To see highly successful (i.e., super wealthy) Christians apply their wealth to well thought out and effective causes on behalf of the gospel is inspiring. As a decidedly non-wealthy individual, I am grateful for and have benefited from projects funded by people who have the ability to write checks with 5, 6, or even 7 digits. Mac Pier, CEO of the New York City Leadership Center, has had many occasions to be on the receiving end of such checks, and tells some of those stories in A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Strategic Giving.
My somewhat cynical title for this review, or maybe alternative subtitle of the book, is "Mac Pier and His Rich Friends." Pier has been involved in some cool, high-profile ministries and events around the world, like the Lausanne conferences, Movement Day, and, of course, the Leadership Center he heads. He runs in the kinds of circles where he can ask for--and receive--million dollar gifts for a project.
A Disruptive Generosity disappointed me on the level of spiritual reflection on wealth. Pier writes, "God is allowing marketplace leaders to be successful and then point them toward a larger kingdom opportunity." Some of the generous people he profiles became wealthy, then had a profound conversion and subsequently directed their hearts toward God and his purposes. Others were committed Christians who built successful companies, then once they "made it big," decided to start a lifestyle of giving. And some were faithful givers from the start, expanding their giving as their wealth grew.
But how do they model giving for the average Christian? Is there a connection between faithfulness and wealth? Does giving produce grace or does grace produce the capacity to give? Maybe these questions are outside the scope of Pier's book. While I enjoyed reading about these givers and the impact they have had and continue to have around the world, my response tended to be, "Well, I could do some cool stuff with my money, too, if I had any! If I'm a billionaire, I can throw a million here and a million there, no problem." A better response, but one that A Disruptive Generosity did not elicit in me, would have been, "Wow, even though my means are modest, I should be more deliberate and sacrificial in my own giving."
Pier can't control my response to his book, of course, so I'm sure it's not fair of me to dwell on my own response. The greater picture he is a look at a variety of "gospel patrons," people who, with their wealth, can make a major impact on the spread of the gospel. Pier writes, "God uses the professional success of marketplace leaders to give them a strategic and globally influential platform." I certainly can't relate to the level of giving on which Pier's subjects operate, but I do appreciate getting a glimpse into that world.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!