Only somewhat jokingly I’ve said that most stewardship programs are like fancy forms of clergy whining. It’s only somewhat because the most common refrain that you hear when you look at what other pastors say about stewardship is that the people in the pews aren’t giving enough, and if they would just give then we wouldn’t be having any problems. I should also note that this is one of the times when clergy will make a clear distinction between “us” and “them.” Somehow, this doesn’t sound right to me.
One of the first points that I made, and will continue to make, is that
Now the typical response of clergy (and many church leaders), to me sounds like a pipe dream, but it’s one that is based on a very real fear. That fear is that the church won’t be able to stay open. Even though we didn’t like to admit it, we’ve known for a long time that the church was failing. That’s reality. But that’s not just true for us in the church though. Organizations that traditionally depend on folks giving time and money have all been having trouble.
As churches, we’ve been able to hold on longer than most because we’ve enjoyed a much more secure place in society. But, because of that, we’ve also been the most reluctant to change. What has been found is that you can’t rely on your place, and who you are, to get people to give. Instead you’ve got to show that what you’re doing is worth their gift.
Have you ever wondered why, when you give to a nonprofit, charity, civic organization, political organization, or others, that all of a sudden you get all sorts of information from them? Whether its mailings, emails, requests for more donations, stories from people that have been helped, and so on and so forth? Its not all about getting more money from you. In fact a large part of it is to show folks who have given just what it is that their gifts have gone for–that their gifts have helped.
We give to other organizations because we have hope for what they will accomplish. We believe in what they’re doing. Which is a very familiar story to what we talked about last week. The Wise Men came to see Jesus, not out of faith, but out of hope for who he would become. They gave gifts because they believed in the possibilities that were coming with this child. They believed in what this child could do, and they wanted to support those possibilities.
Like at the end of our reading in Romans vs. 17
Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good
Now, you have to remember though, that I grew up as a part of the generation that had background music for everything. We were the ones who had walkmans, and portable CD players, and then ipods. We’ve gone from tapes, to cd’s, to mp3’s, and ironically enough vinyl is even making a comeback. So, that being said, when I hear the word respect, there’s only one thing that it can mean.
Yeah, I can’t help it. For the different things that go on in my life, I’ve probably got a song going in the back of my head. But if you’re going to have respect for something, then you’ve got to know what that something is.
Or, if we go back to vs. 17, and we have respect for what everyone else believes is good, then we’ve got to know what it is. That means we have to be able to find out what it is, we have to understand the folks who are around us a lot more.
At one point in time, folks knew what it meant to give money to a church, and to support what it did, but those times are gone. In fact, in a lot of ways we’ve managed to do just the opposite of what we wanted to do.
So the next part of what we have to do is to, if we are going to be good stewards is help to build that respect. That’s the tricky part. In doing that, we have to go back to those four important things.
- Who God is
- How we’re saved
- How we live
- Our Mission
Part of who God is, is the way we do worship. We’re working on that, and its getting better. But that’s something we’ll continue to work on. Part of knowing how we’re saved is to work in better understanding that, and we can only do that through studying. I’ve got a couple of ideas for that, and we’ll be figuring out times to do studies over the next couple of months.
The last two have a lot of overlap. A lot of how we live is tied up in how we enact our mission. In the next session we’ll talk more about how we live and ways of doing it better.
But for our mission, I want us to focus on a couple of things. Being active in missions doesn’t just help others that could use a helping hand, but is also one of the most direct, and easiest ways that others can see what we do, and provide an entrance point for us to share the good news.
So, what I’d like to see us do is focus on two things. One being to find a hands on mission. This is something where you can get your hands dirty, so to speak. You should be able to directly interact with others. The other is a place that you can donate. You can donate a number of different things, but it should be for something that isn’t local, but reaches out farther away from you.
In the end, we go back to the beginning part of our reading out of Romans.We all have different gifts, but they can all work together, and towards the good things in the world, and they help all of us to see just what this good news, which leads to the respect that we are trying to get set up.
Our goal comes at the end of the Hebrews passage
24Let’s also think about how to motivate each other to show love and to do good works. 25Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.
We come together, together we work, together we share the Good News, together we can change the world, if only we try.