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Redefining Stewardship


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By Dr. John R. Frank

A blog is a type of conversation, is it not? So lets have a conversation about the definition of stewardship. I challenge blog aficionados to come to the blog and discuss a topic that most do not like to talk about. In fact, our seminaries do not teach it, our conferences try to offer examples and how to’s, but for the most part what we have been discussing is not working.

Do you agree?

I offer that the main reason we are missing the mark in steward leadership these days is that we have used an outdated and too narrow of definition. I believe we have allowed the church to reduce stewardship to fundraising for the local church budget. I have heard this from young pastors, millenials, and observed this in practice. Our pastors can be more concerned with meeting budgets than raising up stewards.  This is due to their lack of training, not their hearts.

I believe that stewardship is a lifestyle. It is a way of looking at life and living accordingly. I believe that stewardship is an integral part of discipleship. You can not be a true follower of Jesus Christ if you are not a steward.  Wow, that is quite a claim isn’t it?  But take a closer look at what it means to be a steward.

Here are a few thoughts.

Stewardship is about a relationship.

Why would a steward try to please the Owner unless you have a relationship with him? It just makes sense that we would try to please the Father by being a good steward of our life, our time, talent, treasure, body, creation, relationships, and all the other things he has entrusted to us.

A disciple of Jesus follows Him.

Was Jesus a steward? I believe he understood that all belonged to the Father. He also sought to do his Father’s will. And that he was generous with his time and talents on multiple occasions.

A steward knows Who the true Owner is.

The moon, the stars, the earth and all who dwell in it belong to God. To live a life where ownership is irrelevant is to live as a disciple.  Jesus knew he was not of this world. We should look at our time on this earth in the same way.

A steward is holistic.

They look at all areas of life as a part of their world to steward. Time, talent, and treasure are clear. But also our creation, our bodies, our relationships, our work, and our faith. We must be stewards of all of these.

The blessing in giving goes to the steward.

In God’s economy, he is more concerned with the journey of the steward that he is with budgets and financial goals. This is big claim!  The journey of the steward is about people, and God is so very concerned about his people.

So these are a few ideas for you to think over and add your thoughts to the blog.

And then we go to the next critical point – how is a steward leader supposed to integrate this definition in all they do as leaders?  A steward leader must consider a holistic view whether they are managing people, overseeing projects, building relationships with donors/stewards, or just in their personal spiritual disciplines.  The steward leader should be a key example to their “followers” on what a stewardship lifestyle should be.

Think of the young mother or father. The example they set in their family, priorities, generosity, following God, and other areas will be handed down through their children and grandchildren.  Will your grandchildren say you set the standard for living by your generosity and wise stewardship? A tough question to answer.

If you are in a leadership position in a large ministry, do you have a responsibility to be an example of Godly stewardship?  If so, what does that look like? Are you a good steward of the people you must lead and manage?  Are you a good steward of the budgets that are entrusted to you? Are you a steward leader when determining priorities and decisions? And are you demonstrating good stewardship as you seek to be a disciple of Jesus?  Again, these are not easy questions to answer when you dig deep into your heart.

Viewing stewardship as a lifestyle changes everything. It changes how the steward leader looks at their own personal stewardship. It changes how the steward leader sets goals for family, work, and career.  It changes how the steward leader leads their followers.

I encourage you to consider your personal view/definition of stewardship. Is it just money? Is it just at church? Is it holistic? Is it part of your every day decisions? It is part of your discipleship, of being a follower of Jesus?

Only when steward leaders consider stewardship as a way of following Jesus and part of their every day lives will we see the trickle down into our ministries, churches, and families.

So what do you think?

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Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE is the founder and president of The Frank Group and the Steward Summit. You can contact him at JohnRFrank@StewardshipSummit.org.

CLA.TwitterProPicDKBAs you think about the new year, consider registering for the CLA Online Academy. Check out the courses in executive leadership because  both take you deeper in the practices of steward leadership. Registration closes January 6, 2014.

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