Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

To give or not to give? John Rowell

Some time ago I posted my views on Glenn Schwarz’s book: When Charity destroys dignity. You can read my negative remarks here and my positive remarks here. I mentioned then that I ordered two books at the same time with conflicting viewpoints. The second one was this book by John Rowell, To give or not to give?. And after reading it, I can fully understand why Glenn Schwarz writes in his Postscript to the Preface that he does not agree with John Rowell.
OK, once again a few negative remarks before I come to the positive. George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation, writes in his recommendation that this book “is not an easy read”. I tend to agree. The author uses excellent language, but on a few occasions I found myself wondering what some of these words really mean. Using slightly simpler words, would have made this book accessible to a much greater group of people. However, it was great to read a book which seems to be well thought-through and is well documented.
The only other negative remark I would make is that some parts of the book put me on a guilt-trip. But then, on the other hand, the sermon on the mount also puts me on a guilt-trip, so perhaps this should not be seen as something negative!
What caught my attention as I read Rowell’s book, especially because I read it directly after Schwarz’s book, was the difference in the premise of the two authors. Schwarz writes from the premise that we do not want to create unhealthy dependency, therefore, when we give, we have to be careful how we give. Rowell writes from the premise that God commands us to give. As we give, we also have to keep in mind that we do not give in such a way as to create unhealthy dependency. And this more or less, for me, sums up the difference between the two books. Schwarz seems to look for ways to get out of giving, for fear of creating dependency. Rowell looks for ways to give more, without necessarily compromising those who receive.
God willing, in the weeks that come, I will be returning to many of the topics covered in both books. These include topics such as giving without any strings attached, tithing, the three selves formula, partnerships (yes, once again!), faith offerings, sustainability and a few more. So, if you are interested in these topics, you know where to find me. But I would also appreciate your comments.
A final remark: If I have to make a choice, it will be fairly easy for me to say that I am more comfortable with Rowell’s book. Personally I am also totally against unhealthy dependency. But I prefer the Biblical starting point that Christians are blessed by God, (also materially), in order to become a blessing to others.
But then again, working amongst people who are mostly living in extreme poverty, I’m biassed!


Monday, September 10, 2007 - Posted by | Giving, Mission, Poverty, Rowell, Schwarz, Swaziland, Theology


  1. I have to run pretty soon to meet with a client, but I would say one should ALWAYS begin with G-d’s commands and then go from there, rather one’s own premise and THEN include G-d. It is at once safer spiritually as well as more dependable than the thoughts of mere man. I believe I would also lean in favor of Rowell’s book as you describe it.

    I continue to love your articles. They are timely, interesting and informative. Keep writing!

    (Uh, I’ll try to write more myself when I get a moment to breathe! LOL)

    Comment by Maya | Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. I realise that you have been going through a tough time lately. I hope the time will come that you will be able to write more often as well.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Reply

  3. Arnau van Wyngaard,

    I feel a bit unprepared for class, not having read either book. I read your negative and positive reviews, both of which seem to be thoughtfully written. Yet I think you’ve talked me out of Schwarz’s book. Your final comment about the ironic “Donate” button might have been the kicker.

    I’m considering reading Rowell’s book to get up to speed a bit. I’ll keep you posted.

    Comment by Ben | Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. As I said, there’s a lot of Schwarz’s stuff on the internet for free. Go through that first and then decide whether you want to read his book. About the “Donate” button: I just found that a bit hard to swallow after reading how strongly he feels about receiving money from outside, but in all fairness, his organisation is not a church where he receives money through tithing.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: