This weeks blog is the first in a line of blogs which outline our eight systems governing our faith community. I thought I would start off with the most 'touchy', Stewardship.
Stewardship is much more than money. It involves how we handle, and what we do with, all of our resources as a community. It means to manage, look after, and implement, the various resources, including finances, which God has placed in our hands. So, let's think of stewardship as, not only the financial resources of the church, but also the spiritual formation of people, meeting place, activities, time, and other things we involve ourselves in.
However, it is a common fact that all these resources need finances. In other words, it costs the community money to gain new resources to build into the resource of people. I buy a book for someone to read in the discipleship process, and that takes money. Our church body outgrows our sound system, which it did this year, and we must provide funds to meet that need in order for people to best experience worship. You get the point.
Stewardship exists to provide giving to sustain all systems. We don't like to think of money, or giving, in relation 'church', but I've always said, money should never be a factor! I am unashamed to say, as members of Christ's body all that we are, have, and own, are God's. So, if we say we are maturing-committed believers, then giving should be a joyous thing! We are honored to give all that we can to see the kingdom grow!
The guiding principle is that God knows what we need, and is providing for all of us. However, we cannot make the mistake of taking the principle of a 10% tithe too far as if to say, "10% is God's, the rest is mine." That is not the case, it's all God's. We steward God's money along with all other possessions and resources. I steward the finances for my family, but also am the steward of the spiritual gifts Jesus has given me - if I bury my talents and just wait until He returns, that is not being a good steward of those talents. Read Jesus' words about this concept in Matthew 25:14-30. I am steward over my children's spiritual development, if I ignore that I am not being a good steward of their lives. God wants us to take calculated risk with our resources; to act in faith so to speak. In that thought, it is possible that He may call some of us to far greater giving than just 10%, since it belongs to Him anyway.
He calls each of us to steward whatever He has given so we can stand with integrity, knowing we did our best with the blessings He bestowed upon us.
Let's take some time to talk specifically about finances though. Money is a spiritual matter. It is not evil in and of itself, rather, it is how we perceive and respond to it which makes it evil or not. The guiding principle is that the local church of which you are part is largely where your financial giving should go. If you come and are a part of a community, then your resources in a large sense should flow there. To not give to my local church would be tantamount to saying that I do not believe in their vision, or what they are doing with the resources I would normally entrust to them. It is basically saying, I want to enjoy all the benefits without giving back to the needs I see. It smells of distrust, and distrust cripples community.
Sound systems and books are not romantic, but they are necessary. Rent for a building on a Sunday morning is not sexy, but think of what Six:Eight would be without these things. Much of the resources we collect goes to support staff, pay bills, and provide materials for growth. It also gets poured back out into our community through partnerships and further out into the world in the area of missions. Some of it has gone to combat human trafficking, poverty, and alleviate the needs of those we come in contact with when they are suffering - some in our body, and some in the outside community. Myself and the Pastoral Council oversee this stewardship very prayerfully, and with all seriousness. And at times we have taken a calculated risk for the future needs, and for which we are preparing ourselves.
Stewardship in the local church is also something very different than in other places. You are not a 'share holder' with voting rights so to speak. The head of our church is none other than Jesus himself, who has entrusted leadership with the task of stewarding these resources. So our giving does not come with strings attached; "If you do XYZ with my money, I will give it." Using money to manipulate others to gain what we want in church is not what God would expect of us. We give freely knowing that our leadership is committed to pursuing God's leading in our stewardship. In that process they listen for the voice of the Spirit which often comes through the community.
As church gets bigger, trust becomes even more important since no one person can understand everything we face as a community, but there are those who think and pray about these things constantly for the benefit of the whole. Therefore, we give generously and joyously, as if we are placing those resources, financial or otherwise, directly into the hands of Jesus himself.
Six:Eight has had, and will continue to have, a strong history of giving. Even though we are a young church with much of our membership below 35 giving has been good! As our body grows, our needs grow, and in the past we have made strong decisions with calculated risks when needed. Giving is important as we go into the fall. We are increasing staff hours, adding community groups and partners, and as we grow in size we are exposed to more needs. If you have not been giving... unapologetically, I say you should. If you are a part of this community you have hopefully seen the benefit of belonging for yourself. A mature approach to stewardship and a missional mindset says, "I want more of this for me and others!"
So, I urge you, without reservation, and with no hint of shame, that your giving is needed in your church and it is going towards building the kingdom of God. Stewardship is one area we can all participate in very easily, and one in which God will reward greatly. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver". To say that God loves a cheerful giver is not a manipulation tool for greedy church leadership to pack the till, it is a fact pouring forth from the lips of God himself since cheerful giving reflects a heart that is devoted to God's kingdom purposes - a broken and contrite heart, grateful in it's forever stance of grace with Jesus. In short, it reveals to God that we love Him and His ways, and want more of that for our world!
Give generously. Give wisely. Give with abandon since you know God is reflected in the heart of giving.