Peter Wilson has joined Stewardship’s Leadership Team as the new Chief Partnerships Officer. Here he speaks about his experiences of giving and generosity.
What were you taught about generosity when you were a child?
My father had served with the Leprosy Mission in post-war South Korea and so the recognition of our inherent privilege to those in desperate need was always evident. Looking back now though, I sensed as a child that although my parents gave faithfully, it appeared to be more out of a sense of religious duty that sometimes seemed to lack the joy of generosity I have now become more familiar with.
Who or what or what event has been the biggest influence on your giving?
Bishop Sandy Millar (formerly of Holy Trinity Brompton Road) used to create a party atmosphere of jubilant celebration through giving which was a clear change agent for me. There was a radical sense of freedom and deep joy that came through listening to the Holy Spirit to guide us to a specific number to give – that always felt right on the cusp of slightly uncomfortable and yet excitedly compelling. The joy that followed was remarkable and has been the case ever since.
What’s the best example you’ve seen of generosity in action?
Summer festivals have been a regular occurrence in our annual family calendar, and equally frequently there would be a significant shortfall in the festival budget, leaving a large faith gap. This would be announced from the stage on the final day, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Each and every time and in different settings and locations, without fail, an amount very close to the missing sum would be raised through collective generosity. Not only was this incredibly encouraging for people’s faith, releasing a ricochet of amazement and joy, but more importantly meant that so many people could go, who would not have otherwise been able to have a holiday at all.
What biblical passages inspire generosity in you the most?
As theologian Wayne Grudem wrote, ‘God is most pleased when gifts of money are accompanied by an intensification of the giver’s own personal commitment to God’. This was clearly evident with the early Christians in Macedonia who ‘…first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God’ (2 Corinthians 8:5, ESV), and then gave to help the poor in Jerusalem. When giving is carried out joyfully, ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion’, there is great reward of God’s favour with it, ‘for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV).
What do you know now about giving that you didn’t know ten years ago?
Based on Luke 6:38, a useful illustration is the contrast of a river and a swamp. A river is generally fresh, fast and full of life. Its even inviting, certainly for wildlife. A person with a river mentality sees all blessings as resources to steward or release and not hold on to.
The swamp mentality is full of fear and insecurity. There is no release, just stagnant clutching to things that have ended up there or been thrown in it. Far from inviting, it’s a place you want to avoid. The swamp doesn’t let go, doesn’t give or release and often shrinks and withers. Giving has a far-reaching supernatural impact, not only on those receiving whose prayers are answered (often unknown to the giver), but also in the way in which the giver is blessed though having made a sacrifice in their own personal spending.
What’s the hardest thing about giving?
Resisting the counter temptation that comes in the form of anxiety and fear of not having enough, or worrying that you aren’t providing for those around you adequately etc.
And the easiest thing?
Remembering the joy and sense of freedom that comes from giving and an increase in faith, which of course pleases God, as well as giving greater anticipation and vision for the future.
Have you ever been really challenged about your giving or your generosity?
Yes, many times when circumstances were tough with high costs and lower or no income or when large surprise bills turn up. This is the ongoing battlefield of our mind which is important to recognise and pray into, asking God’s supernatural power to help increase our faith, put our trust in him and know his peace which surpasses our understanding.
What causes are you particularly passionate about and why?
Because we are relatively well-off here in the UK, it’s important to recognise the scale and extent to which so many millions of people are in absolute deprivation, often displaced with nothing. I usually prioritise International Aid, but also recognise the local needs of those around us who are also struggling and sometimes in very challenging circumstances.