Gain all we can so that we can give all we can

by Tim Doherty

look around - everywhere there are people waiting for the kingdom to come

Look around you – everywhere there are people waiting for the kingdom to come; How far are we allowed to go to see it come?

Take a moment to let yourself see the realities of life in your city, in your community, and it doesn’t take too much effort to see that there remains a significant gap between “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth” and how things actually are. This isn’t news.

What is new is a renewed conversation about the not-for-profit organizations that are trying to effect meaningful change, and what we believe they are allowed to do as they pursue those changes in our society. (I’m including churches and social sector organizations together for the purposes of this discussion.)

Are not-for-profits allowed to succeed? How much advance are churches and charities allowed to make? At what cost?

It’s a great question that is calling for new answers: If we say we want whole-scale change in the culture, how far are we going to let ourselves go in the pursuit of good?

My friend Phil Smith is seeking to call and drive the not-for-profit sector forward in its thinking and practices in order to be more effective and fruitful toward their respective aims. He serves organizations in what some call the social sector with hope that they will be better equipped to do some very great things. (That is not to say that nothing good has happened so far!)

On his blog recently, Phil posted some very provocative and helpful thinking on this issue. The TED talk he includes is stirring, compelling, convicting and inspiring. TED says about the speaker, “Dan Pallotta created two huge charity initiatives — AIDS Rides bicycle journeys and Breast Cancer 3-Day events. These initiatives raised $108 million for HIV/AIDS and $194 million for breast cancer.”

Take a listen to what Dan has to say:

[Or read TED’s blog on the talk here]

NOW: I know that the kingdom is upside down. And so we might react and say, “but the kingdom of Jesus is different.” But I believe that Pallotta is right when he challenges the false teaching that says that all overhead, including promotion-for-advance investment (call it marketing or promotion), salary compensation and administration is inherently selfish and bad, or at minimum, dis-connected from the “real” and “pure” work of helping the people we aim to help.

Jesus, help us:

  1. To see and cast a grand vision, as fas as you have dreams in mind, to see your kingdom come. This will include through your churches, or service that extends from them. And also through those called disciples who are part of our churches – people who will join or start “social”/helping/culture-transforming organizations that see Jesus’ work extended.
  2. To be courageous to continually deny self and call others to the same. And while we do, may we not be restrained by a false idea that all money-making is bad (it’s not that money is the root of all evil but the love of money), or that all promotion is selfish.

(I recognize that while Pallotta receives the Puritan tradition as only a problem, I don’t think he hears the full sense of what they meant or would mean. But the ethos lives on with strength among believers and secular charities alike: That all money-making is inherently bad and somehow needs “pure” charity giving as an off-set to our guilt. It’s a corrupted way of thinking.)

Instead, in the words of Phil Wagler,we must gain all we can so that we can give all we can!

So, after you engage Pallotta, know that I realize that he doesn’t think exactly like one who knows Jesus. However: What can he teach us, and call you and me to?