A small village somewhere in Africa had survived a serious period of drought. A local campaign to plant trees by the government helped restore the land to be reproductive. The young seedlings had started to make the place look green and that there was some sign of life.
The government officials heard how successful the project is and wanted to visit the project. When the people heard the government was coming, to celebrate these honored guests, they went and tore off the branches and stems from the seedlings to come and cheer the guests and leaders, killing all the seedlings.
The community never took ownership of the project, but saw the tree planting as political project for their leaders.
This story represents a sad stewardship reality in our society today. A Nigerian government official this week commented on BBC, that Nigeria would have been far much better if they had not discovered oil. Not only has the country neglected all other economies like agriculture but the corruption, destruction, and evil that has arisen as a result far outweigh the benefits of the discovery of the oil. Indeed Africa largely suffers in the same way when what is given as a blessing turns out to be our own curse.
Our country suffers greatly in this area of stewardship. Sadly many churches also suffer from the curse of a blessing. Spiritual gifts, passions and callings that have brought divisions in the church, Resources that have driven the church to debts, Greed and corruption. But in the same way individuals get the blessing of good jobs and good money but these also turn out to be traps and door-ways for greater evil.
But where is the issue? My thesis today is that unless God is at the core of our Stewardship Agenda it simply is futile. In His last conversations with His disciples in the book of Mathew from chapter 24- Jesus begins to teach his disciples about his return and the need for being watchful and ready. Teaching about God’s Kingdom- Jesus brings to attention the reality of judgment and accountability at His return as King. Listen then to this parable in Mathew 25: 14-30 (Read)
This passage teaches us great insights about Biblical Stewardship. In this parable a master (God) gives three of his servants various amounts of money (talents) in proportion to their abilities. Two servants wisely invest their money and gain even more money. However, the third servant passively buries his share, not willing to take any risk. His problem is that he misunderstood the nature of the master and how he works (vv.24-25).
To the 2 who worked what they received and doubled them, he rewarded and said of them, Good and Faithful Servant. Not Good and Successful servant but Faithful servant. The man who buried his talent brought back the unused talent, and said, “I was afraid, and I went and hid thy talent in the earth.” (Matt.25:25) His life work was a hole in the ground. He is confronted and punished for a passive kind of stewardship.
Biblical Stewardship was initiated by God in Genesis 1, God created everything and confirmed it was good and then gave a standing order to Adam to Increase and be fruitful, to tend, rule and care for the earth. Biblical stewardship is proactive- It acknowledges that God has already done all the creative work and entrusted it to us to be stewards of it.
Today we move on to the 3rd Area of Stewardship. At Lifespring Chapel We believe that All that we are and all that we have has been given to us by God for the extension of His Kingdom and therein we find our enjoyment. In this vision we see Lifespring as a church that is not Self- sustaining, Self- Propagating nor Self Administering, but the Church that is God Sustained, God- Propagating and God Administered.
We see a church that is not sustained by Human resources and strengths but reliant on the provisions of God’s LIFE dwelling in us. We see a church not propagating human plans, development agendas or even community development- but propagating God’s LIFE to the community which stirs development. We see a church not Administered by Human skill and effort and personnel but Administered by God through the gifts endowed to the church by God’s spirit. This then is how we ought to God about our Stewardship Agenda. As we will see in this rich teaching from Jesus.
In the area of Facilities we have estimated about 250 Million in 7 years for the following – Acquisition of 2 acre plots for our next church plants, At least a 500 sitter hall facility, Children’s ministry facility- Inclusive of school and play space, Youth Outreach Centre- 2 40ft container space, 200-250 car park space, 15 unit Toilet facility block, 4 sets of Audio visual equipment, Church Office block, Security and Admin Staff and equipment. We envision the Blessing of 1.5 times of our monthly budget as reserve.
In the area of Leadership- we envision 25% of the targeted 1000 people in active leadership, trained and deployed in their various areas of mission. From Interns, Pastoral Trainees, Deacons, Elders, Church planters, Frontier missions, Community workers, business leaders, Creatives and arts among others.
