Monday, November 3, 2014

A Teacher of Trust

I was drawn to George Mueller (1805-1898) in the later years of my ministry.  I found him about the time I had become unbearably weary with what I perceived as the church's demand that I become engrossed in fund raising every fall.  No matter what program was used, it always seemed to be designed in such a way as to exert pressure and guilt upon people in order to raise more money for bigger budgets and larger buildings.  There was talk about the joy of giving, but there always seemed to be a greater measure of guilt for not giving more.
George Mueller was indeed a breath of fresh wind blowing in this world where giving to God was actually giving to the church so its institutional life would be sustained.  Mueller was a 19th century German who spent a lifetime caring for orphans in Bristol, England.  Starting with a few dozen children, he ended up taking responsibility for several thousand.  He made a practice of never asking anyone for supporting funds, but instead expected God to provide for the needs of his ministry of compassion to the children of Bristol.  Instead of becoming an institutional fundraiser, he simply trusted God to provide.  And the amazing thing was that it actually worked.  There were times when children sat down at empty breakfast tables to give thanks only to have an unexpected delivery of milk or bread.

George Mueller challenged me to take a hard look at this dimension of my ministry.  It was always easy to talk about, or even preach about God providing without really practicing what was being preached.  Inordinate amounts of time, energy, and resources were invested in making sure the church raised enough money to spend more next year than last year.  The practice seemed to make a lie out of much that preaching which had at its core the idea that God could be trusted to provide what was needed.  Mueller's life of faith kept reminding me of two errors.  One had to do with energizing people to give to the church instead of God.  And the second error was in trusting too much in human resources and not really enough in the faithfulness and the purposes of God.

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