Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Extreme Generosity

Newsweek's cover story, 15 People Who Make America Great, profiles individuals who "through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others." Of course the most prominent photo on the cover of the hard copy is Brad Pitt, as if he's being singled out as the best of the best. Newsweek must really be hurting for sales. But I digress. I found many of the profiles inspiring, especially the story about Rick Warren, author of the "The Purpose Driven Life" and founder of Saddleback Church.

  • Since its publication, "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold 30 million copies in English, making it by some accounts the best-selling hardcover ever. It is a phenomenon, a movement. It has given Warren access to world leaders at Davos, to corporate chiefs and rock stars. It has generated "tens of millions of dollars," Warren says—enough for him to pay his own salary back to his church, retroactively, for the past 25 years, enough to launch three foundations. "PDL" allows Warren to "reverse tithe": he gives away 90 percent of what he earns.
  • Another pastor might be content to diversify into "PDL" DVDs and gift books, but Warren is more ambitious. If "2.3 billion people in the world claim to be followers of Jesus," then why not take the next step and mobilize those people to do important things, like stop poverty, improve literacy, feed the hungry, heal the sick? Conventional relief organizations are fine, but why not tap what Warren calls "the faith sector," the armies of motivated religious volunteers who are sick and tired of polarizing rhetoric and professional crusaders? "The old paradigm was, 'You pay, you pray, you get out of the way'," he explains, but in today's global and wired world, troops of caring volunteers can be deployed to communities in need with the push of a button.

So Rick Warren gives away 90 percent of what he earns? Wow. And I thought Angelina Jolie was generous. This is one individual who puts his money where his mouth is.

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