Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship by J. Clif Christopher – Let me start off by saying I have zero experience being in charge of any budget, fund raising, non-profit, or even financial matters in a church. That should disqualify this review more so than normal 🙂
When I started reading this book, I was thinking to myself, “Self, this guy is making some outstanding points.” Talking about how non-profits are so numerous now that they are competing with the church for dollars more than ever; saying that non-profits have the research to know why people give and what buttons to push in most people to get them to consider while the church continues it’s same line for hundreds of years of “You should give;” speaks to the fact that the church doesn’t get some big donations because unlike other places they don’t ask nor do they seem passionate about the mission they need the money for. Christopher had me nodding my head when he talked about no non-profit would think it’s continually a good idea to put the perception out that they are never doing well with the money they’ve been entrusted. I’d say that’s the baby that I’ll keep from this book.
Now on to the bathwater. First, Christopher’s whole book does not even apply if you in anyway do not think the current machine that is the organization of Christianity is necessary. His arguments always come back to “we need money to operate” which is true, but that’s the very thing that some people detest about organized religion (or at least they say so).
Second, he refers to the congregation as “donors.” I agree that in one aspect people are (because they are donating hard-earned money), but that’s rather flat and one dimensional – seeing people as a means to your mission instead of the people deserving of so much more.
Third, he continually talks about the story of Zacchaeus and Jesus, saying Jesus said he “must” stay with this rich guy and that although he was after Zacchaeus’ heart, Jesus also made “the ASK” for money. That seems like a big assumption that made me shake my head.
Finally, Christopher argued that it does not say in the bible to not treat the rich differently. He says that we need to make sure they know they are appreciated for their large donations (which I don’t have a huge issue with) and that we need to stay close to make sure their money doesn’t get between them and eternity. That’s something that just sounds as phony of a reason as I’ve ever heard. I’m not a millionaire so maybe it’d sound more reasonable if I were or maybe it’d sound like a snake-oil salesman, but I think it sounds fishy. Maybe his heart is pure and that point is altruistic. I don’t know for sure.
What I do know is that final point ignores James 2:1-4 that says: “1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”
If you can glean the good from this and simply disagree with the points that seem based on eisegesis, then there’s value to what is written here. If you can’t separate the baby from the bathwater, I’d say move on to another book on giving and stewardship.