November 19th 2010
We have been on a journey these last few weeks as you have heard various members of the Mission Taskforce speak to you about Children’s Ministry, Discipleship, Operations, Worship & Young Adult Ministries.
At this time I have the happy task of talking to you about another one of my favourite church concepts: Stewardship. Last week I spoke to you about discipleship, and how important discipleship is to the church. Discipleship and stewardship very frequently overlap. In fact, Doctrine and Covenants Section 162:7c states:
“…stewardship and discipleship cannot be divided and are dependent upon each other.”
But the stewardship I want to talk about today is not your grandfather’s stewardship! What I want to talk to you about today is a broader and deeper understanding of stewardship, which the mission taskforce has designated as “balanced stewardship” And true stewardship must be balanced, it must be an equilibrium of all aspects of our ministry.
However, such stewardship does still include the traditionally understanding of stewardship: some form of monetary giving; such as tithing, offerings, charitable donations; and so forth.
This form of our stewardship, which we might call “fiscal stewardship” is of vital importance to the mission of the church, both locally and globally, and is reflective of our generous response to the needs of others. And generosity is an expression of charity. And charity is an expression of love.
And your loving and generous contributions to our congregation, and to the mission center, and to World Church, and to various programs such as World Accord, and our very own food drive, touch the lives of people all around the world, truly having a beneficial impact on those whose ministerial needs outweigh our own.
Our current tithing program is termed “A Disciple’s Generous Response”. This program teaches us that generosity is a spiritual discipline. It also encourages us to respond faithfully, spend responsibly, save wisely, and give generously.
These are all wise words, and we need to embrace them. But in a system that promotes balanced stewardship, fiscal stewardship is but one form of our call to be good stewards.
Another aspect of balanced stewardship is earth stewardship. This is perhaps a more recent form of stewardship, at least, for many of us, but it is an ancient discipline among aboriginal communities. But now the rest of the world has finally caught on. And God is encouraging us to embrace our call to be custodians of the whole world.
One of my favourite scriptures is also one of our most recent scriptures. It comes from Section 163, and is says:
“The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.” -4b
This passage truly resonates with me, and I am eager to explore ways in which our church, and our congregation can help protect the world on which we live. This planet is a gift from God, as are all things in creation. We can’t take anything, even the world itself, for granted.
Now, in addition to fiscal stewardship, and earth stewardship, there is also another type, that I want to call Zionic stewardship. This is the responsibility that we have, beyond our charitable gifts, to help improve the conditions of all people throughout the world. To care for one another.
A very, very, very, long time ago, God asked a rather short and simple question: “where is your brother” and the reply that He received was this: “am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to that question is “yes!” you *are* your brother’s keeper! You are a keeper of all children of God.
We are reminded of this calling, this aspect of our stewardship, by another verse from Section 163:
“God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.” -4a
So you see, God has charged us with the task of helping to improve the lot of others, building a better world, living our mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ, and promoting communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
This is Zionic stewardship.
And then there is ministerial stewardship. This is the stewardship of our own blessings; or, to put it another way, our time, energy, gifts and talents, and how we use them, our willingness to use them, our willingness to risk; to move beyond our comfort zones.
And last but not least, there is a fifth form of stewardship that pertains to our health and wellbeing. For lack of a better designation, I’m calling it “temple stewardship”, which is based on chapter 6 of First Corinthians, in which we read the following:
“…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?” -19 IV (adapted)
This verse reminds us that our bodies are gifts from God. They are temples of the Lord. They are not ours, but His. As such, we would do well to take very good care of them. Therefore, we must always be attentive to our personal health, in all it’s many forms. Our health is multi-dimensional, and therefore, so must be our efforts to take care of our health, our temples of the Lord.
And this also includes our spiritual wellbeing. We must be careful to ensure that we don’t experience burnout. And if we do, then we need to recognize it, and appropriately cope with it. This is also a key aspect of our temple stewardship.
But why is stewardship important? Well, we could discuss that for hours, so let me simply quote Section 147:5a, which states:
“Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son…”
Its as simple as that.
But why is balanced stewardship important? The Mission Taskforce has stated that the aim of this particular ministry is “to focus the careful and responsible management of time, talent, and resources to support this congregation.” The objectives of this ministry include “inspiring people to offer their gifts in response to God’s grace; and to embrace a wholelife stewardship.” That is what it means to have balanced stewardship,
But why should we be concerned with such things? Well there are many reasons. For example, it could be neglectful, or even maladaptive, to focus on only one expression of stewardship.
Plus, we are encouraged to broaden our ministry, to become more diverse in our witness of Jesus Christ. This promotes our own spiritual growth, not to mention the positive impact that may transpire in the lives of those to whom we minister, which may not occur if we are not willing to render new forms of ministry. And I don’t mean just new forms of church ministry, but also new forms of personal ministry. Ministry that perhaps others are doing, but which you may have never considered as part of your own ministry.
As many of you know, I was very involved with our church’s youth program for several years. I was on staff at our Senior High camp for 15 years. In a row. I was also on staff at various other youth camps, such as Junior High camp, Thanksgiving Retreats, Yuletide Retreats, and the very first International Youth Forum. Youth ministry was very important to me, and I was very committed to working with the youth and young adults of our church. And I still enjoy doing such today.
But that was my only church focus for a very long time. Eventually I felt a growing sense that I was being called to be more active in congregational ministry. But I was not sure how, or why, or if I’d be ok.
And again I feel a sense that there might be other forms of ministry that God is calling me towards, perhaps pertaining to Earth Stewardship, or Temple Stewardship, or outreach or perhaps something I have not even considered, perhaps a form of ministry that I am not even aware of. Who knows. I haven’t yet discerned what the next step is.
But what I have figured out is this: I can’t refuse to listen to God’s call. I can’t refuse to take the next step. I have to strive to keep my ministry, my discipleship, my stewardship in some sort of equilibrium.
And so I completely support and endorse the mission taskforce’s vision of balanced stewardship. This final ministry that has been identified by the taskforce is not just a ministry unto itself, but it supports, overlaps, empowers and unites all of the other five focus ministries. If we truly have balance in our stewardship, and faith in our God, and one another, and ourselves, then the other focus ministries will flourish.
The church needs balanced stewardship. From each of us. The need has never been more urgent. Our discipleship and stewardship must be flexible, and relevant. We must be open to change. Because the church has changed. And the church has changed because the world has changed.
But our foundation has not changed. We were Restored by God. And we remain that Restoration. We heard God’s voice. And we continue to hear God’s voice. And God is calling us to respond to the needs of this world, in this time, just as he once Restored us, He is calling us to be the means through which he Restores others.
And to help clarify what I mean, I want to show the following video, entitled “Vulnerable to Hope”
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuRz9QFOBrg )
This is why balanced stewardship is so vitally important. In closing, I want to leave you with these words, from one of my favourite hymns, which are applicable to all forms of stewardship and our other five focus ministries:
“Freely, freely, you have received: Freely, freely give. Go in my name, and, because you believe, Others will know that I live” Amen.