Throughout most of the month of October, we’re going to be talking about stewardship. Last year, we approached it from the standpoint of the different facets of stewardship. We talked about being faithful stewards of our resources (yes … the ‘money’ element), being faithful stewards of our time and talents, and being faithful stewards of our hearts and attention.
This year, we’re going to tackle the idea of stewardship from a different angle. We’re going to spend October talking about the different foci of stewardship. We’re going to talk about stewardship for the purpose of strengthening the church. We’re going to talk about stewardship for the purpose of strengthening mission (both through the church and outside of it). And we’re going to talk about stewardship for the purpose of the strengthening the future.
You may have noticed a key word in all of that: STRENGHTENING.
I know that stewardship often gets relegated to the role of sustaining – helping the church maintain what it’s doing, helping the church “stay afloat,” helping the church do exactly what it’s been doing.
This is “just enough” stewardship, but friends, God didn’t create us to be “just enough” caretakers, and God didn’t create the world for a “just enough” existence.
In the beginning, when God created humanity, God named us as stewards over all the creation.
So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God he created them; male and female God created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “… Be responsible for the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:27-28
Despite some previous translations, God didn’t say, “Subdue the earth.” God didn’t say, “Perfect the earth.” God certainly didn’t say, “Do whatever you want with the earth.” God named us stewards … caretakers. God made us responsible for every living thing – the plants, the animals, the bugs, the birds, and most certainly each other.
And when God was creating the world one cosmic event at a time, God didn’t sit back and call each period of creation “just enough.” God called it “good.” God called it “prosperous.” God called it “successful.” God called it “pleasing.” I don’t know about you, but none of these substitutions for good speak of “just enough” to me. They speak of fullness. They speak of vastness.
They speak of abundance.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) If we are to live into the role of truly faithful stewards, we have to shake off this mentality of “just enough” and embrace an attitude of “strengthening abundance.” When we look at the numbers, at the real, honest-to-goodness numbers of how our congregations are doing right now, the bottom line is written in red ink, not black ink. And it’s not because we’re horrendously off-budget for the year. We’re pretty spot-on for spending. Giving is another story.
As we venture ahead as congregations, keep these questions in mind:
How can our stewardship – of our resources as well as our time and our energy – not just maintain but strengthen our church?
How can our stewardship not just maintain but strengthen God’s mission in the world?
How can our stewardship not just maintain but strengthen our future together and the future of the body of Christ?