|Stewardship: An Editorial|
By David Hildebrandt
Almost twelve years ago as I was considering a "life change," that of moving away from a secular world that included the ownership of a small steel company plus a heart attack with open heart surgery, I never fully contemplated what the Lord had in mind for me in His service. My stewardship journey at that point was as typical as the vast majority of people today. I thought stewardship was about money and felt pretty good about myself to include the Three T's of Stewardship-Time, Talent and Treasures. Little did I know!
In one of my early networking forays into a "ministry of service" that I was contemplating, I was challenged by a brother in Christ who said something like, "you need to broaden your scope and depth of involvement in stewardship to include a "Whole-Life" stewardship understanding." That conversation and challenge of whole-life stewardship was and is the catalyst that motivates me daily.
One of the life traits that I value is telling the truth and the truth is that from that day forward I have been learning, growing and maturing in a fuller understanding of stewardship and my role as Christ's steward. No small task that! Further, the truth is that stewardship is never described as a part-time calling; it is not about some small part of our lives. It is a full time, whole-life commitment that involves all that we are, all that we possess and all that we do.
As the Stewardship Chairman of the New Jersey District, I have attempted to work with Churches and individuals who view "steward" as a word without a clear meaning. This misunderstanding deepens by using the term stewardship primarily in connection with an annual ministry budget or occasional capital funding campaign and so in this context, stewardship appears to be some financial decision about making a donation to the church.
So what is Stewardship?
What Is Stewardship?
If you are familiar with biblical terms, a steward is a person who manages the resources, property, and affairs of a ruler or an owner.
A modern day equivalent of a steward might be a manager of a trust. A steward is both a manager given the latitude to make far-reaching daily decisions and also a servant who acts in the interests of, and within the will of a higher authority. A steward can be likened to an ambassador, who acts on behalf of someone else---representing the will of a ruler or a kingdom in every decision he or she makes.
The first step to a truer understanding means working through and asking questions on basic issues of faith:
Who am I?
Whose am I?
Whom and what do I represent?
Who owns what is in my life?
Whom and what do I serve?
Do I manage my time and talents and resources-or does my life manage them?
Whose will and what interests shape my life and my decisions?
What is my calling in Christ?
What is my sense of commitment?
Does a part of me belong to Christ?
Does all of me belong to Christ?
It means asking questions about the level of our faith commitment well before asking questions about the level of my financial pledge.
Stewardship----A twenty six word definition that emphasizes all of life and life's resources and journeys managed for God's purposes!
That is the journey I am on and I pray that you would join me.
The Grapevine issues for the month of June will hopefully assist you in that journey.
Your brother in Christ,
David Hildebrandt serves as Consultant to the President, as well as the Stewardship Chairman for the New Jersey District.
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|Biblical Stewardship Principles|
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod adopted eight Biblical Stewardship Principles at its 1998 national convention and has commended them to the church body at large for use in stewardship education. Below are listed the principles; while they stand alone as important guides all eight principles come together as a summary of how we live our lives of stewardship.
As an individual, try an "Eight Day-10 Minute" Bible study of the principles studying one principle and biblical references daily for eight days. Not much to ask for. Or, in a larger arena, they could be used with staff, boards, leaders and volunteers to further their understanding of stewardship and how God's word has given direction.
God's Stewards are God's Stewards
God's stewards are stewards by virtue of creation and their recreation in Holy Baptism; therefore, they belong to the Lord.
- Genesis 1:1
- Romans 6:4
- 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 also see 14-15
- Ephesians 2:8-10
God's Stewards are Managers, Not Owners
God's stewards have been entrusted with life and life's resources and given the privilege of responsibly and joyfully managing them for Him.
- Genesis 2:15
- Psalms 89:11
- 1 Corinthians 29:14 see also 1-20
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 see also 1-7
- Luke 12:41-48 & Timothy 6:17-19
God's Stewards are Saints and Sinners
God's stewards rejoice in and live out what the Lord has declared them to be through the cross. At the same time His stewards recognize they are sinners who fight sin and its consequences each day.
- Ephesians 4:22-24 & Colossians 3:5-17
- Romans 7:21-25
- 1 John 3:1-2 & Peter 2:9-10
God's Stewards are Uniquely Singular, Yet profoundly Plural
God's stewards recognize that their lives of stewardship are not solo performances but are personal responses to God, lived out within the community of faith to benefit the whole world.
