Review: A Disruptive Generosity

A Disruptive Generosity

A Disruptive GenerosityMac Pier. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017.

Summary: Thirty-one stories of entrepreneurial business leaders whose strategic stewardship of their lives and their money have resulted in transformed lives and cities across the globe.

Mac Pier is a catalyst and a storyteller and he leverages these skills to host gatherings of Christian leaders in the business world to consider how they might impact their cities and their world. Then he tells the stories of these leaders to encourage others with these aspirations about the difference they can make with their skills and their resources. He serves as founder and CEO of the New York City Leadership Center and has launched the Movement Day conferences. The Movement Day website claims, “Since Movement Day’s inception, over 18,000 ministry, church, business, seminary, university and foundation leaders have come to be challenged, inspired, and catalyzed in the advancement of gospel movement.”

I reviewed an earlier collection of stories of fifteen leaders by Pier under the title Consequential Leadership back in 2014. He outlines four premises that form the basis of his work in that book:

1. Cities shape culture.
2. Gospel movements change cities.
3. Catalytic leaders launch movements.
4. Mentors and catalytic events shape leaders.

This new book is about catalytic leaders with financial resources who use those resources strategically to launch movements. I think an alternate title of this book could have been The Joy of Generosity because one of the undercurrents running through all the stories in this book is the deep sense of excitement and satisfaction experienced by people as they discovered strategic ways to invest the resources that came from business success to bring healing and renewal to their cities and in other needy situations around the world.

The book consists of thirty-one stories of generous people. It is suggested in the Introduction that you read one of these each day. Each story is connected to a verse in Isaiah focusing on God’s vision for the world. The stories are not simply about generous people but about movements in which such people come together, captured by a vision of the opportunity they have for kingdom influence. The stories also underscore relational networks. Pier talks about the book as a kind of relational tree connected by Lausanne Conferences and Movement Days. Each story concludes with succinct “Points for Reflection” and a prayer related to the person or persons he has just profiled (some chapters profile a couple people who come together in a joint venture).

In his chapter titled “Fruitful” Pier tells the stories of two men who served as part of the initial core group that launched the New York City Leadership Center, Lew Bakes and Tony Lembke:

“Lew suggested we follow Christ’s disciple model and find twelve investors who would each commit one hundred thousand dollars a year for three years to launch the NYCLC. He was the first one in.

Lew’s model inspired other leaders to join the team. Within our first year, we had raised nearly $1 million.

.  .  .

Tony Lembke was another member of the initial core group that launched the NYC Leadership Center in 2008. He attends The Presbyterian Church at New Providence in New Jersey, led by Jeff Ebert. Jeff invited Tony to a luncheon we had at the Hilton Hotel at 53rd and 6th Avenue, and within a few weeks Tony followed up with me. He wanted to join the core group of investors to launch the NYCLC. Tony felt a strong call to get involved when he heard that the goal was to create a ‘tipping point’ of Christian grace to the world’s most influential city and to bring leadership resources to pastors and Christian leaders in the NYC metro area.”

The book is a bracing journey that takes us from New York to Cape Town, to India, South Korea, Singapore, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and the great cities of America–Dallas, Charlotte, Palm Beach, Phoenix and many others including Columbus, Ohio where I live. From Lydia in the book in Acts, the Clapham Sect that surrounded William Wilberforce to the present day, “gospel patrons” have played a decisive role in accelerating the ministry of the gospel throughout the world. Through generous giving, these gospel patrons disrupt both the status quo of our society’s consumption ethic, and the status quo of an alienated, suffering world.

With the recently passed massive tax deductions that benefit the wealthy and corporate world the most, it seems that for believing people who believe wealth is entrusted to us for the glory of God and the good of the world, we’ve been given a disruptive opportunity. We can take money once given to government, and instead of spending it on ourselves, use it shrewdly and well to advance the only kingdom that endures for eternity. That, it seems to me, is a good kind of disruptiveness!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

One Unholy Divided Church

I’ve commented in a few posts about the polarities and divisions in American culture. But I was reminded today that the faith I identify with has no room to stand in judgment of the culture. I’ve been reading Mac Pier’s book, Consequential Leadership, in which he profiles fifteen influential Christian leaders. In his chapter on evangelist Luis Palau, I was struck by the observation Palau made at least twice in the chapter about his concern over the divided state of American Christianity. And so I’ve been musing today on what it would take to overcome these divisions.

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1. Rather than fighting over Him or acting if He didn’t exist or was simply a vague haze around the Father and Son, unity will come when we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul says, “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).  That tells me that we actually already are one and if we were really full up with the Spirit, we might start acting like it.

2. When we decide that praying together is more important than posturing, self-promoting, programming, and building our publishing platforms, we might start living out our unity.  Pier’s book talks about the impact Concerts of Prayer in New York City has had in the spiritual awakening and uniting of the church across denominational and ethnic lines.

3. Again and again I hear from people returning from missions in other parts of the world that Christians engaged in mission are not involved in lobbing potshots at each other. The needs are urgent, the mission of seeing people come to faith and caring for them is clear, and the resources and personnel are often scarce.  Somehow, the stuff we argue about here just doesn’t matter there. I wonder when we will wake up to the truth that the case is no different here. Our culture is both increasingly plural and secular. Youth are walking away from the church. Perhaps the words of judgment I fear most for the American church is “you fought among yourselves for who was the purest of them all while people were dying for lack of the truth that only you could bring.”

4. So many of our divisions seem to reflect the reality that we have married divergent aspects of the culture rather than give ourselves to be the pure, spotless bride of Christ. We marry political liberalism or conservatism rather than recognizing that we are called to be our own culture as kingdom of God people. Our bridegroom Jesus must sometimes wonder why he engaged himself to us!

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5. Some people think unity can only come by de-emphasizing dogma or doctrine. I’m not one of them. I think we should be deeply troubled and be crying out to God where we are doctrinally at odds with one another. The answer is not indifference! It appears that we (and God) are talking out of both (or many) sides of our mouths. Consequently, many in the world I work in just consider this so much gibberish.  Only when we come with humility, repentance, mutual submission to the Lord and his teaching and a willingness to learn and be corrected by one another will we make progress in these things.

6. This also means a willingness to learn from people not like us. The Church in the global south is growing far more quickly than in North America and Europe. What might Latin American, African, and Asian Christians teach us? In our global diaspora, God has brought many to our country.  Will we listen and discover that the One Church is bigger than we could have imagined? Likewise, we have much to learn from different ethnic churches and churches ministering to different social strata of our own country. And will we learn from women as well as men? It seems that if we ignore half or more of the church, we will be immeasurably poorer.

Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Christians above all others, it seems to me, should be into unity in the midst of our diversity. We worship a God who is Three yet One. It seems that if we focused more on the One who unites us, the One who redeems us, the One who in common we all worship, the One who calls us into mission, the One who has created and redeemed us all and the One who has spoken and shown himself through the prophets and apostles, we could possibly do a bit better at this unity thing than we are at present. What do you think?