Waiting on the World to Change – Part 1 of 2

By Brannon Hancock

The season of Advent—a word that means arrival—is the season of waiting.

“We can hardly stand the wait! / Please Christmas, don’t be late.” Most of you can hear the song in your head immediately, can’t you? Those squeaky, aggravating chipmunk voices singing the Christmas song we all love to hate. The song is a trite (and annoyingly persistent!) example of secular culture’s approach to Christmas commercialism. But for Christians with eyes to see and ears to hear, it may serve as a reminder that the season of Advent—a word that means arrival—is precisely a season of waiting, of anticipation, and of preparation for the Big Day, the day after which nothing was ever the same.

Our culture practices this anticipation, even while entirely missing the point. The Christmas decorations hit store shelves immediately after Halloween (and seemingly earlier each year). The radio stations start their Christmas programming as soon as Thanksgiving passes. School children begin rehearsing “holiday songs” for their end-of-semester programs. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales call forth the early shoppers, and the coupons and sales continue even up until Christmas Eve for procrastinators.

If you have children or have ever been around a couple preparing to welcome a child into the world, you’ve experienced this. We receive the big news. Then, we wait. We begin to prepare. We paint the walls and decorate the nursery, and excitement builds. We buy a crib and assemble it. And we wait. We read parenting books with titles like What to Expect When You’re Expecting…and we wait. Those last few weeks seem to last forever. Alas, we wait. Imagine what Mary and Joseph must have felt!

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Time keeps on slippin’…into the future

Advent must be considered in the context of the Christian calendar in order to be fully appreciated. The Christian calendar, also called the liturgical calendar or the Christian year, is a pattern through which the Church narrates the story of the God who was in Christ. While some churches have followed this pattern for centuries, many evangelical congregations are just beginning to (re)discover and embrace the Christian calendar, and have found it enriching to their worship and discipleship. It is simply one more way we can “tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”

The Christian calendar isn’t prescribed in the Bible, and it wasn’t handed down by Divine fiat with the command that we slavishly submit to it. But it is biblical, and it was handed down through the Church we call “one, holy, universal, and apostolic,” which, sourced by the Spirit, gave us our Bible.

Scripture reveals that God gave time as a good gift. According to the creation account in Genesis 1, on the fourth day, God declares: “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years….”

Time has a purpose, and that purpose has to do with how we worship and how we observe sacred time.

In Scripture, we find ample evidence of the appropriateness of holy days, religious feasts, fasts, rituals, and rhythms, particularly in the worship of the people of Israel. However, on a larger scale, we see that the story told through the Christian calendar is the Bible’s story—the story of God’s saving work down through the ages.

The Christian calendar is one way the Church has sought to “tell time” as God’s time. For Christians, January 1 is not a significant day; it is simply the eighth day of Christmas! Four Sundays before Christmas, the first Sunday of Advent, is actually “New Year’s Day” for the Church. We then journey through Christmas and Epiphany before entering the season of Lent. During Lent, we join Jesus on His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness in preparation for His years of earthly ministry. We seek to draw closer to God by purifying and simplifying our lives, repenting of our sins, and preparing our hearts to experience the events of Holy Week. 

The days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday can take us on a roller-coaster of emotions as we walk through Jesus’ final days: the Last Supper, Gethsemane, His arrest and crucifixion, His entombment, and finally His resurrection on Easter morning. From there, we careen on toward Christ’s Ascension to the Father (40 days after Easter), and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (50 days after Easter), followed by the lengthy season known as Ordinary Time, during which we focus on how God has worked in the life and mission of the Church.

*This article will continue on the next post.

 

6 Essential Skills for Senior and Executive Leaders

By Dan Reiland

I often meet young leaders who aspire to, in their words, “be in charge.” That’s a normal and healthy desire. I get it, I mean, who wouldn’t rather call the shots if that’s an option, right?!

Well, as you might imagine, there is a little more to the idea of being “in charge.” And my heart and hope is that’s how this post might be helpful.

There is an often-quoted and significant misconception about leadership, and it is that the higher you rise in the organization, the more you can do what you want.

