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Revolution in Generosity: Transforming Stewards to Be Rich Toward God
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Revolution in Generosity: Transforming Stewards to Be Rich Toward God

by Willmer, Charles Colson (Foreword by)

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"Give over $100 today and get this personalized state-of-the-art fountain pen free!" "Become a gold sponsor and your name wll be featured on our exclusive Wall of Fame!" "Send in your donation by December 31st and enjoy the benefits of giving on your next tax return!" Who hasn't heard fundraising gimmicks like these? Or, who hasn't


"Give over $100 today and get this personalized state-of-the-art fountain pen free!" "Become a gold sponsor and your name wll be featured on our exclusive Wall of Fame!" "Send in your donation by December 31st and enjoy the benefits of giving on your next tax return!" Who hasn't heard fundraising gimmicks like these? Or, who hasn't used these gimmicks on others?

As Wes Willmer writes, generosity is the natural outcome of God's transforming work in individuals when they are conformed to the image of Christ. Fundraising and giving are not simply drops in the bucket. Capital campaigns and raising funds go deeper than the money. They are spiritual activities in becoming more like Christ.

A Revolution in Generosity is a work by some of the best scholars and practitioners on the subject of funding Christian organizations. As Willmer writes, "The foundation for realizing a revolution in generosity is understanding the biblical view of possessions, generosity, and asking for resources." With over twenty expert contributors, this book is a must-read for organizations striving to rid themselves of secular, asking practices and gain an eternal approach.

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Revolution in GENEROSITY Transforming Stewards to Be Rich Toward God
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ISBN: 978-0-8024-6753-9

Chapter One Creating a Revolution in Generosity

By Wesley K. Willmer, Vice President of University Advancement and Professor at Biola University

After looking at Christianity, India's prime minister Mahatma Gandhi concluded that if all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian. He is not alone in his observation. Dallas Willard writes, "This aching world is waiting for the people explicitly identified with Christ to be, through and through, the people he intends them to be." Barna research studies confirm this gap. It seems that most Christians are ignoring their call to be conformed to the image of Christ. Their distinctive faith aside, Christians are acting more and more like the rest of culture, and there is little discernible difference between believers and nonbelievers: from the books they read, to the issues they worry about, to how they use their money. The same is generally true in Christians' giving and asking for resources. Scripture consistently reminds us that if Christ is not first in the use of our money, He is not first in our lives. Our use of possessions demonstrates materially our spiritual status (see Craig Blomberg's chapter). Is it possible that our checkbooks are a better measure of our spiritual condition than the underlining in our Bibles? Is it possible that if biblical stewardship issues ordered Christians' lives, they would be a better reflection of Christ's image to the world?

The last fifty-plus years in American culture have been marked by increasing prosperity and wealth, with a corresponding increase in our obsession with "stuff." Most often, it is hard to tell the difference between believers and nonbelievers by looking at how they view and use the things God has entrusted to them. While wealth among Christians has increased, generosity as a percentage of income has remained fairly static, in their annual report, The State of Church Giving, John and Sylvia Ronsvalle explain, "Giving has not kept up with income.... In 1933, the depth of the Great Depression, [per capita giving] was 3.2 percent. In 1995 ... it was still 3 percent. By 2004, when Americans were over 555 percent richer after taxes and inflation than in the Great Depression, Protestants were giving 2.5 percent of their income to churches." Rather than giving back to God as He blesses, Christians are adopting the miserly patterns of the world. While giving by believers is slightly higher than among nonbelievers, the patterns are still very similar. A recent study reported that "the wealth of the world's rich and super rich surged 11.2 percent to $37.2 trillion last year, but the elite group gave less than 1 percent of their net worth to charity." In general, a genuinely generous person is the exception rather than the rule.

Christians are also uncomfortable discussing their possessions, even with other believers. Pastors worry that sermons on giving will sound self-serving or discourage people from attending church, so they often avoid the topic entirely, or only bring it up once a year or when there is a crisis. Similarly, seminaries seldom teach on biblical stewardship.

