Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just when you think you know a thing or two about philanthropy...

According to a recent Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University study, nearly half of respondents said their charitable donations have a "greater impact on their own personal fulfillment" than on those who actually receive their gifts. Although the results confirmed many long-held beliefs about philanthropy, there are some very interesting nuggets among the findings, including:
  • fewer than 20 percent of respondents believe their donations make a major impact on the organizations they support

  • only six percent believe they're making significant contributions to the improvement of society

The survey does not seem to connect attitudes with specific amounts invested through charitable giving. It was conducted in 2006 and again in 2008, polling people with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million.

Now, it's entirely possible that a wealthy person might write a $25 check at year-end and conclude that their contribution will not change the organization or change the world. They would be correct.

A more likely scenario, however, is that people responding to the survey have made significant gifts to one or more charities. If that is the case, the results may tell us more about nonprofit communications and stewardship efforts than donor motivations.

If donors don't think their resources are making a difference to the organization, perhaps we (the recipients of these gifts) need to think long and hard about what we're doing to correct that misperception. Are we taking financial partners for granted? Do we tell them how their contributions help us serve others? Apparently, nonprofits are not doing that frequently or effectively enough.

And if our contributors don't see a connection between their philanthropy and changed lives, whose fault is that? True, $1,000 or even $100,000 won't cure cancer or educate all the children in Africa or eliminate world hunger. But when we receive a gift like that, we'd better be prepared to explain how that $1,000 did educate 100 kids or how that $100,000 is fed 10,000 people.

Donors give because nonprofits say they'll do something important with their gift. Let's follow through on that thought, and tell contributors how they are helping those we serve, as well as how they're building our organization's capacity.

If you want to read more, Yahoo Finance posted a good article describing the survey in detail. And thanks to Robert Frank at The Wealth Report for posting his thoughts about the study.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A short-term mission trip to India in 2009

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" - Isaiah 52:7

Lord willing, I will help lead a 10-day mission trip to India next fall. In Luke 10:2, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” So I have been praying that God would begin to work in the hearts of people I know, drawing them toward a family-friendly, short-term mission trip next year.

Who: 25-30 Christ-followers
What: Evangelism, discipleship and church planting
When: November 12-22, 2009
Where: Rural Banjara villages near Khammam, India
Why: “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” – John 4:34b
How: I look forward to discussing details with you soon.
The Banjara gypsies once traveled and worked the spice and silk caravan routes between Asia and the rest of the world. They are a tribal people now living in small rural villages in eastern India, serving a host of idols they call “gods.” When the Banjara hear about the Living God – the One True God, Who sent His Son to die so they could live forever with Him – they ask the same question again and again: “If Jesus died over 2,000 years ago for everyone’s sins... and then rose from the dead to ascend and rule as King in Heaven, why then have we not heard of this Jesus before now?”

Meet the Banjara people:

People need to hear about Jesus! Our Father needs messengers to take the good news to His harvest fields, and the Banjara are ready to receive! Romans 10:14-15 reminds us, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

I hope you’ll prayerfully consider being those ‘beautiful feet’ that are so needed among the 12,000 Banjara villages in Andhra Pradesh state, India. Want to know more? Email me today.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I wish I had written this

But I didn't. It's worth reading. And putting into practice.

10 Ways to Pray for Barack Obama

By J. Lee Grady

Whether you are happy about this week’s election results or not, all Christians must unite in prayer for our new president. Please don’t forsake this responsibility.

It’s over. We’ve reached the end of the longest, angriest and most nerve-wracking presidential campaign in American history. Finally the “I approved this message” ads have ceased. The endless robot phone calls have stopped ringing. The debates, and the annoying post-debate comments from “experts,” are history—until the next election cycle.

More than half the nation is celebrating today while others are mourning. We are a divided nation, split into unhappy fragments by abortion, gay marriage, global warming, a failed economy and an unpopular war. Those who voted for Barack Obama have claimed a historic victory; some on McCain’s side are already looking for scapegoats. Politics is politics.

