The lunch was followed by a tour of the hospital. The tour was also peppered with sidebar conversations between the wealthy host and patients, family members, and staff, alike. One man sobbed expressing appreciation for the care of this hospital and the billionaire's generosity to it. The tour ended with the lunch host inviting the political commentator to be a donor to the hospital foundation. The commentator was so moved that instead of just wanting to be a donor, he inquired, "Can you teach me how to die broke and help others in the process?"
The reply: "That's a deal I can make!"
As I read this true story in a magazine focused toward high-powered executives, I was immediately reminded of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The contrast between a wealthy, modern-day CEO and the scholarly, pietistic preacher of social justice is vast. Yet, this story seemed to raise some comparisons. One of Wesley's financial goals was to die penniless having helped others throughout life. Wesley demonstrated phenomenal generosity. Wesley called us to give all we can. A steward lifestyle is advocated throughout the Old and New Testaments. Financial giving is a serious responsibility of the committed Christian – not to give what we do not possess, but to give generously from those assets that we have acquired.
Yet, how often has the cultivation of financial generosity been sidelined in the church? How often do we decide to lead a "soft" annual campaign? How often do we make excuses for people's apparent inability to give? How often do we ignore planned giving? How often do we deny the competitive nature of charitable giving? How often do we simply not ask? I know far too often!
As a result of our inaction, the remainder of the charitable world ends up informing donors, and frankly many avid churchgoers, about the theology of generosity. Here are six key steps to place financial generosity back on the playing field of discipleship:
- Know the values, mission, and vision of the church
- Tell stories over and over and over again of changed lives as a result of ministry
- Overcome the fear of money talk in the church
- Develop abiding relationships with potential major donors
- Personally invite people to support ministry with a financial commitment
- Thank donors routinely for their contributions and gifts