At first, When you hear these, it is easy to say dream on and burry the vision altogether in a hole. On the other hand we can also be quick to point changes or improvements on programs and incentives. Or see potential donors. But Biblical Stewardship Calls us to see this differently. Remember the pat is “Good and Faithful Servant, Not Good and successful servant”
We believe God has already blessed us. Because of His LIFE in our lives, Biblical Stewardship is not about what work we will do, But the work God has already done. Biblical Stewardship is not about how much we will need to have, but What God has already availed. We will not achieve all these by working hard, but by being faithful and obedient to the prompting of God’s LIFE.
From this teaching, Allow me to share How then we must go about resourcing EMERGE, How has God intended to bless us not just here in church but his Stewardship Agenda and call to every one of us.
- We must have an eternal perspective to Stewardship- This parable is a picture of what will happen at the culmination of earthly living. It’s a sobering reminder that every endeavor we are about on earth will be measured on the scale of eternity. Our businesses and endeavors, our profits and losses, our moneys and skills will be measured on this scale. We are not just preparing for eternity, Eternity is seen already in what you engage in?
How will 250Million come about? From those who have weighed that all they are and have has come from God and is entrusted to them for but a while to participate in that which is eternal. It will come from those who work and participate in the vigor of God’s Agenda not Just the strength and ambition of Human plans.
When God’s people go to work and labor- Like Paul in 2 Cor 4:16-18- Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (Judy and Larry) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an external glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal. (Profits, numbers are temporary)
- Biblical Stewardship is Transformational Not just Development. Too often visions are interpreted by numbers and targets. The result is the need for development at the expense of the need for Transformation. The Joy of the master was not what was brought back to him, but the quality of servants he had. He rejoiced with the Good and Faithful but he condemned the wicked and lazy servant.
Our Goal is that people are transformed. The sobering Truth is that God can transform people even without the buildings. More than developments, God is calling us to seek stewardship in our lives, in our families and in the church that brings transformation.
Like our country and many governments, we are deceived to think that development leads to better lives. Some of the most corrupt and evil today come from the most developed. God is not just interested with our resources and skills, He is interested in the whole person. Our Growth as a church must be holistic, not just the body and soul but through the presence of God’s LIFE in our spirits our body and souls are changed. Transformed people bring about change of lives, Developed people bring about more complications.
Sadly, when we think of Growing the church, We think Change. Change the people, change styles, change music, change equipment but Biblical Stewardship works differently. Instead of replacing people- a better or stronger version- we should transform people.
Development takes people out of the slums, but Christ takes the slums out of people and they take themselves out of the slums. The world shapes people by changing their environment- SRA, but Christ changes men who change their environment.
- Biblical Stewardship is more interested in what we already have and what we are doing with it not what we could have? The silver is all they had been given. How does God want to resource us- He asks us the same question he asked Moses “What is that in your hand” Moses had a simple shepherded stick. The stick is what had given him an identity- he was a shephered, The stick is what supplied for him, He ate from tending sheep. In the hands of God, He used the stick to part the red sea, to strike the rock to give water, to command the Lord’s armies in battle? What is that in your hands, What gifts, resources, passions and abilities has gone placed in your hands. For some of us God has given us networks, opportunities and business ideas.
- But lastly, God will bless our obedience. We must engage all that God has given us and trust him to multiply it. How will we resource for this vision? When we grow in our obedience and Faith in God. As we speak 250M by 2017, How are you trusting God to grow your incomes personally so that you can practice the practice of obedience in giving.
If we set out in our hearts that we are about God’s Kingdom, then you can be sure God will multiply that which is in our hands. Listen to the blessings of obedience Deuteronomy 28:1-14, the picture of the curses of disobedience is also Grim.
In conclusion, God is calling us to consider a different perspective to Stewardship. Kingdom perspective to how we go about our gifts, skills and resources. God’s Agenda not merely human plans, must inform our stewardship. Stewardship is a significant part of God’s redemptive plan. Our response is not so much of more, but so much of obedience and faithfulness. So in this area of stewardship Emerge-ine us being the church or those that God says Good and Faithful servant, Enter into your rest.