I have been speaking and teaching a great deal lately on the subject of Stewardship as a Lifestyle, and there are many aspects to cover. I deal with theology, church history, development strategies, pulpit traditions, parachurch ministry, and biblical studies. There are numerous components that must be covered to help someone understand that stewardship is not just about money. It is not just about the local church budget. It is not just about a transaction.
It is about a relationship.
Which relationship, do you ask? Of course we could go right to the relationship between the donor and the ministry. The donor and the cause. The donor and their local church. After all, I wrote the definition in my first book "The Ministry of Development" back in 1996: Development is creating opportunities to connect God's people to God's work.
But let me throw you a curve ball on this relationship as well. For although we all seek to build relationships with our donors, love them, appreciate them, and help them feel fulfilled in their giving, it is not the most important relationship!
THE relationship is between the Creator and the created. Between the Owner and the steward. Between the Loving God who desires a restored relationship with his fallen creation who have been made in his image.
The very structure and definition of the word stewardship demands a relationship. A steward works on behalf of someone else. Who? In Matthew 25, when the owner comes to check on the work of his servants and the use of HIS talents, there is a very clear concept of relationship between owner and servant.
When I was in school working on my book, one of my instructors asked me, "How can we give something away if we do not own it"? He comes from a denominational background that is steeped in a "works" tradition. In his mind, the relationship with God is one that goes only so far, and then it is up to us to make it work.
In the Protestant Evangelical tradition, ownership never changes hands. God never tells us "I give it all to you. Good luck. Let me know how it goes. I am pulling for you." He says he is with us every step. That everything, the mountains, nature, and every living thing still belongs to him.
So how does a steward build, develop, and grow this relationship with the Owner? This is why a stewardship lifestyle is not just about money, but rather about a relationship with a generous, loving God.
As we live each day, our focus should be on THE relationship in our life. We think, pray, ponder, prioritize, and make choices in such a way as to please the Owner. When we consider uses of our money, we should always consider in some way - is this how God would have me use this money?
Likewise, when we give of our time and our talents to our church, mission, or little league team, we should ask that same question - is this how God would have me use this time and/or talent for His glory?
As we work with our staff, board members and donors, we have multiple issues before us. Sometimes they may appear in conflict. Do we work to bring in as much money as possible? Do we work to connect as many donors as possible? Do we work to educate as many donors and staff as possible?
Do we work to seek to please the Owner as much as possible?
All of these are important questions, but if we keep THE relationship as the first question to achieve, all of the other questions will be answered as well.
May your relationship with the Owner be joyful and fruitful today and everyday as you pursue your stewardship lifestyle.