- Romans 12:4-5
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
- 1 Peter 4:10
- 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 & Galatians 6:7-10
God's Stewards are IN the World, But Not OF the World
God's stewards recognize that the Lord sets them apart from the world and by the transforming power of the Gospel sends them into the world to live out the Gospel.
- Romans 12:2
- John 17:15-18
- John 20:21-23, Genesis 12:1-3 & John 16:33
God's Stewards are Loved and Loving
God's stewards recognize that their stewardship flows out of God's act of love for them in Christ which empowers them, in turn, to love others in acts of Christ-like love.
- 1 John 4:19 also see verse 11
- 1 John 3:16-18
- John 13:34-35
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 & Galatians 5:6b
God's Stewards are Served and Serving
God's stewards recognize that their stewardship involves a Gospel powered style of life which is demonstrated in servant-hood within all the arenas of life.
- Philippians 2:5-8
- Matthew 20:26b-28 & Matthew 25:31-46
- John 13:3-5 see 15-17
God's Stewards Live with an Awareness of the Present and the Future, of Time and Eternity
God's stewards live intentionally in the light of the Lord's eternal purpose while being firmly committed to His rule in the here and now.
- Matthew 6:19-21
- 1 Timothy 6:17-19
- Philippians 3:12-14, see verse 20 & 2 Peter 3:11-12a
- Revelations 14:13
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|The Seven "T's" of Stewardship |
Father Time is back to remind us that TIME is the first of the Seven T's of Stewardship (Time - Talent - Treasure - Testimony - Touch - Tissue - Trash).
Stewardship is not about some small piece of our lives. Being a steward is a full-time, whole life commitment, involving all that we are, all that we possess, and all that we do.
Our TALENTS include gifts, skills and abilities that God has given to us. When we speak of "God-given abilities," we are right on target.
We are members of the body of Christ and each of us has talents to put to work within the body so that it may be built up to worship, witness and serve as God intends.
TREASURE is what people most often think about when they hear the term "stewardship."
It is true that treasure and specifically money are important parts of stewardship, and the wise use and management of our treasure are paramount.
St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. in this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of life that is truly life."
It might seem a bit strange to talk about stewardship of TESTIMONY. But Jesus instructed His disciples to be His witnesses. As modern-day disciples, we desire to be faithful witnesses, saying and doing all we can to give witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
He is risen! Can we be a witness to this?
TOUCH can be used by stewards for the Lord as we adopt the role of servant in our dealings with family, neighbors, our communities, our coworkers, and others in society.
The stewardship of TISSUE refers to the care and use of our bodies and other things, such as proper nourishment, exercise, grooming, and related items.
It also refers to such issues as organ donations and transplants, various kinds of medical care, and the whole spectrum of life issues from before birth until after death.
St. Paul reminds us of some important truths in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body."
Viewing others and ourselves as special creations by God encourages us to have the utmost respect for life at every point on the spectrum.
TRASH refers to our care of God's creation.
God created all things in heaven and earth. Therefore, all created things and beings belong to Him.
Our stewardship of the air, earth, water, crops, livestock and other resources on earth is of critical importance. Polluted air and water, world hunger, and trashy environments give evidence to the need for improved stewardship of God's creation.
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Fund-Raising or Faith-Raising
Contrary to popular opinion, philanthropic giving levels have not been negatively influenced by periods of economic recession.
Since 1968, increases in giving to churches have not kept pace with annual increases to philanthropic causes in general. In 1968, per-member percentage of personal income given to churches was 3.11 percent. This percentage gradually decreased until, in 2005, it reached 2.58 percent. (Empty Tomb Research-5/1/08) Many congregations report red-ink stresses, as their financial resources fail to match the operating costs. Yet others say that not only has giving kept up it has more than kept up with inflation and expanded ministries.
The financial conditions of the "have" and "have not" churches have a direct correlation with the financial stewardship education procedures by which congregations ask parishioners to support their mission and ministries.
Without voting to do so or even realizing it, leaders of poverty churches have used secular fund-raising methods rather than Christian stewardship procedures. Generally, this occurs rather naturally as many board members have been involved in community organizations and are invited to serve on the stewardship and finance committees. When committee members decide how to ask their church's members to support its ministries, they often use the fund-raising procedures that have seen work in community organizations.
