The Generosity Practices of Christian Sand Castle Builders

by Patrick Johnson  |  April 9, 2019

>>>Be sure and watch this month's video clip below from Patrick Johnson on this blog topic.<<<

In Matthew Chapter 7, Jesus said that when we hear His words but don't put them into practice, it's like we're building our houses on sand.

As someone who studies generosity practices, I can tell you that among western Christians, particularly in churches in the United States, I see a lot of expert “generosity sand castle builders.” What do I mean by that and why do I say that? Let me address the second part of that question first. I say it because my assessment is backed by data.

Church Patterns in the Data

About three years ago, we set out to create a survey called “My Generosity Story” to measure the perspective and the practices of generosity among American churchgoers. Since that time, we've had over 6,000 people in churches across the country take this survey to describe to us their generosity life.

Through this survey we not only measure people’s financial generosity, although that's one aspect, but we also examine their volunteerism, their compassion, their forgiveness. We look at how intentionally they serve the poor. In other words, this is a survey that looks at a person’s whole-life generosity.

So back to the first part of my question: What do I mean when I say that so many people are “generosity sand castle builders”? Well, the data tells me that –

  • 80% of those surveyed say that they have either a growing relationship with Jesus or their relationship with Jesus is integrated into every part of their life. That's a high number. But, if you look at their generosity practices, what they say isn’t reflected in what they do.
  • 60% of people in churches volunteer less than two hours per month, either inside or outside the church.
  • 50% of people give less than 5% of their incomes to the church or to ministries outside the church.
  • Less than 10% of people say that they intentionally seek out the poor to serve on a monthly basis.

The Disconnect

So what we have is a huge disconnect. People say they're following Jesus, yet, at least when it comes to generosity, they're not putting the teachings of Jesus into practice. That's why I describe them as “generosity sand castle builders.” What I find so interesting to think about is that this condition is occurring despite the large-scale use of capital campaigns, stewardship-in-a-box resources, and online giving opportunities.

"We have at our fingertips the best tools and techniques in our western culture, but what I see is that we have a scarcity of people living like Jesus when it comes to their whole-life generosity." [Tweet This

In essence, all these things we're doing don't seem to be moving the needle when it comes to people living generously. And that's sad to me.

What can we do about it?

Of course, that's a much bigger conversation than can be had in a short article but let me offer two action steps –

1. Look at the data and go deeper. We produced a webinar called “The Fallacy of Fundraising,” and there's a free replay to watch on our website. The webinar unpacks five truths that we're seeing in the data when it comes to generous living among western Christians. I know that you will be challenged by what you learn.

2. Let’s pray and fast. There’s really no way that we can break through this generosity disparity unless God shows up in demonstrable power. And so, during the month of June 2019, we at GenerousChurch are going to pray and fast, and we're asking God to bring other ministries and other churches to join with us in asking God to unleash generosity and free people from the grips of materialism so that they can walk into the life that is truly life. Please sign up on our website or to participate.

Avoiding the Fall

Let me end with this. Jesus told us that if we build our houses on the sand, we won’t have to guess how it's going to end. One day our houses are going to fall. They might fall as we seek more and more stuff at the expense of our souls. They might fall as our communities go downward because we're apathetic or we're unwilling to press into the issues around us. They might fall because our families are torn apart because we lack relationship, because we're so overwhelmed with our stuff. They will fall.

So please join us in this movement of generosity, and let's help people go beyond just knowledge to obedience and follow the ways of Jesus.

[Tweet This Article]

Watch This Month's Clip 

In this clip, Patrick Johnson talks the recent generosity data results in our western culture. Even with abundance of tools and teaching on the subject, most are building houses on sand. 

Please watch and share in your network! 

Recommended Resource

30 Days of Prayer and Fasting - June 2019 

We at GenerousChurch are going to pray and fast, and we're asking God to bring other ministries and other churches to join with us in asking God to unleash generosity and free people from the grips of materialism so that they can walk into the life that is truly life.

Please sign up, and thank you in advance for joining us. 

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