What were you taught about generosity when you were a child?
Growing up, we did not have much money, but my father – a carpenter – gave his time and skills to our elderly and poor neighbours. If they were in need he was always there to help. I helped him sometimes, replacing the draughty old windows at a women’s refuge or repairing a church hall floor. The latter was where I earned my first £5. I think he and the minister took pity on me for how dirty I got spending days scraping the sticky black adhesive off the hundreds of wooden tiles so they could be reused. I realise now that I learnt that generosity is not just about money; it is about giving all of yourself to loving your neighbour.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your giving?
Five days after our 25th wedding anniversary, my first wife Jane died from cancer. In those dark days, a grief-stricken father to three teenage children, the pastoral care I received from the Rector of my church was profound.
My first financial gift of any substance to the church came out of unending gratitude for this care. I had no idea that this first gift would trigger a series of events that would deepen my faith, heal my heart, bring me into closer relationship with Jesus and commit my work to Christian ministry.
Eventually I found myself in a position to make another, bigger gift to the church, but was troubled about how to do this most effectively – how could I maintain discretion? Where would the gift make most impact? My prayers for guidance were answered in the most unexpected way: I was asked to become the Treasurer!
Working through the muddle that had become the church finances was such a blessing. I could offer my skills in the way my earthly father had shown me as a child. I knew exactly how to be most impactful in my financial giving to the church too. And I was blessed to have the support of a delightful Parish Office Manager who helped me in this role. After some gentle prompting from others, we went out for coffee, and Sarah is now my wife.
As I have given money, time and skills, I can faithfully declare that I have been blessed a thousandfold more, spiritually, personally, relationally and in ways I didn’t dream possible.
What’s the best example you’ve seen of generosity in action?
I began to witness truly radical Christian giving when I worked for World Vision. I saw one particular group of wonderfully generous donors be transformed over a number of years, starting with a routine tour of agricultural development projects in Tanzania. The Holy Spirit was clearly at work as the group became so moved by the organisation we were visiting they decided to significantly multiply their ‘investment’ (without really any expectation of return) and make it their work too.
Two of the donors were so strongly called that they moved to Tanzania to help lead the organisation; and so the Great African Food Company, GAFCO, was created to transform the livelihoods of small farmers in Africa through a biblically empowered world view and approach to business.
The World Vision National Director in Tanzania at the time, and the architect of this approach, retired recently and also joined GAFCO to help them further pursue their mission with Christ woven deep into its fabric.
God put the donors, charity workers and farmers into relationship, transforming all three in what, for me, is an inspiring example of generosity of resources, time and spirit.
What biblical passages inspire generosity in you the most?
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV
What do you know now about giving that you didn’t know ten years ago?
I have learnt that the more one gives the more God blesses, and that generosity is therefore core to the Christian life lived to the full. And when it is long term, engaged and values the relationship, giving is spiritually transformative for both the giver and the receiver.
What’s the hardest thing about giving?
Our modern society often tells us that we need more, that we need to aspire to live the life of the rich and famous and that only by doing this will we be truly happy. This illusion is one that is built on a world view of individualism, envy and, ironically, scarcity. From that emerges a pervasive cultural narrative that we are losing some of what is ours when we give to others; that perspective can be so easy to fall into and can make giving hard at times.
And the easiest thing?
I have met many happy and spiritually fulfilled people in the poor communities of Africa and Asia. Their focus on faith, family, community and appreciation of all of God’s blessings are the root of spiritual riches and lead to a biblically empowered world view based on God’s abundance. Despite their comparative poverty, giving is much easier for them than we would expect in the richer northern hemisphere.
I am grateful, inspired and humbled to be given the opportunity to now dedicate myself to the cause of Christian Generosity by taking the leadership position at Stewardship. It was therefore easy to accept this offer to dedicate all of my strength and heart to this service for the Lord.