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Posts Tagged ‘radical departure’

 

The priorities we set in our lives are challenged by the stewardship approach. We are asked to examine the foundation of things that our culture deems highly personal, and thereby problematic, in our relationship to God and each other. Especially in the western world, particularly in the United States, we are inculcated with the idea that who and what we are in the world is judged upon what we do and own. How we choose to spend our time, our abilities and our money is our business. People may believe that the church cannot dictate those aspects of our lives.

A commitment to change is challenging in the most profound way. People who have chosen this commitment are quite explicit in discussing the changes brought into their lives by entrusting their lives and possessions to God, to a higher calling than what we witness in our consumer society. This approach is a radical departure from the norm, from what our society perceives as important.

In studies of congregations with a stewardship model, researchers have found personal and institutional perspectives have changed. Discipleship, as expressed in giving one’s time and talent, is considered as a high priority, with its importance being equal to generous financial giving. This is the heart of the difference between fundraising and stewardship. We are not paying God back for the generous gifts we have received; we are giving from heartfelt gratitude. The difference may appear to be subtle and lends credence to the idea we may need new language to discuss stewardship effectively.

The notion of giving for the sake of giving is contrary to our experiences in most other areas of our lives. The result of giving is expressed in the programs and ministry offerings of congregations. For instance, money alone cannot produce an enthusiastic choir, dedicated lay ministers devoted to teaching, leading groups, or visiting people at home or in the hospital. Those acts of ministry spring from a desire to do God’s work.

If we are convinced that our lives matter to God, that we have something to bring to the world, we want to allow those fruits, the spirit of God at work in our lives, to flow out to other people. This generosity of spirit brings new purpose and joy to our lives. We know we are acting on those gifts we have been given and perhaps enlarging our capacity for love and compassion.

On the other hand, money cannot be discounted. Churches need money to meet the parish budget. Good thoughts and prayers probably won’t keep the doors open or the lights on in the building. As surely as we must have a realistic budget at home, the church must work within the confines of a budget. The financial responsibility for a parish is intertwined with responsibility for each other. If we are to celebrate in worship together, we must make plans for that together. If we are to glorify God in His house, we must take good care of that house through proper stewardship.

Parishes choosing the stewardship model prayed about adopting it. Led by pastors, congregational leaders discussed stewardship, sought understanding of what the ideal means, and then proceeded to give the plan time to work. By sustaining parish members through changes, encouraging them to enhance or expand their ministries, involving more people in more diverse ways, congregations have made significant changes through a difficult process.

In fact, as people have adopted a stewardship approach, the gift of freedom from our selfish, consumption at any cost society became evident. As God’s people in the world, we must live in the world, yet not become exactly like the world. The rediscovery of lay vocations is endemic. The reformation, for that is truly what stewardship means, allows people to be free from a worldview and move into a discipleship view. Emerging from a secular only viewpoint irrevocably changes people in many ways. The essence of living out Christian mission in the world becomes real and a focus for energy.

 

 

 

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