Trends in Christian Philanthropy in the UK
The Bible Society
More than 50 leading charity leaders and philanthropists gathered in central London this month to discuss trends in Christian philanthropy in the UK – and, crucially, ask whether there has been a shift away from funding work to bring about spiritual transformation, in favour of social transformation.
The event, hosted by Bible Society, brought together philanthropists, NGO leaders, and researchers, and saw the launch of a research report looking at trends in Christian philanthropy in the UK, undertaken by Dr Jonas and Nina Kurlberg. Presenting his findings, Dr Kurlberg said, ‘Has there been a shift? Probably not – but there appears to be a theological shift towards a more inclusive definition to what counts as spiritual.’
Former CEO and philanthropist Nigel Green sat on the five-strong panel alongside Krish Kandiah, founder of the charity Home for Good, Nick Spencer, Senior Fellow at public theology think tank, Theos and Dr Jonas and Nina Kurlberg.
Nick said that despite declining belief in Christianity and falling church attendance, ‘the level of social action done by and in the name of Christianity has increased over the last five to 10 years’. He cited Christians Against Poverty (CAP) as a good example of a charity closely linking spiritual and social transformation, and added, ‘It’s in that kind of activity, more and more, that we will see the future of the Church in the 21st Century.’
Krish added, ‘Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God… and love your neighbour as yourself.” The two are intrinsically connected.
During the group discussion, delegates were asked to list their ‘bugbears’ of funding spiritual/social activities – and give examples of good practice. Frustrations included the challenge of measuring spiritual transformation, and evaluating impact, and the fact that the Church seems to have lost confidence in the gospel message. The need for greater boldness was discussed, as well as the need to listen to and understand donors. Millennial Christians have a broader definition of ‘spiritual’, and a more naturally holistic approach to charitable work.
And the Church came under scrutiny; are Christians being encouraged to be evangelical, and have an answer for the good they do?
One example was given of a Christian charity director, who went to visit his organisation’s flagship project in India, which had benefited from economic development over a number of years. He went door to door to ask if they had heard of Jesus – and not a single one had. The director wrote to the board and said he had seen the presence of the kingdom, but not the king.
Closing the three-hour event, Paul Williams, Chief Executive at Bible Society, asked, ‘Can you have the kingdom without the king?’
He added, ‘We all believe these things – the spiritual and the social – have to be held together. We must confidently pitch faith projects to the young, we must be wary of what measurement can lead to, and we must be entrepreneurial and creative in all we do
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