The perception is that because you are the “senior leader” (or one of them) you, therefore, don’t report to anyone.

In fact, the opposite is true, the higher you rise in any organization, the more you give up your rights and the fewer options you have.

Further, the higher you rise in responsibility and authority, the more people you report to, not less. It may not be a formal reporting, but you answer to them nonetheless.

Whether in business or the church, there is a long list of people who senior leaders answer to from stakeholders to the board of directors.

The list includes the customers, key influencers, denominational officials, members and church attendees, partners, donors, and the list goes on. Again, they may not carry formal authority, but they have influence, and they matter.

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There may be few, or perhaps no one above the senior leader on the organization chart, but that does not reflect the realities of little freedom and much responsibility.

Senior leadership is a role that is best understood before you step into it, rather than later. It’s difficult to communicate some of those nuances, but what can be described with clarity are the unique skills and abilities that are a must.

Some of the six skills I’ve listed may seem like any leadership role would need them, but for the senior leader, these skills become non-negotiable.

The critical factor here is that because they are skills, they can be learned. And because they can be learned, you can improve in any or all that you lean into and practice.

6 essential skills:

1) Translate vision into strategy.

Translating vision into a workable strategy requires first the ability to select, trust, develop and work with a leadership team. I’ve never met a senior leader or executive that can do it all his or herself.

In fact, some senior leaders have a personality and wiring that makes them really good at what they do but also creates a few significant gaps that requires a team to make it all happen.

Strategy, (a plan to make the dream become a reality), is a non-negotiable skill for any senior leader.

2) Communicate faith and hope.

The ability or skill to communicate what you believe at a heart level is a must. Further, it needs to become something natural to you. I’ve watched John Maxwell and Kevin Myers do this for years. They just don’t tire of it.

These great leaders’ faith in a person’s ability to become their best self often exceeds that person’s faith in him or herself. Their ability to communicate the hope of a better future for the entire organization is so strong.

Faith and hope also include the idea of communicating calm in a storm and a positive outcome.

The key is that faith and hope must be sincere. As a senior leader, you can’t just read and quote the next big idea. You must have internalized it, own it, and believe it to the core.

3) Raise up and empower leaders.

In a large or very large church, this usually means hand-selecting the lead team. In a smaller church, it may mean selecting key volunteer leaders.

In either case, it always includes the ability to let go of key responsibilities with genuine empowerment for those leaders to do their job.

The senior leaders who struggle most are those who micro-manage and don’t trust their top leaders to do their job.

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4) Demonstrate self-leadership and cultivate spiritual vitality.

If you are or desire to be a senior leader in a local church, self-led spiritual growth toward maturity is a must.

This certainly does not suggest some kind of superiority or better than others notion. In fact, most of us who serve in a senior or executive role of some sort are quick to admit to our flaws and weaknesses.

The good news is that self-awareness and security help you/us get honest with God about who we are and how much we need Him.

Good leaders have good mentors, but self-leadership is required for discipline and consistency.

There is no one there to hold your hand and prompt you in your day to day responsibilities, and your first responsibility is to pursue God and spiritual maturity.

Those you lead depend on your authentic and growing walk with God.

5) Solve problems and make difficult decisions at intricate levels.

The large and more complex, (often organization-wide), problems to solve are multi-dimensional, grey rather than black or white, and do not present a clear or obvious answer.

In fact, they often present multiple options of which others you serve have very strong and differing opinions.

Senior leadership is more of an art than science that requires intuition and judgment calls.

Here’s a candid example, sometimes you must choose from two less than ideal choices.

Another way to see it is that no matter how good the decision, there’s a group who will not be happy. Being able to make difficult decisions is an essential skill for any senior leader.

If you prefer a more clear-cut and black and white world, senior leadership may not be for you.

This isn’t meant to be discouraging, it’s just part of the territory, and an effective senior leader can handle this in stride.

6) Take risks and lead change.

There is no escaping risk and change if you desire progress.

The risks you take are not always public or grand such as initiating a building project or raising millions of dollars.

It might be something private like a conversation that is confrontational nature, but the outcome is significant.

