Money, giving and “recycling Generosity”

This is a guest post by Jeremy Marshall, trustee at Stewardship, investor in Kingdom Bank and former CEO of C. Hoare & Co, the UK’s oldest family-owned private bank. Views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of this blog.

Why is money such a difficult topic for us, both in general and especially thinking about the church in deprived areas?  I think at its root is a reluctance to teach the Bible, for the Bible has a huge amount to say about money. According to one estimate, the Bible has twice as many verses on money as it does on faith and prayer combined. Nearly 50% of Jesus’ parables concern money and possessions. Because of this, a group of friends and I sponsored a new course and book called the Generosity Project. This is designed to be a tool for local churches to teach about generosity (which is broader than money).

The book points out, looking at 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, the importance of partnership. That’s what I’d love to see happening – generous partnerships between churches and individuals in wealthy areas and those in deprived areas. This is a two-way partnership. The Macedonians were the deprived area and yet it was them, not the wealthy Corinthians, longing to bless the church in Jerusalem. They modelled Christ who left heaven and became poor so that we might benefit from his spiritual riches. He became poor so we might become rich. By asking our fellow Christians to partner with us, we are saying, ‘Will you partner with me – and with God himself – in the work of the gospel? Will you invest your worldly wealth in something that will last for eternity?’

Partnership is a good word because it suggests a close relationship. We can easily become legalistic about generosity but the best generosity springs from friendship. I love to help my children because I love them. It can be the same for us with relationships between churches and individuals. Partnership also implies equality and being “yoked” together, both apply to wealthy-deprived co-operation. 

We might think, with whom we can partner? Historically, people have supported their own church and foreign missions. But the sad truth is that the mission opportunity that’s been missed is the huge mission fields in the UK where there are hardly any Bible-teaching churches. It is a staggering indictment of evangelicals that there is a tremendous correlation between wealth and evangelical churches. Vast areas of the North have no churches while towns (like mine) in wealthy areas in and around the M25 have many. There is such an opportunity for us to create partnerships between those who have much and those who have little. What a witness to a world which is divided by class and other lines if we can show “we are different”.

Some advice on how that might work. For wealthy churches, it would help greatly if you could partner with churches in deprived areas. This means financially but also involves all kinds of advice and encouragement. Some kind of “twinning” is my proposal. I believe this is biblical and also makes it a partnership, where both sides gain. I’d suggest that all wealthy churches should devote around a third of their mission budget to deprived areas in the UK.

To avoid in any way cannibalizing giving to international work, which is equally important, this means that churches should give more away. But the very act of radical giving will itself draw in more givers. I believe that many wealthy Christians like me give little to their church both because of our own lack of godliness but also because there is no vision or excitement in the giving requests. They tend to be about “business as usual”. If you want to raise money in business, “business as usual” will attract no funding from outside investors. Instead, they look for “radical disrupters”. But what the church is offering – eternal life – is the most radical message of all!

For churches in deprived areas, of course they need to be looking for wealthy churches to partner with. If you don’t have an obvious twin, go and ask some likely candidates. “Ask and you shall receive”. The worse that could happen is they say “no”! 

One specific thing that would help is some kind of “umbrella” or funnel to channel requests through. As a philanthropist, pretty much every day I get requests for help and many are from churches in deprived areas. It’s very hard to sift through those and figure out which deserve support. An English version of 20 Schemes would help greatly.

The requests need to be properly structured: what is the money for? What is the plan and the goal? To whom is the money accountable? Which other gospel churches in the area support this? I’m very cautious with the (many) “lone wolf” requests I get. Groups like the Gospel Partnerships and FIEC can be really helpful to validate. If other churches in the local area don’t support  requests, I’m generally reluctant to engage. 

Next, look for support in a variety of ways. One problem with gifts is that there is a limited supply of money. Give money away and there is none for the next person. “Recycling” generosity is important, which is why a group of friends and me, together with Stewardship, purchased Kingdom Bank. Both KB and Stewardship provide loans for churches in deprived areas to grow. Loans will, in time and with Gods help, grow the church through conversions and discipleship, people will give money for their church and the loans can be repaid and recycled.