Three Lessons from Simon and Rebecca Pillar, United Kingdom

Each month, we introduce you to a Christian who is on the generosity path, and we ask them what God’s taught them about giving.

This month, meet Simon and Rebecca Pillar from the United Kingdom.

1. Become a Gospel Patron to a ‘Bloke Worth Backing’. 

As Simon’s career developed, he and his wife Rebecca “wanted to think through how to be most effective in supporting Gospel ministry,” Simon says. “We set out to understand how God had worked at key points in church history and from that to think through the role we could play in our own generation. As one looks down the ages, one sees that God has raised up people with great gifts of evangelism and teaching, but what was interesting to observe was that He hasn’t left them alone. He also raised up people to stand with these front line workers and support them, not just financially, but in numerous other ways as well. It is a model we see in the Bible and it appealed to us as a model which reflects the central Gospel tenets of relationship, generosity and sacrifice.”

Along the way, the Pillars catalyzed the Gospel Patrons movement (below) and found joy in becoming patrons to a number of ministry leaders with whom they have a deep friendship. “We look for ‘blokes worth backing’ and seek to stand with them through thick and thin,” says Simon. “We are called to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep’ and this is at the heart of relational Gospel patronage.”

We look for ‘blokes worth backing’ and seek to stand with them through thick and thin.

2. Keep the Word at the Center.

“I saw many otherwise mature Christian people who weren’t thinking through how they give,” says Simon. “They get spread too thin, and they often are not focused on Word ministry.” Mercy ministries are important of course. “We should generously support the poor and the disadvantaged,” says Simon, but too many Christians are “putting their money where the secular dollar is happy to operate. We want to focus on Word ministry. It can be teaching, training or evangelism, but it’s all about the proclamation of the Gospel. Where we are backing mercy ministries it is where the Word is the foundation and the Gospel heart of the ministry is clear.”

3. Focus on the Few, Encourage the Many.

Givers ask how diversified to be. Simon and Rebecca give through three concentric circles. First, they have about a twelve “Gospel Patron” relationships that “are deep and may develop into lifetime partnerships,” says Simon. These receive about 60 percent of their support. Second, about 20 percent goes to mercy and other ministries that do good work and are Gospel-based. “We don’t have an especially close relationship with these, but we love them and want to support them,” says Simon. Finally, the Pillars reserve about 20 percent for spontaneous asks, like “project funding where someone we know says, ‘Here’s a really important project we’re doing. Can you help?’” It is a work in progress and Simon is the first to say there is no ‘right answer’. “In any year there are always good and worthy needs that arise that one has to turn away. This can cause one to question if one’s criteria and mix of funding are right”, he says. For the moment, he and Rebecca are content with their approach but are conscious of the need to reassess things on a regular basis.
Simon and Rebecca love to support evangelism and church-planting and are particularly focused on ministries that have a ‘training mindset’. “We have seen the intergenerational benefits of ministries that have a 2 Timothy 2:2 approach, so it is important to us that people with whom we partner take this instruction seriously”, says Simon.

Simon and Rebecca love to give to:

Wealth produces isolation. The Gospel Patrons movement brings community by connecting givers to one another, to ministries, and to the poor. “Gospel Patronage is distinct from Christian philanthropy,” says Simon. “It’s a deeper work with fewer folk to achieve greater things, God willing. Bigger bets on fewer guys.”

The Gospel Patrons movement grew out of the Gospel Patrons Society (GPS) in Australia. “GPS was organized to support one particular ministry,” says Simon. GPS members become patrons supporting the apprenticeship of young ministers, underwriting their training and mentoring them. “The notion of Gospel patronage is deeply relational. It’s funding, but it’s also relationship and thinking strategically with them. It’s an apprenticeship support model over a lifetime.”

To bring the concept to others, Simon locked arms with John Rinehart. John’s book Gospel Patrons has inspired numerous wealthy givers globally. Gospel Patrons shares case studies, showing how ministers whom God has used throughout history—Whitefield, Tyndale, Newton—have been supported financially and spiritually by givers whose names most of us don’t know.

“God in his wisdom has taken the most unassuming, unlikely people and use them hugely for the Kingdom. Could one of the people that we’re in partnership with be the William Tyndale or John Newton of today?” asks Simon. “Could history be different because of us?”

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