Michael O'Hurley-Pitts provides readers with an informed, readable and praiseworthy analysis and critique of fundraising as it relates to the contemporary Christian community. His book emanates from his extensive experience in development and ministry throughout Canada and the United States.
The Passionate Steward is written to address the perceived "crisis" within the realm of Christian stewardship, namely, that it has been negatively influenced by the principles, methods and practices of secular fundraising. In O'Hurley-Pitts' professional estimation, Christians have become preoccupied with the accomplishment of financial goals, rather than with the baptismal vocation of stewardship.
O'Hurley-Pitts begins his work by introducing stewardship as a biblical and Christian imperative. He aptly outlines the characteristics and motivations of authentic stewardship, explaining that this vocation is "achieved... through the total conduct of our lives as followers of Christ" (23). Christian stewardship, therefore, is ultimately an imitation of Christ, who perfectly exemplified "self-donation" (23). It is a world- view, meant to transform us, rather than an individual or annual venture. Stewardship is intimately bound to the realities of redemption, devotion, grace and discipleship. Readers are provided a great standard and are challenged to give of their time, talent and treasure freely, generously and with no expectation of reward or recognition (25).
In the second portion of the book the notion of stewardship is contrasted with the reality of contemporary fundraising. In this section the author makes a strong case against many particular tactics used in secular fundraising. The author objects to many of these strategies because they deviate from Christian theology and practice. The objections are based on the author's claim that these techniques propose financial goals as the true end, rather than the "vocational development of the individual... and their place in a community of faith (68-69). In particular, the author takes issue with all fundraising methods that employ public donor recognition. For many who have engaged in raising money, this is certainly nothing more than a quick and easy manner by which to do so. In the author's judgment, these methods are simply an appeal to vanity and a way to inhibit the true generosity of many who are not extraordinarily wealthy. Doing so, he calls attention to those extraordinary women and men who tirelessly devote themselves to the community out of their need, rather than their excess of time, talent and treasure (Cf. Mk. 12:41ff.).
The final section of the book provides practical advice for anyone involved in raising money and wishes to reevaluate their methods, practices and principles. This includes counsel as to the entire process of raising money, from determining objectives to campaign evaluation. In this final section O'Hurley-Pitts provides sage advice concerning all facets dealing with the 'hands on' of stewardship.
To many who make their living in the financial sphere, the present work may seem lofty and unrealistic. In its pages, many of the prevailing (and successful) secular practices are denounced. Some may also find themselves unconvinced by his attitude toward withholding time, talent and treasure as a means of protest (he mentions the current sexual scandals), or as a means of achieving a particular agenda. To some, this method is viewed as a legitimate way to have one's voice heard.
O'Hurley-Pitts offers a work that invites us to reconsider our contemporary methods of fundraising and of individual giving. His work is courageously faithful to scriptural principles and will certainly inspire individuals and communities. He reminds us that money should never be the Church's goal and that stewardship is a constitutive element of Christian discipleship. It is a very useful and practical text for teachers, students, those involved in parish financial or ministerial work. It is a book that offers all socially concerned Christians a firm foundation for their work and lives as stewards.