Understanding Stewardship Beyond Money
If someone were to accuse you of being a poor steward, it would be devastating. As Jesus presents in Matthew 25, it’s nothing to be taken lightly. Jesus was desperately trying to help his disciples understand the concept of stewardship. He shares three stories about being faithful with time, money, and relationships. When he finishes, there is no doubt how a good steward behaves. And clearly, Jesus finds poor stewards contemptable when he stings them with rebuke, calling them both foolish and wicked. Ouch!
At Portable Church Industries, we get to see churches in action on the front lines where resources matter the most. We consistently see leaders using great wisdom and intentionality as they gather and deploy resources like four-star generals.
For example, more than 25 years ago, a young start-up church began to grow so much that chaos ensued. With great wisdom, and a good knowledge of the resources that God blessed them with, the young leadership team approached one of their talented members and declared, “You need to help us bring order to our processes, so we can continue to reach out to this community.” The faithful young engineer took the little he had and created the system that allowed the church to continue to grow. The good stewardship by both the young leaders and the young engineer helped to launch what is now known as a multisite church. The engineer went on to start Portable Church Industries to support more new and growing churches with their mobile ministry resources.
Today, hundreds of churches every year are listening to the call of God to launch new expressions of the church into new communities to win new souls for the Kingdom. This sounds like pretty aggressive Kingdom expansion. Nothing short of great stewardship of ALL the resources at hand will be sufficient.
God certainly blesses. But what if the resources are mismanaged, or what if what it means to be a good steward is simply misunderstood? Unfortunately, we see this too often. However, things can turn around with a pivot in viewing and implementing stewardship.
Comprehensive Understanding of Stewardship
In the 2014 release of the book Oikonomics, Sternke and Breens detail a list of five “Capitals” they observe in the Bible, which must be managed (in increasing order of importance):
5. Financial Capital
4. Intellectual Capital
3. Physical Capital
2. Relational Capital
1. Spiritual Capital
Being a good steward is not an either/or proposition, but is an all/and responsibility. For those leading the church, there is subtle understanding that all resources are a gift from God. They must be used with great wisdom, as if to know the heart of God. Being a good steward is not an either/or proposition, but is an all/and responsibility. For those leading the church, there is subtle understanding that all resources are a gift from God. Click To Tweet
Distorted Understanding of Stewardship
Somewhere along the historical line, the concept of being a “good steward” became synonymous with only finances or being “cheap.” There are all kinds of worn phrases and examples in the church:
- Spending as little money as possible even when it really doesn’t make sense. For example, buying less expensive X that will last half as long as Y, when Y only costs a little bit more.
- The heroic gesture of negotiating a product or service so low that the retailer can’t feed their family.
- Impounding (hoarding) money at the expense of negatively impacting discipleship and evangelism.
- Buying on the cheap at the expense of effectiveness and all other capitals.
- Exacerbating volunteers who are working outside of their gifts and skill sets.
Yes, even in the church, we occasionally see leaders who have normalized this behavior and clean it up by calling it “good stewardship.” Since when does God not give us enough resources to accomplish his Kingdom work well and with great effectiveness? There are trained, skilled, and gifted followers who are clipping coupons for God, instead of ministering the Word, evangelizing the lost, and discipling young believers. Plus, there isn’t a passage of Scripture to be found where the God of extravagant grace went cheap.
You don’t need to buy the most expensive option out there, or even be flashy in what you display. Rather, when purchasing the items needed, we encourage you to strongly consider the compounding effects of buying only with financial capital in mind. In other words, step back, look at the big picture and your vision, and then judge whether this empowers your people to accomplish that vision or detracts from it.
Help for the Good Steward
We’ve discerned that God does provide resource for agents of His Kingdom. First, His Word is available and provides great wisdom for important decisions. He has also raised up organizations, individuals, and companies who believe their role in the Kingdom work is to come alongside the church. They bring their God-given talents and skills and help church leaders through their faithfulness in being a good steward.
God has also raised up individuals and organizations who can help a leader striving to be a good steward with aid in counseling, spiritual development, church planning/strategy, human resources, effective operations, generosity, facilities management, property, wealth management, and more.
Early on in the existence of Portable Church, one of our church partners likened their relationship with our company this way: As the pilots, they were thankful that they didn’t have to build the plane (something they were not skilled to do). They could focus on their mission—preparing the people for flight, knowing they would be flying something built with excellence.
Every individual, and especially every leader, has their own line where “good steward” becomes “poor steward.” We don’t want you to rule out any resource God is raising up to help you in your quest to be a good steward.
We recently had an experience with church that had tried to both build and pilot the plane in a past church launch. Faith Promise Church in Tennessee experienced negative outcomes in their “DIY” campus. They chose a different, professional direction for their Farragut campus, which launched in Knoxville. Read their story here.