One of the hardest things for people who work in Christian ministry or as missionaries is making sure they have enough money to live on. You might feel like God is calling you to do something, but sometimes that can come at the cost of your own financial stability.
Alex Cook from Wealth With Purpose thinks that we should go into this kind of work with our eyes wide open. Some churches and denominations will do a better job than others of talking about retirement and financial security.
Alex recently joined us on 20Twenty to talk about how we can figure out how much missions or ministry will cost before we start. Alex suggests, from a practical point of view, that you buy a house before you leave so that you have a place to come back to.
Owning your own Home
‘It’s not just missionaries, but also pastors who often find they don’t own their own home,’ Alex says. ‘It’s very common for those in ministry. They may go into Bible college at a young age, then get married and have children. All of the sudden they’ve got expenses and can’t buy their own home.’
It’s a very common issue and a very important one to grapple with. There are organisations working on solutions like co-ownership for people in ministry. Alex believes we should never stop doing what God is calling us to because of financial reasons.
‘If you feel God is leading you in a way He will provide,’ says Alex. ‘But I do encourage people to buy a property and rent it out and essentially have someone else pay off the mortgage. That way it can be paid off without having to take on too big a debt.’
Planning for Retirement
If you’re in ministry and you can save a little bit, it will go a long way. As you get older, you will have a place that you can either live in or sell. But it’s a more complex decision than that because when you do go into retirement, there’s the issue of wanting to be near your family.
‘Help and support do make a big difference,’ says Alex. ‘Being near a church where you’re loving and serving people and they’re serving you is important. Where you’re going to live is a critical decision. Then of course, medical issues and being close to hospital care also comes into the decision.’
The way the current Australian financial system works, you can potentially get a part pension or a full pension based on your assets. So if you do own your own home and have a small amount of super, combined with Centrelink that can give you an adequate income.
Christians recognise that there is a battle happening, and there are implications for believers around money. Alex says that one very overlooked area of the Christian faith is the spiritual warfare that can happen over money.
The Spiritual Battle over Finances
‘We see the physical realm all around us every day when we get up and go to work,’ says Alex. ‘However, the Bible makes it very clear that the spiritual realm overflows in the physical sense and has a profound influence on our society. It’s a relentless battle for the souls of mankind.’
‘The Bible makes it clear that the devil hates us and wants to take us away from God,’ says Alex. ‘He wants us to abandon the faith. One of the ways he gets us to do that is money. Because our heart and our money are often very linked. The Bible warns that we can fall in love with money, and if we do we’re making money an idol.’
If you’re heavily in debt, you can be enslaved to money and you end up giving less to fund the kingdom. The devil tries to dismantle God’s plan for humanity, which is the union of a man and a woman. Financial stress is one of the ways he does this and one of the leading causes of divorce in Australia right now.
Be Generous not Fearful
‘There’s a natural reaction and that is fear,’ says Alex. ‘Particularly the fear of lack in a world gone mad. The danger is when we allow fear to creep in, our natural reaction is to withhold. We won’t be generous if we’re fearful. But it also leads to indecision or poor decision making.’
‘As believers we should always have hope. Not just hope for the short term, but hope for eternity. Our light will shine brighter as some of the darkness grows around us. We shouldn’t fear, but we should look to God.’