“Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son…”
-Doctrine and Covenants Section 147:5a (CofC)
This blog is based on a sermon I preached, which you can read here.
A few years ago my congregation decided to identify six ministries that we would focus on. After an extended period of consideration, the team that spearheaded this initiative decided that one of these six ministries had to be stewardship.
However, we recognized that the term stewardship has some baggage in our church, and is also limited in scope. We therefore wanted to rejuvenate and expand the meaning of stewardship.
As a result, we decided to gave this particular ministry, as we envisioned it, the term “balanced stewardship”. The aim of this ministry was defined as follows:
“Focus the careful and responsible management of time, talent, and resources to support the long term plan of the congregation…”
We also attached two primary objectives to this ministry:
1) To be a congregation made up of people who are individually and collectively inspired to joyfully offer their gifts in response to God’s grace.
2) Embracing a whole-life stewardship that is not limited to monetary responses.
However, I felt that it would be a challenge for many of our members, even with the above statements, to get their heads around the concept of stewardship being an aspect of all expressions of their discipleship, not just generosity.
Therefore, in a sermon I preached, I described five *possible* forms of balanced stewardship, which are as follows:
One: Fiscal Stewardship (A Disciple’s Generous Response)
This is the traditional understanding of stewardship. Financial contributions to the church…because as much as we felt that the concept of stewardship needed to be expanded, tithing and offerings, etc., are still critically important.
Fiscal stewardship is of vital importance to the mission of the church, both locally and globally, and it’s reflective of our generous response to the needs of others. Additionally, generosity is an expression of charity, and charity is an expression of love.
Your loving and generous contributions to your congregation, to your mission center, and to World Church, and to various programs such as World Accord, 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. Yet in a system that promotes balanced stewardship, fiscal stewardship is but one form of our call to be good stewards. And its important to remember that fiscal stewardship is not about guilt. No one is expected to give beyond their means, or to give when they can’t.
Two: Earth Stewardship (Environmental/Conservation issues)
This is perhaps a more recent expression of stewardship, at least, for many of us, but it is an ancient discipline among aboriginal communities. Yet 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 the following :
“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.”
–Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b (CofC version).
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.
Three: Zionic Stewardship (Peace & Justice)
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.
Four: Ministerial Stewardship (time, energy, resource management)
This is sort of a catchall. 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.
This type of stewardship could also be understood as an expression of our discipleship; and it deals with our willingness to identify those things that we are passionate about, and finding opportunities to give expression to those things in a church context.
Five: Temple Stewardship (physical, emotional & spiritual wellbeing)
The name of this form of stewardship comes from 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.
A member of my congregation decided to use the five examples of balanced stewardship by creating a “spring cleaning challenge” for our membership, which was as follows:
Free yourself up to connect with God! (via the following five goals)
1. Earth Stewardship
Set a goal to find a way to look after the earth. Achieve the goal!
2. Fiscal Stewardship
Set a goal to manage your money better. Achieve the goal!
3. Ministerial Stewardship
Set a goal to cultivate your blessings. Develop your use of your time, talents, energy, and gifts. Achieve the goal!
4. Temple Stewardship
Set a goal to improve your health and lifestyle. Achieve the goal!
5. Zionic Stewardship
Set a goal to find a way to improve the lives of others. Achieve the goal!
Breathe Clearly Again!
I hope, after prayerful consideration, that you will agree that balanced stewardship, however one might define it, is important. 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.
The church needs balanced stewardship. From each of us. That 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, and that is perhaps the most important reason why balanced stewardship is so vitally important.
What does stewardship mean to you? Is it appropriate to envision stewardship in a broader manner than previously understood? Do the five examples above resonate with you? How do you envision balanced stewardship?