It was the title that initially captured my interest. One of the authors, Dr. Christian Smith, is a noteworthy teacher at Notre  Dame whose previous books have caught my attention. Passing His newest book, Passing the Plate: Why American Christian’s Don’t Give Away More Money, c0-written with Michael O. Emerson and Patricia Snell, is truly worthy of the interest of all church leaders. After the book was released Christian Smith did an interview with Ministry & Leadership (Winter 2009) that I have read several times now. His research and insights are extremely important in my view. (The quotations I use below are taken from this interview he did on this book.)

Smith’s conclusions are stark and unsettling. “If American Christians gave generously, they could generate unbelievable amounts of resources and make a huge influence in the world. But for the most part they don’t.”

Read that again. It is astounding frankly.

I recently saw a July 4th special on Fox News Channel titled: “What’s So Great About America.” It featured John Stossel and included interviews with Dinesh D’Souza, which was one of the primary reasons I recorded the program on my DVR and watched it. There was a lot in this special to celebrate about the real America, not the one stereotypically misrepresented by some in the media. But the broadcast was way off in praising Americans for their amazing generosity. While it is true that we get involved like no other nation, especially in crisis like that in Haiti, we are still not extremely generous, at least so far as our standard of income goes.

Smith adds, “Most American Christians give very little; a significant minority gives nothing. The vast majority of the entire American Christian enterprise, organizationally speaking, is funded by a small minority of generous people. If the number of generous givers was expanded to include most American Christians, they could virtually change the world.”

That is astounding if you think about it at all. We “could virtually change the world.” In the light of all Jesus said about our money and his kingdom I wonder how most Christians will account for this in the Last Day?

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  1. Adam Shields August 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

    The problem is that I have a hard time convincing people around me that it is true. Even if those that I am trying to tell about the reality of giving do give (which most don’t) they think that most others give. Or if they acknowledge that the church really doesn’t give, they compare it to Europe and say, well they don’t give either, so we must be ok. The sense of the vision of the church as an institution of good is seriously missing.
    This is similar to the idea of US governmental international aid. Most people think that the US gives about 10% of its budget to international aid. But it is actually less about 0.2% last year.

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