The difference between Transformational Giving and Christian Stewardship, part I

I was permitted to eavesdrop on a stimulating conversation this week between Mission Increase Foundation Colorado Giving and Training Office Suzanne Dubois and Dave, one of her favorite attendees at her training events.

Not having had the conversation, I don’t want to (mis)represent Dave but rather want to share a portion of what he had to say, since Dave’s view seems to me to be similar to that shared by folks like Wes Wilmer in his book, A Revolution in Generosity: Transforming Stewards to Be Rich Toward God. It is a position with which I ultimately respectfully disagree (hence why I myself do not recommend the Wilmer book or approach), but with a disagreement that I hope may lead to some new insights for all of us, myself included.

First, an excerpt from Dave’s correspondence. Dave felt that Mission Increase Foundation‘s recent workshop on transforming major donor development (moving from soliciting donors to coaching champions) downplayed the importance of solicitation:

My goal is to grow donors to be rich toward God, regardless of whether they give money to us or some other cause. Yes, I ask donors about their passion and will suggest a way to help them along that path if possible, but ultimately, I am concerned with their relationship with God and what He is saying to them. As part of that I believe we are called to ask people for what we want them to do. Moses certainly did that in the first capital campaign, and so did Paul. I didn’t hear anything about asking in this week’s class….

I’m sure we agree that all those verses are there because God is concerned about money and possessions being a proxy for the state of our hearts. So doesn’t it make sense to help donors understand that? The Word tells us that where our money is, there our heart will be also. Many people don’t notice the order of that. First the money; then the heart. I think that may even be how God leads us to causes that He wants us to advance, not the other way around. I do think God is honored when people get more actively involved as well. But of course, that is another reflection of their developing Biblical stewardship – over their time and talents.

The more I thought about Dave’s perspective, the more I felt Transformational Giving was at deep variance with it. I was particularly struck today by 2 Peter 1:5-8:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice that Peter does not begin by addressing the Christian’s finances and suggesting that if one’s finances are in order, the rest will of necessity follow. Nor does Peter put finances in the middle nor at the end.

Why? Is Peter leaving finances out?

No. It’s because finances are involved at each step in the process. Dave’s approach treats financial giving as a distinct and separable act, and one that initiates a process–and certainly this is a popular Christian fundraiser view.

  • Pastors and seminaries who don’t like to talk about money look at ‘Where your treasure is, your heart is also’ and they think, ‘Let’s cultivate the heart; then the treasure will follow.’
  • The stewardship movement looks at ‘Where your treasure is, your heart is also’ and they think, ‘Let’s cultivate the giving of the treasure; then the heart will follow.’
  • But TG is a comprehensive discipleship approach that seeks to enable Christlike growth in the champion in relation to the cause you both share. We look at ‘Where your treasure is, your heart is also’, and we think, ‘Treasure and heart are inextricably linked. For maximum impact, we need to coach the champion on both.’

For us, the giving of a financial gift is not the watershed moment, nor the increase in giving or multiple gifts. Those are irreplaceable steps on the wider and taller ladder of discipleship, of which there are many other steps as well. Recognizing the existence of many steps on a ladder does not demean the importance of any particular step, as anyone walking up a ladder carrying a can of paint knows full well!

The ladder is comprehensive Christlikeness in relation to the cause, and that is our goal–not only richness toward God. The watershed moments for us fall across the full range of the heart.

More on the difference between TG and Christian Stewardship in our next post, as the Lord permits.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to The difference between Transformational Giving and Christian Stewardship, part I

  1. Pingback: The difference between Transformational Giving and Christian Stewardship, part II « Transformational Giving

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