3 Things The Church Can Learn From Viral Generosity


What can the church learn from a moment of generosity, shared on Instagram?

Carlos Whittaker, the Nashville-based author, podcaster and motivational speaker recently made national news by donating over $60,000 to an airport lounge piano player. After his speaking event was canceled, Carlos stopped for something to eat in the airport and came across Tonee the piano player. He was instantly drawn to Tonee’s effervescence and zeal for life. Whittaker decided to strike up a conversation with Tonee, where he learned of the musician’s struggles with dialysis and kidney disease. 

After posting several stories on his instagram account, Whittaker, and his 170,000 followers on Instagram, decided to see how big of a tip they could leave for Tonee before Whittaker’s flight left the Atlanta airport. In less than 45 minutes, they had already raised $10,000 for Tonee, and as donations continued to pour in over the following 24 hours, Carlos was able to call Tonee and tell him over $60,000 had been raised! 

So, what can pastors and church leaders learn from this moment of viral generosity? 

Engaged following and a trustworthy leader 

Pastor, are you strategically and intentionally engaging with your audience outside of the church on Sunday? How is your digital presence? As Whittaker shows, you don’t need a flashy, produced video to capture these stories. Whittaker’s 170,000 instagram following is very clearly engaged with him, as he was able to raise such a large amount in 45 minutes. Church leader, you don’t need a six-figure instagram following to have a trusting and engaged social media following. More followers isn’t the goal. A small, but engaged community with networks and friendships can effect change in your community. 

Whittaker’s audience trusted him to do what he said he would do, and donated to his personal Venmo and CashApp apps to give to Tonee. There was no worry that Carlos would skim any money off the top or not give the entire donation to Tonee. There was trust in the leader. 

Passion and Inspiration

Whittaker’s podcast is titled “Human Hope”. He’s passionate about inspiring others to find hope and joy in life. In his book, “Moment Maker”, he discusses how you can either let the minutes pass you by or you can claim them for what they are: opportunities to unlock the full depth of life’s potential. The incredible moment of generosity would not have been possible had he not taken hold of the moment that was presented to him. Whittaker practices what he preaches and inspires his audience, and his passion is contagious. 

Donating to Immediate Change in the World

Does your church have plenty of opportunities for your members to donate? Can they only donate in church on Sunday? (If not, our online giving recommendation HERE) Is it simple and easy to donate? Are you sharing opportunities for your members to donate to meet an immediate need in your community? Are you looking for moments to intentionally bless others? 

The donors supporting Whittaker’s cause were affected by his passion, inspired by his leadership, and moved to make a small difference in one person’s life. Consequently, Whittaker was able to bring them along on a journey of generosity that has since captured the nation’s attention and inspired hope. 

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