Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Questions on Stewardship

Since it is January, many churches will soon be embarking on a sermon series that focuses on stewardship. I've been told by more than one pastor that giving tends to drop in January (probably due to money spent on Christmas gifts). Because of this drop, the stewardship series becomes a must. Here is one example from a large SBC church here in Savannah.

As I ponder these sermon series, a few questions come to mind:

Is there a problem with the pragmatic aspect of preaching on stewardship simply because giving drops?

Why are we often told to tithe when we never see this in the New Testament church?

Should stewardship be synonymous with giving to the church?

Does the money go to the ministry of the church or to the institution/structure?

What happens if people begin to give freely to those in need but don't place money in the offering plate?

Most importantly, what does the bible say abut giving?

Paul helps us in II Cor. 9:6-7, "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

James helps as well in 2:14-17, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Paul exhorts us to give generously and cheerfully, but not out of compulsion. James desires that we take care of the real physical needs of others.

Do stewardship sermon series correspond to the teachings of Paul and James? Or, are they often quite different?

8 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

I looked at this a while back and it certainly seems to me that in every example of giving in the New Testament church, the money was raised to provide for the material needs of others and frankly never to pay a mortgage, salary or buy VBS materials.

Eric said...

Arthur,

You are right on. Today when a local church emphasizes "stewardship" it is almost always because it needs to pay its own bills. That is an utterly foreign concept in the NT.

Eric said...

...say it isn't so...

Perhaps they are considering Phase 1 of that master-planned lakeside development with tennis courts, clubhouse and swimming pool (sorry, as an engineer in the construction industry, this is a sore spot for me).

Or, since there is an active pulpit committee, it is probably also important to demonstrate "financial stability" for that man that is "called to serve" there next, though it will be tough to get around Chapter 11 discussions, won't it?

They have quite a battleship already moving. It is a real challenge to change the "business" of things. Even if they stopped today, debts must be paid, properties sold, etc. The reaping will still take place for what was sown. I do not envy their position.


Eric H

Aussie John said...

Eric,

I have never preached on stewardship,as you refer to it, but seen amazing giving by people who had little material wealth, but great spiritual wealth.

Stewardship, as I understand it, has little to do with money and more to do with a man's/woman's relationship with the Father as the Owner of ALL we are, and have.

Eric said...

Eric,

Calvary is in a mess. No doubt about that. I'd be fascinated to look at how they spend the money that comes in through this stewardship emphasis.

Eric said...

John,

You are right. There really is a fundamental misunderstanding of what stewardship even is.

The ones I feel bad for are those Christians who will give sacrificially, thinking they are doing some good when in fact they are just supporting the institution.

Eric said...

Their current newsletter is just obscene - what a wicked twisting of the Scripture.

This is what I am used to seeing in "stewardship" teaching. Building a worldly, material kingdom and bullying the body into funding it so fame will increase and we can be like Church X. If we build it, they will come (and if they don't, we'll enjoy our nice stuff anyway). The only part missing is the hired gun from SBC headquarters to come do a dinner and hard-sell pledge drive (been there, done that) to convince the body of what God is really leading them to do.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 or Proverbs 22:7 are never part of such "stewardship" training.

Neither is figuring out who really "cast a vision" for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Starting, operating, enlarging or crashing a non-profit corporation should not be equated with the functioning body of Christ - because it is not cash that feeds and supplies every joint.

Eric H

Eric said...

Eric H.,

I guess it goes to show that the farther we move away from the biblical model the more trouble we get into.