But when I got up this morning, I turned all my attention to the fact that Jesus Christ is still on the throne. His government is what is most important. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, the Bible says “the nations are like a drop from a bucket” to God (Is. 40:15, NASB). That includes the United States. We may boast about being “the greatest nation on earth,” but He who sits in heaven has a different perspective. Let’s take a big sigh of relief now and remember that God is sovereign.

I’ll admit this election did not turn out as I had hoped. I supported McCain primarily because I am pro-life and I prefer his small-government mindset. But now that the election is over, I’m not going to harbor bitterness toward Obama supporters or go into attack mode. Obama has been elected president of this country, and that means I have a biblical responsibility to support him in prayer—even if I challenge his policies.

Whether you voted for Obama or not, you need to pray for him. Here are 10 ways I plan to intercede for him regularly:

1. Pray for Obama’s protection. We already know that some weird, neo-Nazi fanatics in Tennessee plotted to kill Sen. Obama during his campaign. Let’s pray that racist hatred is not allowed to spread. Let’s cancel every assassin’s bullet in the name of Jesus. May civility triumph over bigotry.

2. Cover his wife and daughters in prayer. It is not easy to live under constant media scrutiny. Pray for Obama’s wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia and Natasha, as they face invasive cameras, nosy reporters, maniacal fans and dangerous enemies. Obama is not only a politician but also a husband and a father.

3. Pray that Obama will govern with God’s wisdom. God rewarded Solomon because he asked for wisdom instead of wealth, long life or vengeance on his enemies (see 1 Kings 3:11-12). Pray that Obama will order his priorities like that. Despite Solomon’s tragic character flaws, his legacy was wisdom. We can ask God to give our president the same grace.

4. Ask God to keep our president humble. Many great American leaders became corrupt after they moved to Washington. The fatal attraction of fame, wealth and power proved irresistible. The only thing that will guard a man or woman from this pitfall is humility. May God deliver President Obama from the curse of pride.

5. Pray for wise and righteous advisers to surround him. Godly leaders cannot do their job alone. Even the best leaders have failed because they trusted the wrong people. Pray that Obama will not select his counselors based on party, race, pedigree or political cronyism but on godly character and proven wisdom. Pray also that he will not allow secret traitors into his inner circle.

6. Ask for the spirit of reconciliation. Some segments of our deeply divided society want nothing to do with Obama now that he has won the presidency. Even some Christians will be tempted to harbor resentment and nurse political grudges throughout his term in office. Pray that God will grant forgiveness and healing so that leaders on all political levels can have constructive dialogue.

7. Pray that Obama will adopt pro-life convictions. Many politicians have changed their views on key issues while in office. In the 1800s some leaders who favored slavery later denounced it. In the 1950s some who opposed racial integration later became champions of it. Even though Obama won approval from many voters because he sanctions abortion, God could soften and change his heart.

8. Bind all evil forces assigned to manipulate our president. The specter of Islamic terrorism looms over the United States, and dark forces are ready to infiltrate. Our only hope lies in prayer to the God who is able to expose and outwit the schemes of the wicked. This is truly a time for spiritual warfare, and intercessors must not come off the wall in this hour! Pray that no foreign government, terrorist organization or demonic principality will use Obama as a tool. We must stand strong against the spirit of antichrist that promotes dictatorship, persecution of Christians and hostility toward Israel.

9. Pray that Obama’s door will remain open to the church. The loudest voices of secular culture—from Bill Maher in Hollywood to atheists in academia—would be happy if religion were removed from public life. Pray that Obama, who claims to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, will unapologetically welcome Christian leaders into his company and seek their counsel. And pray that false religious leaders (who claim to know Christ but deny His power) will not have his ear.

