Funding the Mission

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Tony Merida: Welcome to “Churches Planting Churches,” a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host, Tony Merida.

Our mission is a costly one. Global church planting requires significant financial investment. We gladly give our time, talents and treasures to the one who gave His all for us. While church planters receive thorough training, and theology and leadership, few feel confident to navigate the realm of fundraising instead of realizing the privilege that’s ours, not only to give but to invite others to give as well.

We often approach fundraising feeling like awkward beggars, but our love for Christ and our enthusiasm for his Church propels us to be generous and sacrificial givers. He is worthy and our mission is urgent. And so, as good stewards of the gifts we’ve been entrusted with, it’s our joy to give generous to His kingdom’s cause. With me on the podcast today, to help us think about financial aspects related to our mission, is my friend Shaun Garman.

Shaun is the vice president of partnership development for Acts 29. He’s one of the pastors of Arise Ventura in California. He and his wife, Daisy, have seven children and four grandchildren. Shaun, welcome to the podcast, my man.

Shaun Garman: Hey. Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.

Merida: Seven children.

Garman: Seven children, zin zins. It just keeps going on actually. It’s a conveyor belt of people coming through my life.

Merida: Yeah, man. So what are the ages of those seven?

Garman: Oh, gosh. We’ve got 30, 26, a 23-year-old, we have a 20-year-old, 18, 16 and 14. That’s two daughters, two precious daughters that are married and five sons.

Merida: Wow.

Garman: Yeah, that’s a tribe, man. And then, we’ve got our fifth grandchild on the way so…

Merida: Wow.

Garman: Yeah. It’s beautiful.

Merida: That’s another podcast altogether. Interesting note about Shaun and I. We both travel a bit, and pretty much the only person in the world that I do Marco Polo with is Garman.

Garman: I think you’re the only person I do it with as well. I did it a couple times with Darrin Patrick, but he’s out. I don’t even use Marco Polo so… I, I…

Merida: I’ve done it with Darrin too. That’s interesting. But only one time and Darrin sent me a message, and said, “I’m taking our relationship to another level.”

Garman: He was bitter at me because I did it by the ocean so… Anyway.

Merida: Yeah, I just got started. Every time I’m somewhere, I’m tempted to send Garman a Marco Polo, and he does the same for me.

Garman: That’s good.

Merida: He and I were just together in Dallas, and we were just now talking about upcoming trip to Paris, and it’s a great joy to be able to engage and interact with all the various guys in Acts 29, and to be in our position where you get to see a lot of things that are going on and things that a lot of people aren’t aware of and just, you know, stories that are encouraging, and motivating and challenging.

And we’re going to talk about some of that today. You think about fundraising. Before we get started there, Shaun, just let the listeners have a bit of feel for your life. We know about your seven kids, but how did you come to faith, and how did you get to where you are now?

Garman: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, I am a native Californian through and through. So I’m very West Coast. So I guess my story will sound a little bit West Coast. I was a little skater, surfer punk in my teens when God put an equally obnoxious youth pastor in my life that just knew how to fish.

And he just put his hooks in me at different events. My parents would drag me to stuff. And I came from a broken family, parents got divorced but…so I was going through a lot as a teenager. Felt pretty abandoned by my dad, and just loved baseball, loved surfing, loved the beach and girls at that time.

And this youth pastor, God really used and opened my eyes, took me to a few camps, and about 16, came to know Jesus and wavered probably the next year and a half because I didn’t have a real good community, nor was I discipled. But nonetheless in Mission Viejo, California, like, 34 years ago, holy cow, I’m getting old, yeah, I came to know Jesus.

Just started following him, and the rest is, it’s just, actually it’s not the rest. It’s just grace, straight up grace and… And then, just to think of, gosh… That’s a good question. I haven’t gave that answer in awhile. I just feel like, you know, as you talked about fundraising just being paupers, or ragamuffins or broken paupers of just beggars, it’s easy to get into that because we just realize how humble, and depraved, and broken and dark we came from before.

Merida: Where did you meet your wife at?

Garman: I met my wife in Portland. So I was going to Portland State University and met her, and that was just what I was referring to, had no community. So it was kind of lone ranger Christian which is just weak and just foolish actually. And so, but I met her kind of in a backslide type moment, and then the Lord brought her to himself.

