others.

Almost 40 years later we still delight in opportunities to support others – and we still enjoy the delight of others as they choose to support us. In the end, it is just the redistribution of God’s wealth among God’s children to see God’s kingdom grow in the best way possible. What a privilege to be part of that!

the challenge:

If you’re struggling with how to receive, why not read through the passage in Philippians and reflect on it?  Myles Wilson runs training days in how to receive well, communicate well with ‘partners’ and why it’s OK to ask.  If you want to go deeper on this issue, click on the link here.

If you’re a giver, how does it challenge you to think of a support request from a missionary as an honour, and an opportunity to be blessed?


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