Saturday, June 12, 2010
Jill Schumann, President, Lutheran Services in America
Saturday, April 17, 2010
“What religious faith does more clearly than anything else is to add a dollop of piety to the materialistic amalgam in which most of us live. We do not feel compelled to give up any of our material desires, only to put them "in perspective." When finances worry us we pray, and that gives us strength to keep on working. In short, a kind of therapeutic motif is at work. Our faith helps us feel better about ourselves whether we are worried about our finances, whether we have money in abundance, or whether we fall into both of these categories.”
The study lists the following reasons why churches fail to make an impact on our attitudes towards money:
1. Money is considered too personal to be discussed openly. The darkest taboo in our culture is not sex or death, but money. We still believe that our personal finances are too ticklish to be discussed with even our most trusted friends. Ironically, while most of us worry about our money, we do so alone. We do not place ourselves in a position to benefit from the counsel of others. Nor do we try to gain the kind of perspective that might come from articulating and testing our own views more openly.
2. Money and morality are kept in separate compartments. Our culture encourages us to think this way. Money is allegedly value-free. We make decisions as consumers, on the basis of advertising rather than as Christians on the basis of our values.
3. People seldom think about connections between faith and money. Fifty-one percent agree that "the Bible contains valuable teachings about the use of money" But agreement is one thing; making use of these teachings is another. Only 29 percent said they had thought more than a little in the past year about "what the Bible teaches about money," and only a few more (31 percent) had thought this much about the broader issue of "the connection between religious values and your personal finances."
4. Clergy may be fearful of seeming too interested in money. Most of the pastors surveyed admitted they found it difficult to preach about money. In many cases, they, together with their parishioners, could not see the connection between faith and money.
5. Stewardship has lost much of its meaning. Stewardship is perceived by the public to mean either something as narrow as charitable giving or something so broad that it has virtually no specific implications. When people were asked what they thought was the best definition of stewardship, 10 percent said it meant "giving a certain percentage of your money to the church," 12 percent thought it was "taking good care of our planet," 16 percent said it meant "remembering that God makes everything," 40 percent said it was "using your individual talents in a responsible way," and 20 percent were unsure. Moreover, only 22 percent said the idea was very meaningful to them; 40 percent said it was fairly meaningful; 20 percent said it was not very or not at all meaningful; and 18 percent were unsure.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A few months ago I attended a day-long seminar on stewardship led by a nationally known speaker and author. One of the key principles he wanted to get across that day was “You cannot understand stewardship until you understand Lordship.” In other words, his theology of stewardship was based chiefly on the premise that God is the Owner of all things, the Lord of all, and we are managers who have the duty and the responsibility to care for and properly use the gifts God has given us.
This week, on the other hand, I read again the core values of Lutheran World Relief. One of those core values is Gratitude. "We are grounded in profound thankfulness for God’s gracious, self-giving love for all humankind, revealed in the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Gratitude marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation." It is clear that one of the distinctives of a Lutheran view of stewardship is that you don’t understand stewardship until you understand God’s action of love in Jesus Christ. At that point we say with LWR, "We are grounded in profound thankfulness for God’s gracious, self-giving love for all humankind, revealed in the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Gratitude marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation."
The difference is between a theological system that begins with (material principle) the sovereignty of God as compared to one that begins with justification by grace through faith. This is not to deny the idea of God as Owner and we as managers. It speaks, instead, of motivation. It speaks of action that is motivated by gratitude for God’s gracious action in Christ rather than obedience to a role of managing the King’s affairs.
Perhaps the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s definition speaks to both the joyful motivation of gratitude and the action of management: “Christian stewardship is the free and joyous activity of the child of God, and God’s family, the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources, for God’s purposes.”
Does it make a difference what motivates our stewardship? The nationally known speaker in the first paragraph may be able to claim as good a “response rate” for his stewardship program as any grace-based effort may claim, but I believe there is a difference between a response based on duty and one based on gratitude. The Wikipedia article on “Gratitude” notes that “…indebtedness motivates the recipient of the aid to avoid the person who has helped them, whereas gratitude motivates the recipient to seek out their benefactor and to improve their relationship with them.”
Perhaps it has been a sense that stewardship involves the fulfillment of a Christian duty or responsibility that has made people want to avoid the subject. It is only the proclamation of God’s love in Jesus Christ that can begin to evoke that spirit of gratitude that motivates free and joyous stewardship.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
November 26, 2009 .................... LCMSNews -- No. 101
By Joe Isenhower Jr.
He also said that 35 pastors in the district are in learning communities for congregational revitalization.
"Stewardship just isn't being preached as much as it needs to be," Keurulainen said. "Stewardship needs to begin in the lives of our pastors as they model it in their congregations."
He also said that despite deep cuts to its budget, the district has nine new mission starts.
Stechholz said that the congregations and schools of the English District, "in worshiping the living God, are serving in their communities, connecting with the unchurched and dechurched, growing in grace and numbers by the power of the Holy Spirit, and reproducing by planting new churches."
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Pink slip care. Assemble practical care packages for the newly laid off—workers’ rights laws for your state; recent help-wanted ads with Post-it notes and a pen; a grocery gift card; a directory of government services, mortgage renegotiation programs and local relief organizations; and a resume checklist, paper, envelopes and stamps. Encourage church members to give the packages to anyone they know who has just lost a job.
Career counsel. Recruit a human resources director or social services worker from your congregation or community, who is willing to spend a few Saturday mornings advising the unemployed on their rights and how to obtain government assistance. Advertise the free seminar in your local newspaper’s want ads and on community bulletin boards. Make sure your church knows about it—the best advertising is word of mouth.
Job pool. At each worship service, ask church members to fill out a card indicating available jobs they know of or jobs they’re seeking. Use your church Web site as well as local information boards at coin-operated laundry facilities, coffee shops and grocery stores to disperse the information to your community. (Tip: Delegate oversight of this ministry to an unemployed church member and compensate him or her—even if only a little—for the time.)
Coffee per diem. Secure permission to offer free, quality coffee and cookies outside state unemployment offices, temp agencies, etc. Take the encouragement a step further by printing a message of hope on napkins you pass out.
Weekly gathering. Reach out to the unemployed in both the church and your community through a weekly gathering at the church, a coffeehouse or other community hangout. Offer a time of sharing and, at the end, give people an opportunity to pray and be prayed for. Ask people to submit written prayer requests and let them know a team of people will be praying for them throughout the week.
Resume tune-ups. Host a free resume workshop at your church. Recruit or compensate local personnel directors, career counselors (and maybe even an English teacher!), etc., to give a brief resume dos and don’ts seminar, followed by some hands-on assistance for attendees.
—From Outreach magazine, March/April 2009