10. Pray that our nation will enjoy God’s peace and blessing during the Obama administration. The apostle Paul instructed early believers to pray for all in authority “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2, NASB). God’s will is for America to experience peace and prosperity so that we can continue to export the gospel to the nations. This must happen whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House. As we cry out for God’s mercy on our wayward nation, pray that He will allow us to be a light to the world as we finance global missions, feed and heal the world’s poor and share Christ’s love at home and abroad.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Friday, July 18, 2008

As if Baristas can be intimidated

There are so many life lessons in this story:
  • no cuts (didn't we learn this in kindergarten?)
  • if you really enjoy a good cup of coffee, law enforcement might be a good career choice
  • expect irrational behavior from people who drink six specialty cups of coffee daily
  • people can be fanatical about their Starbucks beverages, but that rarely leads to good things
  • when you are lying, don't be the first to mention taking a polygraph test
  • refrain from making idle threats - your bluff will probably be called
  • if your name is "Major," avoid employment where your title might be "lieutenant"
There's a saying often quoted in and around the IRS tax court: "Pigs get fed. Hogs get slaughtered."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ever eat an $8 hot dog?

Have you ever gone to a stadium or amusement park and ordered food? It's outrageously expensive, isn't it? When was the last time you bought popcorn in a movie theater? It costs more than your admission ticket!

In 2002, my wife, Debbie, and I volunteered for several high school parent fundraisers. We were helping our daughter, Mary Alisa, raise money for the Pulaski High School marching band trip to take part in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Expensive, and very worthwhile.

One of the events we worked was serving food at Lambeau Field (the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Packers that day). I was trained to run a cash register, and starting to feel like I knew what I was doing by the end of the first quarter. I was caught by surprise when a man order a cheeseburger. Nothing else - just a cheeseburger.

I'd been ringing up $20 and $50 orders all day. But when this order came to $7, I thought I had hit the wrong key somehow. I voided the transaction as I apologized, and re-entered it slowly and carefully. Still $7. Now I was really apologetic. I couldn't believe that a cheeseburger cost $7!

My pastor, Rev. Dr. Thomas J. McCoy, spoke several years ago at Thompson Station Church on the subject of global missions. I'll never forget his declaration that day. After explaining that he and his family have pets, and assuring us that they were well-cared for, he said, "If you spend more on your dog this year than you give to global missions, you are living in sin."

Pastor Tom can be direct like that.

I thought long and hard about what he said. Our family has owned dogs before, and I have some idea of the expense involved. Food, flea collars, food, a new leash, Milk Bone biscuits, food, vet bills. It adds up. When I did have dog, I'm pretty sure I wasn't giving global missions an equal or greater share.

Nathan Sheets, a friend and e3 Partners Ministry colleague, reminded me today that the Israelites left Egypt with gold. Lots of gold, plundered from their former slave masters. God intended for them to use the gold in constructing first a tabernacle, and later a temple. It didn't take long, though, before they thought Moses and God had abandoned them in the desert.

In their despair, they used some of the gold to make an idol in the shape of a calf. To make matters worse, they arbitrarily decided that this golden calf had brought them out of Egypt and slavery - not the true, living God. They worshipped their new idol, which angered both Moses and God. Not exactly what the Lord had in mind.

How quickly we can move from clear understanding of God's direction and obedience to confusion and disobedience. And from there, it isn't far to worshiping something completely false. You can read the whole story in Exodus 32.

Special thanks to my e3 Partners colleague Mike Congrove for forwarding this thought-provoking video:

God's word is pretty clear about a Christian's responsibility to support kingdom work financially. So, when was the last time you bought a $7 bag of popcorn or an $8 hot dog? And how big a check did you write that week for global missions?

Food for thought, maybe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Discovering Twitter

What are you doing?

That's the question you'll be asked at Twitter.

Perhaps it doesn't sound very useful at first. That could be, as they say in Washington, DC, "a failure of imagination." Twitter might seem a little like a toy, at first. But I suspect it will soon rival - even surpass - Facebook in popularity.

The genius of Twitter is in its simplicity. You sign up for an account (free of charge). Then you can send and/or receive short text messages (either on the web or your phone). Your choice. You can even add the Twitter application on Facebook and permit your Twitter messages to update your Facebook status. If you're feeling really creative, you can tweet photos.

Once you've registered, you can follow me on Twitter. Or any one of some very cool people, like Toby Mac or Rebecca St. James or Gov. Mike Huckabee, to name just a few.

You only get 140 characters for each message, so be pithy.

Here's a good video that explains Twitter quite well. Happy tweeting!