Why is Stewardship a Dirty Word?

stewardship pic

Many pastors and church leaders approach the Fall with fear and trepidation because we find ourselves, once again, struggling to find a way to talk about stewardship.

These are tough days in the life of many congregations throughout the Church. We don’t always have enough people to row the boat and major shifts in patterns of giving have left many churches with shrinking financial resources. The bills keep arriving in the mail and many church treasurers face the weekly challenge of deciding which bills need to be paid this week and which bills can wait until next week. And so, many churches gather a few brave souls each Fall and try to find new ways to ask faithful people for their money and their time. Unfortunately, the issue of stewardship is often approached through the lens of the church’s needs and with a poverty mentality, and pastors and church leaders can feel like they’re being asked, once again, to crawl down the center aisle of the church on their knees and beg for the money and help that’s needed. Someone once told me that the church is the only institution in the world that asks for money by telling people that it doesn’t have enough money.

There has to be a better way!

What would happen if pastors and church leaders built stewardship campaigns around storytelling and helping people to understand how a congregation is doing God’s work in the world? What would happen if pastors and church leaders would built a stewardship campaign with a spirit of thanksgiving in their hearts, and use the stewardship campaign to lift-up hopes and dreams for the future? What would happen if pastors and church leaders challenged people to look at themselves as “Mission Partners” instead of seeing themselves as “Members with Benefits”? What would happen if pastors and other church leaders built the stewardship campaign around the idea that people who attend worship are precious in God’s sight – they’re God’s kids – and stopped looking at people who attend worship as a pool of potential volunteers and financial supporters who are going to be asked to help in yet another way?

This year, we built our stewardship campaign upon those principles. I’m not suggesting that we’ve discovered a “magic pill” or that we’ve created something new. Maybe you’ve been doing what I’m suggesting for many years and have been wondering when people like me were going to catch-up. I’d just like to share a few things that we tried and hope that you’ll feel free to share what’s been working for you, too.

We decided to call our worship service “A Celebration of our Ministry and Life Together” and to build our service around four themes that stand at the heart of our congregation’s ministry: We Welcome and Embrace, We Listen and Care, We Worship and Pray, and We Equip and Empower. I’m glad to report that the service was very well received by those who attended and that the responses that we received were very positive. I’ve included this link if you’d like to see what we did.

And then, as we worshiped together, we took some time to tell the story of what we’ve been doing and to ask people for their help in some very specific ways. We shared four story-based messages that told the story of what God’s been doing with us. We named the groups of messages “Christ’s Church for All People” because that’s our vision for the future. We want to grow and to be even more transformed into “Christ’s Church for All People.” You can find an outline of the message that was shared with the congregation here and learn more about our ministry at the same time. We helped the congregation to move around our mission graphic which can be found on the front of the bulletin.

Many pastors and church leaders approach the Fall with fear and trepidation because we find ourselves, once again, struggling to find a way to talk about stewardship. But, with a little bit of storytelling, a strong recognition of the goodness of God’s people, and with a short list of a few specific ways that people can help, pastors and church leaders can find new and exciting ways to address stewardship in changing times.

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

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People don’t talk much about the devil these days.

Many people come to the Church looking for a sense of solace and peace. I’ve heard people say that they attend worship to have their “spiritual gas tanks” filled. We speak a lot about God’s forgiveness, and about God’s mercy. We’re reminded that God walks beside us as we journey through life, and that God’s grace is sufficient for today (2 Corinthians 12:9). But, we don’t often speak about the enemy. We don’t often speak about the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)

In this week’s message, “Spiritual Warfare”, we’re drawn into the story of an epic battle between “God’s Champion” and the devil himself. We’re drawn into an unusual story in the Bible where everything’s on the line and where Jesus CANNOT make a mistake. And, as we search for a connection between this particular story in the Bible and our own daily lives, we can’t help but hear the words: “Be alert!”

Christian ministry is spiritual warfare. The devil is close at hand every time we do God’s work with our own hands and every time the “Reign of God” breaks into the world. We’re called to be alert and to remember that the devil still prowls around in our world. But, we are also reminded that “God’s Champion” – the Risen Christ – journeys with us as we are nourished by the reading of Holy Scripture, as we share broken Bread and poured Wine in Holy Communion, as we experience God’s forgiveness and renewal in our lives, and as we are strengthened by God for whatever is coming next.

Christians must never forget that the devil is prowling around us, right now. We can never forget that the ministry of the Church is never going to be easy because Christian ministry is standing against the rulers and the dark forces of the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). But, the devil is being driven back by the God who’s fighting a Great Battle of the Cosmos with us. And we will prevail in the name of our Risen Christ!

Blessings!

Freedom in Christ

broken-chain

I’m a person who was raised in the Church.

I have a little pin that proves that I had ten years of “Perfect Attendance” in Sunday School as a child. I still remember standing beside my father during worship services and learning to follow the service by watching his finger move across pages in the hymnal. And, yes…! I was raised in the Church because I was taught to believe that good people to go worship on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights) because “that’s just how it is.”

Christians can be drawn to noble causes when they spend time in worship. Christians can be inspired to live their lives in the “proper way” – and learn that a journey with Christ is one that’s filled with rules, expectations, and words like “should.” In fact, when we live our lives with just the “little bit of religion” that we gain during hour-long times of weekly worship on Sunday mornings (or on Saturday night), we actually become quite dangerous!

But then, we begin to hear Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when people slap our face. We begin to hear Jesus tells us to give-away money that we’ve earned in an effort of help other people. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and to be “as perfect as God.” And, we are pretty quickly left wondering when “good enough” is actually going to be “good enough.”

There’s a different way to live-out your life with Christ; and that’s what this weeks short message – “Freedom in Christ” – is all about. It’s a message that challenges us to come out of the “spiritual castle” that we’ve built for ourselves – a place where we can feel good about ourselves while firing cannonballs at other people. It’s about discovering that the Church is a place where I don’t need to try to be as perfect as you are pretending to be – and where you don’t need to try to become as perfect as I’m pretending to be. And, when we grasp that truth, Christ sets us free! The Church becomes a life-filled place where I can come to be forgiven, to be nourished, to be embraced and to be led by God. And the Church becomes a life-filled place where I can invite other people that I know to share that very, same kind of “holy” experience with me.

“Freedom in Christ” may be a message that helps you to understand the Church in a very different way; and it might even be a message that encourages you to lower the drawbridge of your own “spiritual castle,” so that you can walk more intentionally – and authentically – into a world filled with people that God’s called you to love.

Blessings!