She read my Bible. She started reading the Bible that I wasn’t reading. One day, I walked in, we were living together just being just ding dongs, and just not living the way the Lord would have us live. And we’re living together in downtown Portland, she’s reading my Bible. I come in one day from my job, and I said, “Hey, what do you think about that?” And her eyes got huge.

She’s all of, like, 5-foot-2. Her eyes were as big as she is, and she looked at me peering over that Bible and just said, “I believe every word of this.” And she had been reading it for about three weeks and started from page 1 in Genesis, and she was probably in what most Christians would think is a boring section. You know, like Numbers or something.

And the Lord was saving her through his word so… So we came to Christ young and got married young and… Our script, God had to flip that script because we just were just really young and without mentors, or coaches or shepherds, and so God put us in the Church a little bit later than that.

But yeah, I met her up in Portland, so planted a church up there and planted one down here. I’ve owned companies in both places, started nonprofits in both places. So I really am West Coast, dual citizen. So anyway.

Merida: You’ve been in the A29 family for a long time, right? You’re one of the old heads.

Garman: Yeah. Again, we’ve established that I’m old. I came to Christ centuries ago. Yeah, so Red Sea I planted in North Portland, which is an impoverished, marginalized neighborhood, at least, definitely at that time. It’s gentrified a bit. It’s had a little bit of investment influx through real estate now. But yeah, that church was the fifth church in, so there was literally like, a dinner table full of guys when we started Acts 29 so…

I left for a stint when some things got rocky at the leadership level, and then a bunch of the brothers and sisters just said, “You and Daisy got to come back.” So came back and really glad we did, just see how fruitful and fresh everything is right now.

It’s just…every organization, every family, especially when you have diversity and you’re allowing different gift mixes to rock and roll toward the kingdom, you’re going to have little bumps and bruises with humanity, but it’s such a good time to be a part of the network so… Happy to be back. But yeah, I’m an old school dude.

Merida: Hey, what is a vice president of partnership development? What do you do?

Garman: Hmm, that’s good. What I do is really, it’s, you know, I had to wrestle with this. Henri Nouwen wrote a book basically showing people the legitimacy of being a partnership developer or thinking about fundraising of money and ministry. So after preaching for two decades, I had to wrap my head around it. So I’ve come up with, I really disciple, pastor and shepherd people towards the gospel of giving, of generosity, of really worship.

And even another form of freedom, right. So the gospel’s holistic, so I don’t think you ever stop pastoring. So I get to pastor high wealth individuals, or donors or people kind of through that. So the way I put it is I wake up every day, and I get to listen to the Lord, get to see the opportunities that come our way as far as designing and executing really good strategies that, of course, will increase our abilities to raise funds.

So I get to connect with kingdom-minded individuals, kingdom-minded even corporations and like-minded, you know, in families even. Because a lot of families have discipled their kids well, so sometimes I’m dealing with a family that’s giving…and you’ll see that as wealth increases in families, you’ll see that they’ll create foundations or whatever so…

Merida: What would you say, Shaun, is the giving climate within Acts 29 churches right now? What makes you hopeful? What can we do better?

Garman: Gosh. I would say that the giving climate, I think it’s exuberant. I think people are so passionate about planting at Acts 29. Like, we have a catalyst fund, which some people would think that’s a have-to or that’s what I got to do to stay in. That’s a dues.

I don’t see that overall in the climate of Acts 29. I’ve seen an exuberance and a passion towards people giving. So the way I look at it is, you know, when we bring up a concern, like Paul says this in Philippians 4, he basically says, “I rejoiced greatly and now at lengths, you have revived your concern…”

So concern is a big deal. “Your concern for me and you are indeed concerned for me that you had, but you had no opportunity.” So I think the giving climate is whenever we make somebody aware of a concern or an opportunity, when it comes to expanding the kingdom, we have people that jump in. And just last month…

I’d give you a quick, really quick… We had a guy, a pastor in Acts 29 that needed a van. And vans can be expensive for big families, so we had put a goal of like, “Hey, let’s see if we can raise this guy $20,000.” Just straight out of Philippians, right? Here was a need or a concern, and then here’s the opportunity to those people.

So we have a gospel proclaimer that needs some gospel patrons. And so, when that need was known, the opportunity was there, the opportunity was met, we didn’t raise 20,000 like we thought we would. We raised 25,000 with, like, 6 phone calls. So, you know, that’s proof to me, and then I’m hopeful about people understanding concern and opportunity.

