Making Stewards

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1).

From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of Revelation, the Bible teaches us that God is the creator and owner of all things.  It also teaches that we are trustees (stewards) and accountable to the owner. Jesus’ parables often emphasize this theme. Whether it is the parable of the householder (Matthew 20:1-16), the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), or the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), the message is the same: God is the owner and master, we are the trustees and servants.

Christian faith teaches that God has placed abundant gifts within God’s followers. The church is most alive when these gifts are named, claimed, nurtured, multiplied, and deployed for ministry within the church and mission to the world. Stewardship assumes that Christian faith permeates every aspect of our lives. While it encompasses all forms of material wealth, stewardship is broader in scope. Stewards care for and responsibly use all that belongs to God including our time, abilities, and wealth.

Stewardship transforms the way we think and act toward the Creator, the creation, and personal possessions. Our use of the gifts God has given provides the foundation for the Christian’s and the church’s response to the gospel. Christian education is done well only when the church identifies, equips, and installs those who have the gifts to teach. Mission is done well only when those who have the appropriate gifts are identified and commissioned to do mission. Making stewards creates a sound foundation because stewardship enables every aspect of the church’s ministry and mission.

Making Stewards instead of Funding the Budget

When the church’s stewardship goal is changed from “funding the budget” to “making stewards,” members are encouraged to embrace a life marked by freedom from domination to an acquisitive spirit and captivity to their possessions. When God is acknowledged as the owner of all things, stewards are liberated from the burden of protecting (serving) their money, houses, cars, property, investments, etc.

Making Stewards is Essential

The church’s central task is not the raising of money to fund its programs but becoming an instrument of divine transformation and new life in Jesus Christ. Because the gifts God gives are essential in bringing about God’s reign on earth, stewards participate as co-workers with God. When offering their gifts, stewards are offering themselves to God and to each other. In doing so they acknowledge their dependence on God, their interdependence with others, and their mutual accountability within the church.

Making Stewards is the Responsibility of Leaders

By virtue of their offices, pastors and church officers are stewards of the gifts of leadership. As leaders they are called to claim, name, nurture, multiply, mobilize and deploy the gifts of the members for ministries within the church and mission to the world. Stewards are most often made when the church’s leadership is committed to this understanding of stewardship.

Making stewards is most likely to happen when stewardship becomes a session priority. As a priority the session will assign qualified and trained leaders to actively cultivate the gifts God has entrusted to the church. It is when church officers are growing as stewards themselves that they are most likely to lead others to become stewards.

Making Stewards requires Intentional Efforts

Stewards reflect a lifestyle that must be learned. Programs aimed at quick-fix fundraising, which avoid person-to-person conversation about discipleship as it relates to personal wealth, are not likely to make stewards. Initially, such programs may produce additional financial pledges. They will not, however, create the trust that grows the joyful and generous giving that typifies stewards

Making Stewards is Long-Term and Year-Round

Culturally conditioned attitudes on ownership and giving do not often change quickly or easily. Relegating the stewardship program to an annual fall fundraising campaign trivializes the stewardship task. While such campaigns may nudge members toward increased giving, they lack the power to generate the deep transformation that typifies stewards. Profound change in belief and behavior often takes months or years and becomes possible as people are nurtured within the fellowship of an accepting and challenging Christian community.

Making Stewards provides a Time for Affirmation

The gifts God gives are intended to benefit and enrich the church and world. Therefore, as a way of stirring up these gifts, opportunities must be made for stewards to make public their joy in giving their time, talents, and treasures. There is little justification for embarrassment and self-consciousness when their gifts, especially money, are acknowledged and celebrated.

Since God’s gifts are given to us by grace and held by us in mutual trust, decisions related to their use may be personal, but in the church, they should not remain private. Therefore, when appropriate, it is important to openly affirm each person’s gifts and give thanks for them.

Making Stewards – How to Begin

  • Find opportunities to give thanks for every gift.
  • Encourage commitments based on biblical stewardship principles.
  • Honor every donor’s uniqueness and abilities.
  • Motivate givers by sharing a vision for mission and ministry.
  • Invite members to give their gifts to God through the church.

We are called to enable our congregations to discover that the greatest benefit of faithful giving comes to the giver.

Deborah Rexrode
POJ Associate for Stewardship

(Taken from an article by William Paul, retired pastor in Pittsburgh Presbytery.)

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