When people ask me how the financial structure of Ember works, I tell them that I raise money for the organization and then each staff member, myself included, is responsible to raise their own salary. A typical response is something like, “Wow, that sounds really hard.” And my typical response… “Yeah, it is definitely challenging at times… BUT I LOVE IT.”
And it’s true! Though it is a challenge, I love that personal financial investment is a large portion of our financial engine, both for Ember, and for our staff. In 2012 God invited Becky and me to begin a journey of leaning into him in an uncomfortable way — classic. As I left my job in business and walked into the wild world of ministry and the prayer room, I saw that I needed him and that I needed people. It’s not that we didn’t lean into him before and it’s not that we didn’t need people before, but this felt like fresh perspective.
I think what actually happened when we decided —or let’s be real, when God decided— that our financial way forward would come through the financial investment of individuals, we came face-to-face with our lack of control. In business, I can generate revenue by working harder to sell a product or by creating new products or services. If I desire to teach in academia, I have a clear track to run on; I get an education, I receive credentials, and I find a job working in an institution that fits those credentials. If I am a doctor, I’ve gone to school for quite some time and followed a clear path for how to be successful and how to gain my needed financial engine and launch into my career. Amidst the system and structures that have been created, it can become easy to think that we make or break our success by how hard we work and how committed we are to the process.
But really, in any vocational path, we are never in control and finances are never absolute, no matter how hedged in we might feel by external circumstances. And as I walked into vocational ministry, I found myself grasping for a guardrail. And I didn’t find one. And this was God’s intention.
Grasping for the guardrail
Oh yeah… This sense of security I have felt in other jobs, is actually fantasy. I think the same realization could as easily happen for someone who is suddenly laid off from their job or when the market is down or when state/federal funding ebbs and flows. We are not in control. There is no guardrail. There is no security in wealth. True security is found in God, the one who says, I will never leave you or forsake you. It is a fantastic filter for, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6).
Connectedness and multiplication
The other aspect of individual financial investment that I really love is that of connectedness and multiplication. If in 2012, I was presented a salary from Norman Community Church that I would receive every month to build a culture of worship and prayer, no one outside of the community would have ever heard from me again. I would have quietly and purposefully given myself to the small context in which I had been given. But raising funding through sharing my vision with others automatically blasted me outside of my small little world and necessitated that I share my story on a greater scale. Both in an initial way and in an ongoing way.
God designed us to need oneanother. Our creator set up the system so that there would be one body but many parts(paraphrase 1 Corinthians 12). When thanking him for contributing to our ministry, a good friend of mine, on several occasions has bluntly stated, “Well, I can’t even comprehend how you can pick up a guitar and actually make music with it. It’s incredible. Of course I want to invest in what you do, because it allows me to participate with you.” Something that comes as second nature to me seems like such a far reach for another. And likewise, something in which I could never dream of excelling, is the most natural and life-giving vocational response to another.
Just a small piece of his creation
Every human being was created to give God glory in a very specific and unique way. How incredible it is to be part of this orchestra that stretches the expanse of heaven and earth. The earth, trees, mountains, planets, stars all give glory to God. The heavenly beings and angels also give him glory continually. What an honor it is to be part of his body, a specific expression of himself, designed with the primary purpose of giving him glory.
As we reach out to bless another’s role in this process, we move from handing God our own unique gift and we delve deeper into our personal kingdom investment through another individual, extending their reach, overlapping and multiplying the enabled continual glory of God. How beautiful.