Merida: That’s good, man.

Garman: When it’s presented, we’ve got going on at Acts 29. So I’m super excited about that side of it. And that’s maybe a majority culture but…

Merida: What are some of the obstacles you’ve come up against in fundraising?

Garman: Yeah. I think the obstacles are just, I’ll probably sound cliche, but I think the things that we could do is have a greater confidence in God. Pops owns it all. He owns all the cattle, everything’s under the feet of Jesus, [inaudible] says. It’s all about him.

He’s in full dominion, and He’s placed these things under our dominion, some of these possessions and assets. And so, C.S. Lewis says, relying on God to begin all over again every day as if nothing had been done. So basically, he’s saying this.

He’s saying, “Every day we’ve got to remind ourselves…” We always talk about reciting the gospel to our hearts, but the gospel of generosity, the gospel of having confidence in God, you know, we hear the scarcity mentality, but we have spiritual amnesia and so especially in provision. And so, it’s how soon we forget that manna came the day before.

Manna’s going to come again. And so, turning our hearts toward the Lord is what everyone can usually always do better, right? And so, not trying to go against, you know, the way that sounds to the gospel, like, you should do better.

I think what we should do is receive grace more. And then the other thing I would say is a lot of times, God’s built it into the community. It’s right in front of your face half the time, provision is. So that’s why I’ll go back to making your concerns know. Now we all know that there’s people that just milk that. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about people trying to be overly self-sufficient, not willing to receive the grace and the provision that God has for them. So pastors can get that amnesia, like I said, but a lot of times I’ll find just quickly… Here’s the problem in a whole. I refer to this story a lot in my heart and mind.

I’ve told it probably three times. But I can remember being on a youth group staff. Single mom who’s helping out, everybody says, “Hey, how you doing?” And her need comes up, and she says, “My air conditioning bill is just through the roof. My electricity bill is too high,” blah, blah, blah. “I need, like…”

I think she needed, like, $65. Single mom. Serving Jesus, in Christian community, blah, blah, blah. We all pray for her. Oh Lord, you know, bring her $60, $65, blah, blah, blah. We all go serving kids at youth group that night. At the end, all the youth coaches and sponsors say, “Hey, let’s go out, and get some coffee and a piece of pie.”

So everybody goes at the end of the night, one guy says, “Hey, I’ll take the check.” Well, the bill was about 60 bucks. I got in my car that night, and I thought, “What in the world is going on?” Like, why are we praying that God will just be a genie and show up, and give us provision there when many times the gifts, because the generosity piece of our spiritual DNA has not been functioning, we have atrophy there.

And so, the point is, is many times, like her 60 bucks was at the table. We didn’t even need to pray. It was pretty goofy. We all had coffee and pie money in our pockets, which we didn’t need to do. And so, I think that happens a lot. And so, I just don’t know.

Garman: Yeah. So I just feel like we miss the power of generosity in community.

Merida: So challenge guys like me who are pastors, okay. Give me the elevator pitch on why we should increase our giving and mission.

Garman: Oh.

Merida: Come at me, Garman.

Garman: Yeah. Well, okay so… Elevator pitch means it’s got to be short, because I could be going from one floor to another. And you just walked in, and if I know, you’re a brother, and let’s say you got some deep pockets or whatever so… The first thing I’d say is, “It’s wartime. This is wartime. This is the great commission. You’ve had all authority in heaven and earth bestowed upon you. You are sent into wartime.”

And so, as our fellow Acts 29 brother Ross Lester would say, “It’s all mission ammunition. So when you think about World War II, if it’s wartime, I’ll just go with this analogy, the supply line for the allies is what won World War II. So when you have an unbroken supply chain and the supplies and all of the provision and people are offering and worshiping God, then we win the war.

And we’re going to win many wars, and God honors that as we honor Him with those first fruits, as we learn, and know the needs, and the opportunities and the concerns. Church planting is that front line. They need mission ammunition.

And so, partnership development, what I get to do is really be in charge of setting up the railways, the trucking, the air supply, creating the communication lines and making the needs known among the Christian family so that we can do that. Then here’s where I love about Acts 29. So if it’s wartime, everybody is in.

Remember in World War II, all the ladies started working in steel factories. The women were making airplanes and ships, and so it was the bride of Christ working, giving and celebrating the victories that were taking place, right? So my elevator pitch is it’s wartime. Like, it’s time to go all in, dawg.

