Raising Up Stewards
Most people think that the job of development professionals is to “raise money” for the ministries they serve. Others go a step further and express that they “build relationships with people” who already support or may be interested in supporting God’s work there.
Both of these comments are byproducts or results that may flow from faithful ministry, but to describe more accurately the ministry of development, let us consider it: raising up stewards to be rich toward God (cf. Lk. 12:21). In a sentence, the role of the development professional is to challenge God’s people to participate in God’s work, to put to work the gifts and goods God has entrusted to them to make known the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 4:10; Matt. 25:14-30; 1 Cor 4:1-2). Certainly this description is not a new one but a biblical one. For this reason, we must model our activities after godly characters like Moses, Paul and, most importantly, Jesus.
Moses is a fascinating example as he successfully led God’s people through the tabernacle “building campaign” (Ex. 25-36). Ironically, though he was not an eloquent communicator, Moses was instructed by the Lord to “tell” the people to bring an offering and he was to “receive” the offering from them as they were prompted in their hearts to give. He did his job and God worked in the hearts of people. More than enough was given as the people gave “willingly.” From the pattern of Moses, we learn that our responsibility is to tell people what is needed and receive their willing contributions with thankfulness.
A key component of Paul’s ministry was raising up stewards as well! He used letters to individuals and churches coupled with personal communication. To urge the Corinthians to participate in the Jerusalem collection, he sent them a letter (1 Cor. 16:1-4) and a reminder letter (2 Cor 8-9). Why?
Participation in the gospel is not what we want from people but what we want for them.
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you— 2 Cor 12:14a.
Elsewhere to exhort participation in God’s work, Paul lists spiritual gifts that believers receive to edify one another as members of Christ’s body (Rom. 12:3-8, Eph. 4:12). Additionally, Paul told Timothy (and leaders after him) to instruct those with riches not to put their hope or confidence in them but to serve as generous givers (1 Tim. 6:17-19). For Paul, leaders get to rally God’s people to participate in God’s work with all they are and all they have.
Saving the best for last, Jesus incarnated generosity and instructed His disciples regarding stewardship through His parables, preaching and passion. There is not space here to summarize His teaching on this topic, but a summary sentence attributed to Jesus by Luke speaks volumes. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And give Jesus did! He emptied Himself and made a way of salvation for us (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). Thus, raising up stewards is all about challenging people to follow His example of generosity.
Returning to my original statements: if the job of development officers is to “raise money” and “build relationships” then we are no different from the first-century religious leaders described by Jesus as “lovers of money” because all we are doing is “using people and loving money” to accomplish our purposes. Regardless of how noble our ministry activities are, there’s another path we can take rather than justifying such behavior like the religious leaders had a habit of doing (Lk. 16:14-15). It’s the biblical path. On this path we “love people and use money” as God provides, in a manner that is consistent with Jesus’ instructions for disciples. So what’s our role in this? Raising up stewards!
May we as Christian development professionals faithfully tell people about ministry needs, encourage their participation with willing hearts, instruct them to put the gifts and goods God has entrusted them to work, and do all this in a manner that reflects the generosity of Jesus. In so doing, we are doing more than “raising money” and “building relationships.”
We are preparing stewards to hear two words from Jesus: Well done!
Contributed by Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D.
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