When churches take a fund-raising approach to financial giving, they are collecting money. By contrast, the money Christians give to God is a spiritual matter and high-per-capita giving congregations approach any discussion of financial stewardship from a spiritual direction and use spiritual methods to accomplish it. They understand prayer needs to surround every stewardship education emphasis so it becomes a time of spiritual growth, not simply fund-raising. When fund-raising activities do occur, congregations and leaders provide information in ways that provide encouragement to all-especially to participants and donors-in their personal lives of Christian stewardship, and thank them for their participation and support.
Yes, congregations that teach financial stewardship also, on occasion, use fund-raising methods. These funds are typically for youth endeavors, mission trips, a bake sale for a worthy community endeavor, or a property issue. All of these fund-raising efforts are designed to raise a specific amount of money to accomplish a specific ministry. However, these fund-raising activities are a tiny fraction of the stewardship-focused congregations' annual giving and most often these events include enjoyment, highlighting or involving people in certain special ministries, or recognizing and thanking participants, with the money that was raised becoming secondary in nature.
When discussing the operating budget, that fund the church's mission and ministries for the year, these high-giving churches preach, teach, and encourage their members to practice Christian stewardship. They have and continue to focus on the question, "What percentage of our income is God calling us to give?" and concentrate on the "need of the giver to give" rather than the "need of the church to receive."
So, what is Christian stewardship? The quick answer is the faithful management of all that God gives. But a more in depth look will grasp the definition our Synod has been using for the past number of decades, "The free and joyous activity of the child of God and God's family the church in managing all of life and life's resources for God's purposes."
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|What's the Problem?
Money is NOT the problem,
It is a symptom.
The Spiritual Health of each member
Is the issue!
The "MONEY" complainers still believe
That the money is "THEIRS!"
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- For the people of Joplin, MO, and our LCMS sisters and brothers in that area who have been affected by recent tornados, that they might find comfort and hope in the Good News of Jesus Christ during a time of suffering and distress.
- For Rev. Jim Buckman, that his work with the immigrant communities in the greater Newark area and throughout the district would flourish and bear fruit.
- For Kyle Seibert, the 2011 Summer Mission Coordinator, that God would powerfully use him to help with the planting of a new worshipping community in North Bergen.
- That God would raise up mission leaders within the New Jersey District who would help the church continue to nurture the faithful, and also challenge the faithful to reach out in love to the increasing numbers of people in our communities who are lost without Jesus Christ.
- For the poor, the unemployed, and the under-employed, that in the midst of their struggles, they may experience the blessing of all who take refuge in the Lord of Glory.
- For all congregations in the New Jersey District, that God would guide us to be faithful stewards of all that He has given to us-- our Time, Talent, Treasure, Testimony, Touch, Tissue and Trash.
O eternal and unchangeable God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--with the angels and archangels we laud and magnify Your holy name. By Your creative word, You formed the heavens and the earth and every living thing that dwells upon the earth. By delivering Your Word, Your only begotten Son Jesus, into the hands of lawless men who crucified and killed Him according to Your plan of salvation, You poured out salvation upon the entire earth. By the word of the Gospel, Your Holy Spirit recreated us and delivered to us Your forgiveness and salvation. For all these mighty acts, the holy Church throughout the world praises You and acknowledges You to be the Lord.
(From Let Us Pray, Prayer of the Church, Trinity Sunday - June 19, 2011)
|Upcoming Events You can always find the most up-to-date information at the NJ District's Google Calendar online. Or, you can subscribe to the NJ District Calendar Live Feed|
*NEW* New Jersey District Pastors' Retreat
Tuesday, September 13 through Thursday, September 15
Carmel Retreat Center - Mahwah, NJ
Speaker: Rev. Art Umbach
Topic: The Spiritual Life of a Church Worker.
Registration information TBA.
Together With All Creatures
Saturday, September 24
Emmanuel Lutheran Church - Milford, PA
Work day in the park and barbecue. Dr. Charles Arand (Concordia Seminary) will be featured.
More information TBA.
Pastors' Wives Retreat
Friday, October 14 through Sunday, October 16
Hotel Indigo - Basking Ridge, NJ
More information TBA.
*NEW* NJ JAM: Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus (Heb 12:2)
Thursday, May 31 through Saturday, June 2
Doubletree Suites - Mt. Laurel, NJ
Delegate and registration information TBA.
God is doing great things in the New Jersey District!
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