However, this situation is contrary to God's plan. Scripture is saturated with teaching on possessions: seventeen of the thirty-eight parables of Christ are about possessions. In terms of the number of verses on possessions, this topic is mentioned in Scripture more than any other: three times more than love, seven times more than prayer, and eight times more than belief. About 15 percent of God's Word (2,172 verses) deals with possessions-treasures hidden in a field, pearls, talents, pounds, stables, etc. Most likely this topic is covered so thoroughly in Scripture because God knew His followers would struggle with how to use possessions. Given this emphasis from God, Christians need to seriously consider how their faith and their finances are related. It is easy to copy the habits of those around us, but God has called Christians to greater heights of generosity as we conform to the image of Christ.

This pattern of conforming to the world around us, evident in our giving, is also characteristic of how Christian organizations ask for resources. Christian organizations, including churches, have increasingly adopted secular models of fundraising. For example, supporters are often encouraged to give for what they can get in return (tax deduction, gift, name on a building, etc.) and are not challenged to honor God and be generous as Christ is generous. The common practice of using transactional techniques that emphasize manipulation to motivate giving is contrary to God's Word.

Thankfully there is a more excellent way to view giving and asking, one that turns current notions upside down and places God first; a way that focuses on transforming givers' hearts and lives toward God-focused stewardship. Once a Christian understands how God views money and generosity, it becomes clear that asking should be about facilitating the heart transformation of believers into the image of Christ. As a result they will become generous as Christ is generous, leading to a revolution in generosity, so that God's Kingdom work on this earth will be fully funded.

As described above, we still have a long way to go. Christians have lost their way and are on the wrong road, in both their giving and their asking practices. They are not comfortable with God and money, they are not generous because they have not conformed to the image of Christ, and the asking practices that churches and parachurch organizations have adopted are exacerbating the problem by not encouraging believers toward a genuine godly generosity.

The purpose of this chapter is to set the stage for this book by (1) showing how we have gotten off the godly road, (2) outlining the spiritual process that leads to genuine generosity, and (3) suggesting steps to promote a revolution in generosity.


In the beginning, God made and owned all that was. He created humans and entrusted into their care the precious world He had lovingly crafted. These people were His stewards (managers). When the stewards functioned according to their identity and calling, God's created world thrived.

However, over time, God's people became convinced that they owned it all. They became saturated in stuff, greedily surrounding themselves with possessions. They were "stuffocated." They did not want to hear about it in sermons (such talk was always uncomfortable), so the pastors stopped preaching about possessions, and the seminaries stopped teaching the topic. And so, gradually, the system God had established was broken. While God's people have occasionally tried to get back on track, today we are far from acting like responsible stewards in God's economy.

In America, biblical stewardship characterized Christians' approach to resources from 1740 to 1840. John Wesley exhorted his parishioners to "gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can" because "all that we have is given us by God, and since we have been entrusted with these possessions, we are responsible to use them in ways that bring Him glory." During this period in history, it was acknowledged that the blessings of life were from God; but this mind-set did not last.

Soon stewardship, managing God's resources according to His directives, gave way to "philanthropy," helping others with our possessions. In the early 1900s, social Darwinism took ideological root and slowly choked out the biblical vision for the moral community. In his essay "The Gospel of Wealth," Andrew Carnegie presented his own good fortune as evidence of natural selection and survival of the fittest among the human species. With one swift stroke, Carnegie cut the taproot of biblical stewardship and adopted what he called "scientific philanthropy," based on Darwinian theory. He also replaced the ideal of the common good with that of "selective good." He wrote, "The best means of benefiting the community is placing within its reach ladders upon which the aspiring can arise." With these words, Carnegie drew the line of distinction between those who were worthy of charity and those who were not. According to him, the motive for giving ought to be calculated in terms of cost-benefit for continuous economic growth, not a reflection of God's generosity in response to human suffering. Carnegie believed in only helping those who would be of "use" to society, either through their labor or their intellect. The priority of shared responsibility gave way to helping people who were a good business investment. This new venture was termed "philanthropy"-friend of humankind-in contrast to stewardship-servant of God. While being a "friend of humankind" sounds harmless, implicit within the concept of philanthropy is an assumption that we, not God, own our resources and have the sole authority to dispense them. Philanthropy strives to use money to make a prosperous society of the strong and able, while biblical stewardship advocates humans caring for one another as fellow creatures and servants of the God who provides everything we need.

