Nina Gunter, general director of Nazarene Missions International (NMI) shares with Holiness Today readers about her passion for missions and how the church around the world can work together for the cause of global evangelization.
Q. We are looking towards the Thanksgiving Offering for the World Evangelism Fund (WEF). Why is this important to the life of the church?
A. The World Evangelism Fund or WEF gives local churches an opportunity to extend their ministries all over the world. It's far more than a call from a denomination to support missions. It's a proven way of carrying out the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. I like to think of the WEF as the cooperative genius of the church.
Q. What does the WEF help to support?
A. As great as our local congregations are, as great as our districts are, there is no one congregation, no one district that can support 739 missionaries. The WEF helps support more than 50 educational institutions and more than 50 medical facilities throughout the world. Also, it helps provide literature in almost 100 languages and facilitates ministry in 148 world areas through more than 13,000 churches.
Q. Explain how the WEF actually works in supporting missionaries.
A. The biggest portion of the WEF is for missionary support. We now have 739 missionaries. So the missionaries get their salaries and benefits from no other source except this fund. We say to our Nazarene missionaries, "God has called you and the church affirms your call, and the church is sending you as a missionary."
Now the expectation is that they are engaging full-time in fulfilling the call that God has given them because they don't have to raise their own support in order to stay on the mission field. They are freed up to do what God has called them to do. Just as God has called the missionary to go, God calls all of us in our home churches to serve. The missionaries can't go without us and we can't "go" without them.
Q. Why a "thanksgiving" offering?
A. That began many years ago as a kind of harvest time, which in many world areas is called "Harvest Offering." But the underlying impetus is that it is an offering of thankfulness to God because God has been so good and given us a great harvest economically, that we want to share because we believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. So as God has blessed us, we are like the psalmist who asked, "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12)
Q. What place does education have in this process?
A. Being educated about the needs is vital because people cannot pray intelligently and give sacrificially without information. That's where NMI comes in—to educate and lead the people in praying and motivating them to give to WEF. This is why it is important for pastors and mission leaders in the local churches to communicate the need to their congregations. You see, this whole calling is so much more than money.
It's so much more than giving. We're talking about eternity. We're talking about souls and reaching people for Jesus Christ. Money just becomes a vehicle. It's a means for doing it. But the bottom line is people are lost without Jesus Christ.
Q. Stewardship is for all ages. How can we help young hearts grasp this concept?
A. Giving, training, developing, discipling, and teaching God's Word about stewardship begins when children are young and moves on through the youth years. But again, connect them with the need. They want to respond to need and they will. I think we have the finest group of children and youth that I've ever seen in the church. They want to use their resources to make a difference in the world.
We need to show them where their sacrificial giving, not just parents handing it out to them, can lead in helping others. That's one of the things we really need to emphasize to our youth and children.
Q. It sounds logical, but how do we do that?
A. Bring them into the mission services when missionaries and other special speakers are visiting, so that they, too, will be challenged. Provide opportunities for interaction with missionaries so that they will know the needs firsthand.
Q. What would you say about the giving history of Nazarenes?
A. I sincerely believe that Nazarenes will give to a need and respond to a cause. But they have to know about it. I have seen it repeated many, many times and I just say, "Thank God." I celebrate the faithfulness of Nazarenes in giving to WEF.
Q. What would you say to those who would respond with, "I give locally. That should be enough."
A. Many good causes beckon us to give, to support, and we want to be aware of those. However, when we think about meeting spiritual needs, there is a great accountability with a great opportunity in giving to the WEF. Of course the largest percentage of the WEF is allocated in World Mission regions.
When we compare the abundance of knowledge of Jesus that people have in Canada and the U.S., thanks to readily available Christian literature and media programs, to nations where the majority of people have not ever heard the Truth, we must take action.
Q. How can we help develop positive mindsets about giving?
A. Telling the story helps people to give. In the Church of the Nazarene, we are getting the stories out of the results of giving so that people will know that their efforts are making a difference. Think about the facts—in the last 12 years the Church of the Nazarene has entered 56 more world areas with the Gospel, and in the last 20 years our membership in World Mission regions has seen a 700 percent net increase. This means new people are coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ. I'd say, "Yes, our giving makes a difference."
Q. What role does Nazarene Missions International have in the WEF?
A. One of the four goals of Nazarene Missions International, part of what we call the "Achievement Program," is to give to the WEF. We don't achieve very much in life without a goal or target. In 1996, the Board of General Superintendents asked NMI if they would add to their goals the payment in full of WEF. The General NMI Council took on that assignment. It doesn't mean all the money is raised by NMI. Rather, NMI leaders in local churches and districts are the key motivational people. They are motivating along with pastors and district superintendents.
Q. A lot of people want to give but are afraid of putting themselves in a tight spot. What would you say to that?
A. I think people just need to trust God. That's why it is so important to saturate the Thanksgiving and Easter Offerings and faith promise efforts in prayer. Because God knows needs, God knows the missionaries He has already called and those He will call. God knows where His money is and He can match it all to accomplish His purposes through us. That is why it is so important that we ask God what our giving should be.
Holiness Today November/December 2004