Is the Focus of Christian Giving Shifting Overseas?

The Philanthropy Roundtable, a respected Washington think tank focused on philanthropic engagement, recently published a highly significant article asking whether giving by American Christians is shifting increasingly from local priorities to overseas engagement.  Author Karl Zinsmeister (formerly head of the White House Domestic Policy Council) draws upon extensive data and anecdotal evidence to highlight a major expansion in giving by evangelicals to ministry around the globe.  He also asks, provocatively, whether this trend means a diminished concern for needs nearby.

I’d highly recommend the entire article, Unto the Nations.  It’s a vital topic thoughtful Christians must engage seriously.  For although Christian giving and service knows no national boundaries, love for the world means little when it doesn’t include sacrificial love for our neighbor nearby.  We must be very wary of the fact that “liking” a cause on Facebook or sending funds overseas or even a 1-week missions trip are far easier than spending time with the widow who lives across the street.

But thankfully, I don’t believe these two callings are contradictory.  In fact, everything I see reveals they can strengthen each other.  As I shared with Zinsmeister, Christian interest in foreign and domestic giving are often mutually reinforcing.  Donors, volunteers, and families who take an interest in overseas orphans will often simultaneously get involved in the foster care system in their own back yard.

The upcoming Summit VIII underscores this reality.  At Summit, themes of adoption (both domestic and international), foster care (domestic) and orphan care (global) are continually intertwined.  Each is a vital expression of Scripture’s clear call to care for the orphan.  And often, the people raising funds to support churches in Africa or Ukraine in caring for orphans there are also engaged in local foster care and adoption support here at home.  When Christian concern for the orphan comes as a response to God’s heart, we become passionate to see the church caring for vulnerable children — whether they live on the other side of the world or the other side of tracks.