Carnegie's critics claimed that the poor needed more than just money-they needed help emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These Americans believed that newly established voluntary associations-religious and secular-held the solution to the problem. Potential donors were told they could become "agents of change" in society by responding with significant financial support.

These "organized charities" pooled their wisdom and brought further refinements to the scientific model of major gift fundraising. They concluded that religion played only a minor role in influencing generosity and that much more could be gleaned from the business world. The subtle but significant shift in thinking of givers as stewards (servant-managers of God) to viewing them as philanthropists (lovers of humankind) removed faith and God as motives for giving and set up instead a business/sales model of "whatever works."

Charities flooded to consulting firms in hopes that these "experts" could raise large sums of money for their organizations. Interestingly, early records do not suggest that hiring fundraising consultants helped organizations better fulfill their missions. The result was a model of fundraising that emphasized "closing the deal." Borrowing so many principles from sales tactics resulted in a virtual abandonment of biblical fundraising practices, edging the church from center stage to the outskirts of fundraising culture. Major gift programs were keenly intent on "making the sale" and were rarely concerned with the heart of the giver.

As the business community introduced the concept of market segmentation and demographic studies to determine the best ways to get their products into the hands of potential customers, the charitable community followed suit. Databases are now carefully segmented, giving clubs are monitored to move donors toward larger and more frequent gifts, and donor research is conducted to identify those with the greatest potential to give significant gifts. With the help of technology, the scientific model of philanthropy is now the norm. Today's fundraising professionals (including those in church and parachurch organizations) are better informed, prepared, and trained in secular techniques of raising money than ever before. However, generosity (adjusted for inflation) is not increasing per capita among Christians or nonChristians. People give because it makes them feel good, to avoid a sense of guilt, or because they get something in return (tax benefit). Could it be that the use of transactional techniques has run its course, and it is time to look again at God's way that leads to generosity-even a revolution in generosity?


Christians by and large are on the wrong road with their giving and are not being generous; so how do we get going down the godly road that should result in at least 10 percent per capita giving? The best way to start both giving and asking correctly is by understanding the process that leads to generosity. Because our motives for giving have been saturated with ideology and methods from the business world, divorced from biblical principles, we need to reorient ourselves by looking through God's eyes at the process of becoming generous. Figure 1-1 shows a five-step process for understanding the Christian's path to generosity. Once we understand this process, believers can change both giving and asking practices to align themselves with God's way, which would lead to a revolution in generosity. Following are five steps on the road leading to generosity.

Acknowledge Our Sinful, Self-centered Nature

Psalm 14:2-3 tells us, "The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." Giving our hearts over to things other than God is nothing new; material possessions have always been especially alluring. As Israel was moving through the Promised Land, vanquishing enemy after enemy under God's direction, it only took a cloak and one man's greed to bring defeat. Joshua 7 tells us that Achan took a cloak and some silver from the spoils of battle and hid them under his tent. These items did not belong to him, so in taking them he committed theft and brought sin into the camp of Israel. The congregation ended up stoning Achan for this, but the larger point is that this man, who had been through the desert and survived the weeding out of the older, "rebellious" generation, yet fell prey to self-centered desires or, as the apostle John puts it, "the lust of the eyes."

This same tendency continues to this day, as Donald Hinze observes: "Sacred and secular history and literature are replete with examples of the crippling effects of gifts hoarded and unshared. People are not naturally disposed to giving, yet, the life we all prize, filled with joy and spiritual depth, is closely tied to giving generously and with thankful hearts." All of humankind is sinful; and without conscious recognition of the hold sin and selfish attitudes have on our lives and the lives of those around us, we will not be conformed to the image of Christ; nor can we facilitate a revolution in giving.

Accept Christ's Offer of Transformation

Second Corinthians 5:17 is a familiar verse with far-reaching implications: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Paul is not referring to a cosmetic change, but a heart transformation that occurs at the deepest part of who we are. When we become followers of Christ, our very identity changes, and that should impact everything we do, including how we use our resources. George Barna describes transformation as "any significant and lasting transition in your life wherein you switch from one substantial perspective or practice to something wholly different that genuinely alters you at a very basic level." Dallas Willard writes: "It is love of God flowing through us-not our human attempts at behavior change-that becomes 'a spring of water gushing up to eternal life' (John 4:14, par.)." It is with the decision to follow Christ and be transformed by God that the journey of being generous begins.

