The God Ask: A Fresh, Biblical Approach to Personal Support Raising: A Review Article, Part 2
April 17th, 2015
(You can see Dr. Straub's first article from the Nick of Time blog here: The God Ask Review Part 1)
Last week, I began to evalutate Steve Shadrach’s book on raising ministry support, The God Ask. It is a how-to manual for Christian workers who need to secure personal funding for their ministry. I found it an interesting and engaging book, with a number of helpful suggestions that can make the efforts of a support-seeking Christian servant more successful. Last week, I pointed out the strengths of the book. However, I also found several things in the book that are cause for concern.
First, Shadrach overexegetes the Scripture in his attempt to ground his ideas in the Bible. I think his effort to find biblical support for fundraising from individuals is commendable, but he sometimes reads more into the biblical narrative than is warranted. In effect, he makes the Scripture teach what it was never intended to teach. This can be clearly seen in chapters 7 and 8. In chapter 7, “Nehemiah’s Vision,” the author walks the reader through the story of Nehemiah, the Persian king’s cupbearer, who was sovereignly placed in Artaxerxes’ life during Israel’s captivity. Because of his close proximity to the king, Nehemiah is able to ask him for certain favors on behalf of the exiled children of Israel. God grants the Israelites favor through the request of the cupbearer. For Shadrach, the story becomes a paradigm for seeking personal support from individuals. Nehemiah’s “tremendous emotion” moved the king such that his example is a model for the pathos of the support raiser. Nehemiah humbly lays his request before the king, who “knew a good investment when he saw it, realizing that Nehemiah was a man who planned his work…and then worked his plan.” As Nehemiah made his “God ask” to the king, “he not only walked into his appointment prepared with a series of carefully worded questions, he was fully determined to wait as long as he needed to allow the king to reply.”
As the Shadrach concludes this chapter, he offers “other lessons” from Nehemiah. Support raisers need to “set specific start and finish dates.” Nehemiah, readers are assured, “had prayed and thought out in advance every detail of his plan.” Support raisers need to “be open to taking gifts from non-believers”: “They all qualify—no matter their religious background. I refuse to reject anyone from the opportunity to invest in God’s eternal purposes—and possibly get personally impacted in the process. Just get them on your team.” Finally, Nehemiah is a model for “ask[ing] for appropriate amounts.”
The story of Nehemiah is certainly a rich Old Testament story of God’s providential supply for the nation of Israel. Seeing how God bent the mind and will of a pagan king to help Israel return to the land is in keeping with Proverb 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Many times in the Old Testament, the children of Israel found favor in the eyes of the Lord and received earthly benefits from the pagans around them. But I really wonder if God intended us to use the story of Nehemiah, directly or indirectly, to speak to the issue of a Christian worker raising personal support. The author, in reading the Old Testament story this way, actually uses Nehemiah to argue that the Christian worker should actively seek support from unbelievers. “Just get them on your team,” we are told. Is this really what God intended to teach by the story of Nehemiah? Is this a correct use of this Old Testament story?