Let’s make this happen so… There’s just no resource that can’t be helpful or useful, and that’s the way I viewed, you know, that generation just in a secular wartime so… And then, you know, that famous story, if you haven’t seen Schindler’s List, this guy spent his entire fortune on saving lives.

So the end is, here’s wartime, our legacy is about giving it all away. So our ultimate legacy from our Savior, from God the Father, is for God so loved the world, He gave. And did He give in a way that was ever stingy or regretful in all that He gave in His sacrifice?

No. So when we start to live that life, we can see that the generosity of God is evident through the gospel. When you know the gospel. When we know that in wartime, we’re going through the opposition that nothing’s preventing us from having the power and the authority of the Lord to go and seek and save the loss.

It’s not that we’re fighting this battle for nothing. The vision is that we’re taking on Jesus’ mission. And so, for me, [crosstalk] it’s wartime, baby.

Merida: So you gave example of, you know, people giving to provide this van, that sort of thing. We’ve talked about wartime. How about an example recently. Do you have an example of some generous giver that is, you know, giving evidence of God’s grace at work in their life? I think those stories are always encouraging.

Garman: Absolutely. Well, since I’m, you know, less than six months into partnership development, God hasn’t made me have to scratch and claw too much. He’s really brought, and I believe He’ll continue to do this. We can be strategic, but He’s always going to bring generous givers our way.

So we had an anonymous donor, actually this week this was all happening that I’ve been working with and talking to, and as we partner in the Gospel, right, Philippians 1, as we’re partnering, this guy gets it. And so, not only does he want to see the more churches planted, but he cares about the churches being healthy.

And so, he’s given an anonymous matching gift of $80,000 towards, right now, we’re just putting it towards the U.S. West Pastor’s Wives’ Retreat. So he wants to see new churches, but he wants to see healthy existing leaders and their families. So that was a super awesome, beautiful thing.

And so, that’s an example of a donor that has the resources but is constantly looking for new ways to fill those needs. So the other one is I met a guy in a house church in Los Angeles, and he is a Korean-American.

And he’s got, like, 20 people coming to his house. They’re not in Acts 29, but they see our collaboratives. And so, I get a call from him, we meet up for lunch, and he decides that his 20 people want to put $15,000 in the pot this year towards reaching non-English speakers, non-white leaders in Central America, in Africa.

And so, they got behind our collaboratives, and yeah so…

Merida: That’s awesome.

Garman: I mean, you just see just these amazing things happening where… And then in the churches with that money, people are training and raising up, every type of person you can imagine are becoming pastors and elders, and some are even being church planters that are being sent out to go further into the mission so…

Merida: Hey, and for church planters out there, sometimes they haven’t been taught how to talk about money, or they’re shy about doing it. What kind of counsel would you give church planters regarding how they should talk about money in their church?

Garman: Mm, that’s good. The first question I think of leadership a lot, just even coming from leading leaders and pastoring pastors the last few years in Acts 29 before I took the partnership development is I think the first step when you’re looking at leaders or want to speak into leaders is awareness, you know, leadership awareness 101.

So the first thing I’d ask is how do you relate to money? What’s your personal experience at understanding and practicing biblical finance? And it’s the same thing. It’s very similar to…because people get nervous about talking about it. It means you have an odd relationship with it.

You probably respect it too much. I think that’s the same thing. When we’ve had people, church planters come through assessment, if you don’t have a heart for the loss, if you’re not evangelistic, if you don’t have a good, solid missiology, then you’re probably not going to be able to lead your people or your church into deep, dark places. You know, the deep, dark, dirty places of the mission.

You’re not going to be able to put the light in the darkness there. And so, because you’re not relating with the lost. So in this case, it’d just be what’s your personal experience of generosity? Have you led your spouse and your family in generosity? I have a lot of pastor friends, and I didn’t get on this podcast to burn brothers.

But I feel like some pastors love handouts. They feel privileged to be cheap, and I call that being spiritually spoiled. And I just think that goes back to the garden of trusting God, of understanding that He’s placed you in a place that has plenty, and He has.

And the minute Jesus declared repent for the kingdom is at hand, the kingdom’s at hand. A whole new economy is happening. So the first thing I’d say is how do you relate to money? Are you liberated and selfish in… Do you have a generous gospel? So, you know, I don’t want to take too much time but, super quickly, the gospel of a generous God, seeing that God sees broken things.