Choose God's Eternal Kingdom over the Earthly Kingdom

Even as Christians, we have a choice of two kingdoms. So long as we are on this earth, the earthly kingdom will attempt to claim us for its own. In Stewards in the Kingdom, Scott Rodin suggests, "In a very real way the kingdom of the world is never built, but it acts like a black hole constantly demanding more with no hope of ever having enough. The irony of the kingdom of the world is that it does not let us stop long enough to enjoy what we have amassed." Unfortunately the futility of the effort is not enough to dissuade us from grasping for the kingdom of this world. As individuals and communities, we continue to struggle against the desire to "be conformed to this world." The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, beckons us to be transformed to the image of Christ, serving God and others out of love in this world and reigning with Christ to the glory of the Father eternally. When we decide to follow God's eternal Kingdom, we have committed to becoming genuinely generous.


Excerpted from Revolution in GENEROSITY Copyright © 2008 by WESLEY K. WILLMER. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Our approach to money and possessions isn’t just important--it’s central to our spiritual lives. Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives. It comes out of the transforming work of Christ in us. I pray that this book will lead you to a greater understanding and appreciation of this truth.
-Randy Alcorn, author of Money, Possessions and Eternity and The Treasure Principle

As we are seeking to become men and women of integrity, we certainly will need to become more God-centered in our approach to giving. Wes Willmer has done a marvelous job of providing a rich resource for the church in A Revolution in Generosity. This is certainly a great opportunity for all of us to learn how to follow a God-centric model of creating a revolution in generosity that will transform lives and ministries beyond our wildest dreams.
-Ken Behr, President, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

Revolution in Generosity intends to show you how to make genuinely biblical choices in every area of your life, including giving and asking.  If the ideas in this book were followed, there would be a revolution in generousity among Christians.  This book will be an important resource for those who seek to advanse the Kingdom.
-Charles Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship

The Christian church today needs a revolution in generosity--a revolution that will shape Christians into the image of Christ, a revolution that will spread goodwill and the fragment aroma of Christ, a revolution that will fuel authentic transformation.  Read the book, join the revolution.
-Chuck Bentley, CEO, Crown Financial Ministries

If this book had been available fifty years ago and resources had been handled with the depth of theological insight that Revolution in Generosity offers, Christian ministry effectiveness today would be radically improved.  Now that the book has arrived, I highly recommend it and suggest that ministries not delay another day in implementing these essential principles to further the Great Commission.
-Clyde Cook, President Emeritus, Biola University

Revolution in Generosity rightly contrasts God-oriented stewardship with human-oriented philanthropy.  It underscores the urgency for each of us to be rich toward God.  It also includes numerous practical suggestions and referrals.  If you're in a position of responsibility in fundraising, whether in a local church or in a parachurch organization, do yourself a favor--read this book.
-Franklin Graham, President and CEO, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse

This book offers a refreshing and hugely needed biblical perspective so often absent in ministry.  It seeks to show that God has given us a much better way: transformation of our hearts and minds that leads to a whole new motive for giving.  Churches and parachurch organizations that humbly apply these biblical principles will revolutionize ministry effectiveness--for all the right reasons. 
-Mark Holbrook, President/CEO, Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU)

Managing money in a God-honoring way is one of the great challenges for every Christ-follower.  This book will move people toward a more generous future.
-Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church

At last, a book about money that doesn't dodge the hard questions and doesn't focus on "fundraising techniques."  This collection of scholars, leaders, and practitioners helps us look at money from God's perspective and teaches us how to "grow more generous in our hearts" toward God and others.  A must for every pastor, ministry leader, or board member!
-Chip Ingram, President and Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Now we have the book written from a biblical worldview with the answers we need.  Revolution in Generosity is a must read for all of us who want to move to the next level of effectiveness in fundraising by helping donors see the big picture.  Thank you, Wes, for putting the goodies down on a shelf low enough for all of us to reach.  You have done a great service to God's work in these times.
-Michael D. Little, President, The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc.

