By Cary Mangus
This question can best be answered by stating what stewardship is not. It is not the annual appeal of the congregation. In the words of Michael Bender at the “Rethinking Stewardship” conference at Luther Seminary in July of 2014, “God doesn’t need your money. Jesus talked a lot about money and possessions, but he never asked for it. Stewardship is about what God wants for you…..not from you”. I think Michael Bender really captures the essence of stewardship ministry in this statement. A life of generosity is a life that is blessed. That is what the Lord wants for all of us. At the same conference, Daniel Bell, a professor at Southern Seminary, stated that the church often teaches in error concerning stewardship. He stated that the church in asking for 10%, is really saying the other 90% belongs to us. He said that this is simply not truth, as it all belongs to God. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV) Please note that St.Paul doesn’t say to offer 10% of our lives as living sacrifices but rather all of ourselves. It is what God wants “for” you and me and not “from” you and me. It is in the living of sacrificial lives that we find lives of purpose and meaning. Stewardship is not about the money, but rather is about how we live out our total lives with our neighbor. It is about how we live in our roles as “Ambassadors for Christ”. Why do we live these lives of generosity as we proclaim the risen Christ through acts of generosity to the world in which we live? We do so as a response to the greatest gift ever given….the gift of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross of Calvary. We do so not because we have to but because we want to!
So why is stewardship ministry good for a church? I can point to one sobering fact. The churches that give themselves away are the churches that are healthy. They are healthy because they have purpose. The church is not a warehouse for saints, but rather a factory for presenting Christ through generous and loving acts. Stewardship ministry is a ministry that connects with people, gives them purpose, grows their faith, and strengthens the church.