He sees bad investments. He sees a low return on investment. He sees you flailing in your fear and your selfishness yet He gives His son. And so, and then the son comes and gives all compassion, lives the full experience, doesn’t wince at any of it.

Like, fully commits, incarnates, and becomes your loving, giving neighbor and gives his life, like, willingly. So it wasn’t begrudgingly. I just think we all need to hear some of those things. And the Holy Spirit’s constantly talking to us about our lack of everything, and then what does he do?

Pours out his power, the fruits, the gifts of the Spirit, and so I would just say what that comes down to is if that’s all true for you, if you want to cultivate an unselfish, you know, liberating gospel in the way that you relate to money, then your expectations will be different. Your life, you can really ask yourself especially with money on the table, with what Luke 16 says of you can’t serve two masters, who are you serving in each moment?

And I think if we whittle it down to those moments, those meditations, those conversations, we’ll stop fearing the wrong God. So I would say, “Pastors, don’t fear the wrong God. Have a focus and expectation that God got you.”

Merida: Amen. Hey, man, it’s a good word, man. Moving from pastors to churches, what would you want churches to know and to celebrate about their own role in seeing the mission go forward?

Garman: Yeah. That’s good. Just reflecting back of the churches that I’ve led and then now as I get to lead a network of churches into what should we be reminded of? What makes us celebrate?

What makes us get excited? And I’ll go back to just the financial term of everybody wants to know what’s the return on investment. If I put in, what’s coming out? And what’s coming out is absolutely obnoxious. It’s the glory of God. So when you give to God and you sense His pleasure, let’s go back to, you know, Cain and Abel, the first ones offering, investing in God’s glory, in recognizing and trusting God in this economy, giving Him the very best, the glory of God is the one thing that we’ve got to understand.

And there’s a piece of this. For you, if you’re, you know, we all start from this selfishness position, for you, as you grow in generosity, you are going to grow in freedom. So there’s another return. Freedom for you as you become less attached to your things, to material things, is the more you live by the Spirit, you’ll grow, right.

Luther says there’s three conversions, right. One of the heart, one of the mind and one of the purse. So there’s a conversion, so once you convert that over you’ll see that God will get more glory in your life, and then here’s obviously, I mentioned it earlier. It’s wartime. So we’re seeking to save the loss through any and all circumstances, and the gospel is a faithful to save.

So the salvation of souls. So glory of God, salvation of souls, and remember this as you lead your churches. Don’t measure it like business. Even though in partnership development, guys like me speaking with high wealth individuals, looking for returns on investment. We can get business-y.

We can get secular really super quick. So remember, it’s all about faithfulness, the widows might. And, you know, and just relying on God whether it’s the manna or ravens are going to bring you or you wait, like, the oil and flour if you think as a widow you’re going to run out of that, God’s got us.

So it’s our faithfulness coming back to Him. So I would say, you know, we got an orphan mentality. We’ve got it bad. We’ve got scarcity, we feel like we’re forgotten. On real bad days where we feel broke financially, we wonder if God cares. We accuse Him of being less than a loving Father.

And so, we have to, so I would say to leaders and churches, like, the direction of generosity is moving past fear, and realizing how loved you are. And if you’re that loved, even when you’re requesting financial things, I promise you God will be generous in teaching you what you have in the Son, in His son and in our Savior, and watch out.

As you go for broke, even with your finances, as some people may be listening right now, just learn how to give a little bit more. Maybe you’re a pastor, and you’re just riddled by guilt that you’re not a generous person. And you would hate for your congregation to find out. I mean, you got to start.

You got to go in, and have you ever met somebody that regretted giving, that said, “Oh, that sucked” or “I gave God too much.” You’ll never outgive him. So Jesus has endless worth. That’s the treasure. So if Jesus is endless worth, you’re never going to outgive God, and anything that you would ever ascribe to Jesus will still be under his feet and still never compare.

But he will use it, you know. It’s not normal. Let’s live abnormal.

Merida: Shaun Garman, pastor, vice president for partnership development Acts 29, thank you so much, man, for not only talking about money but, like, encouraging our souls and reminding us of the good news of the gospel, the kingship of Jesus, and the endless worth of our Savior. Thanks, brother.

Garman: Woo-hoo. Yep. Pleasure to be here. Thank you, Tony.

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