The Christian faith involves all of life. I commend this book to all pastors and parachurch leaders. Focusing on heart transformation is the future for a revolution in generosity for God's work.
-Frank Lofaro, President, Christian Management Association (CMA)

Wes Willmer has been a pioneer among Christian leaders to encourage Christians to follow God’s plan for money, giving and asking that results in a transformed and generous life. This is a good book for any believer serious about their faith.
-Hugh O. Maclellan, Jr., President, Maclellan Foundation

Revolution in Generosity is a compelling vision of "giving and asking" as they were meant to be done in God's eyes.  Every person should read this book...you can't afford not to. 
-Josh McDowell, author of More Than a Carpenter and Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Revolution in Generosity offers solid teaching that gets at the heart of giving and asking.  It is a helpful resource and a much-needed call to all of us in ministry to be transformed in how we view possessions and spiritual growth.
-Elise Morgan, CEO, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) International

Psalm 24 reminds us that God is the ultimate owner of all we are and have.  He expects us to be good stewards and invest the resources he has entrusted to us.  For Him, returns are measured in eternal values.  This book will help you understand the joy of being generous and responsible as you invest and give the resources God has given you.
-Bill Pollard, Chairman Emeritus, ServiceMaster Co.

An important book devoted to an urgent task: transforming scandalously skimpy Christian giving by nurturing Christians genuinely conformed to the image of Christ.  Wise, concrete, practical advise from successful practitioners.
-Donald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

If as a believer, my pursuit of true discipleship is reflected by a prayer life that consistently implores, “Father, what would you have me think, what would you have me say, what would you have me do?”  Then as a Christian leader I must pursue being informed in godly practices of fund development.  A Revolution in Generosity, is a valuable resource in that pursuit.
-Ken Smitherman, President Association of Christian Schools International

The American Church has largely failed the "test of prosperity" during a century that witnessed the greatest buildup of wealth in the history of man.  It's time for a change.  Wes Willmer and his collaborative thinkers have given us a book that truly challenges the church and its ministries toward the pursuit of biblical generosity.  Stewards awake!  May God be glorified through faithful lives poured out for His purposes.
-Greg Sperry, National Christian Foundation

In the wealthiest nation of Christians in history, the most seldom preached sermon from American pulpits is the sermon that addresses head-on what we do with our money.  If God were to write a letter to the church in America, as he did to the seven churches in Revelation, it would almost certainly challenge our stewardship over the wealth which He has entrusted to us. If we would truly embrace and model the principles set forth by the authors of this important book, I believe that God could use the American Church to change the world.
-Rich Stearns, President, World Vision US

There are lots of books about how to get rich, but far too few about becoming rich toward God… which, by the way, is far more important! Embrace the wisdom of this book and enjoy true prosperity!
-Joseph Stowell, President, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Convicting, scholarly, and practical--Revolution in Generosity is a book that every Christian involved in ministry in Christ's kingdom should read!
-Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder, Joni and Friends

This book is countercultural and revolutionary.  It is sitting down with the best thinkers in the world of biblically astute financial or development consultants.  Who among us as leaders has not cringed at the appeals we receive--and even sent as an organization.  As results-driven leaders, we so easily look at the bottom line in financial terms when it is really in the Kingdom lives of people who give and serve with us.  Wes Wilmer and his coauthors point us down the road of biblical generosity and true stewardship--a road not easily taken, but so needed in our "bang for the buck" and "do whatever it takes" competitive Christian world.
-Jerry White, President Emeritus, The Navigators

Our possessions are an indispensable part of our life in the Kingdom of God.  We need to understand how they receive spiritual life by our choices under the direction of the Word and the Spirit.  This is not widely appreciated, but Wes Willmer has devoted much of his life to helping people with Kingdom generosity and stewardship.  He gives good direction on how to be faithful over little and faithfulover much.
-Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines, and Renovation of the Heart

Money is integral to life.  It reflects who we are and what we value.  If we are to worship God, this worship must include our finances.  Unfortunately, many ministries today overlook this important truth.
-Robert Wuthnow, Andlinger Professor of Sociology and Director of Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

Meet the Author

WESLEY K. WILLMER is the former vice president of university advancement and professor at Biola University. He currently serves as senior vice president with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). He has been author, co-author, or editor of twenty-one books, including A Revolution in Generosity: Transforming Stewards to Be Rich Toward God, God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul, and The Prospering Parachurch: Enlarging the Boundaries of God's Kingdom. He has also contributed to many professional publications.

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