The process of change never ends. Next to momentum, change is something those in senior leadership continuously think about.

Change is disruptive but necessary. Comfort is the enemy of progress and a healthy organization.

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com

Analysis and Interpretation of the Pastoral Role

By Rev. Ernesto Bathermy

As we analyzed and interpreted the images of a shepherd/pastor from the Old and New Testaments in the previous article, those texts shed light on our work and responsibilities as pastors:

  1. Feed the flock

When we speak of feeding the sheep, we refer to teaching and instructing the believers in the Word of God and in Christian doctrines.  The Lord himself affirms that “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This declaration shows us clearly that the Word of God is spiritual food for the soul of a believer.

The apostle Peter referenced the Word of God when he wrote to Christians of the diaspora, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (I Peter 2:2)

The writer of Hebrews also referred to the teaching of the Word as spiritual food for the believer. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

It is evident, then, that when the Bible speaks of the role of a pastor as the one who should feed the flock, it is referring to the pastor feeding the believers with the Word of God.

  1. Care for the flock

To care for the flock has a broader connotation than to simply feed them. Likewise, a pastor’s role is not only to feed the congregation with the Word of God, but also to care for them. Isaiah speaks of a shepherd that carries the lambs in his arms against his breast.  The lamb is one year old or less, so it is by definition young and inexperienced.  In the same way, a pastor should shepherd new believers and care for them with special attention.

Another aspect of caring for the flock is clear when the prophet writes that Jehovah will gently lead the newborn lambs.  It is a picture of the care that a pastor must have for the Lord’s flock.

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  1. Guide the flock

According to John 10:4, the shepherd rescues his sheep and later goes before them while they follow.  The shepherd guides his sheep not by staying behind them, but going ahead of them.  In the same way, the pastor guides the church by being an example to the flock. (I Peter 5:3)

  1. Restore the flock

As we saw in Ezekiel 34:4, there will be weak, sick and injured members of the flock.  At times they will stray and get lost.  The same happens in the church.  Some brothers and sisters are weak in the faith, and those are the ones the pastor must seek to strengthen.

Some believers, at any given moment, can become spiritually ill.  The pastor has the responsibility to aide in curing them. Other believers will wander, and the pastor must seek to guide them back to the correct path.

Though the pastor must care for the entire flock, some brothers and sisters require special attention.  The ones who are lost need to be helped to return to the fold.

Conclusion:

A study of both the Old and New Testaments shows that the Bible says the role of the pastor is to feed, care for, guide and restore the believers.  This understanding allows a pastor to develop his or her ministry with greater responsibility and awareness, but with less frustration about basing all “success” on tangible results.

*Rev. Ernesto Bathermy is the pastor of the Celestial Vision Church of the Nazarene in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic. He is also the Dominican Republic Central District Superintendent and Rector of the Dominican Nazarene Seminary.

The Image of a Pastor in the Old and New Testaments

By Rev. Ernesto Bathermy 

The Bible teaches that God calls individuals into different ministries for the benefit of the community of faith, which is the Church, and for building up the Kingdom of God.  This calling is obvious in the close relationship between the spiritual gifts and the One who gives them.  Nevertheless, we must ask, if it is God that calls and if He is the one who gives the spiritual gifts necessary to develop our ministry, why are many of us serving in ministries that seem to fail to accomplish His divine purposes?   

Many ministers become frustrated to such an extent that they abandon the ministry.  A true understanding of our responsibilities as pastors can free us from paralyzing and destructive frustrations.  In the next two entries, I will try to guide us to a better understanding of the pastorate and provide some fundamentals for a more rational pastoral practice.

The image of a Pastor in the Old Testament

The concept of a pastor that we find in the New Testament comes from an image or metaphor of a shepherd that is rooted in the Old Testament.  God used this image to describe his relationship with Israel, his people and the religious leaders in the time of the prophets.

The prophet Isaiah presented the Lord as a shepherd when he wrote, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

The prophet Jeremiah, like Isaiah, tackles the subject in a general way when he writes that the role of a shepherd is to find land for his sheep to graze and care for his sheep.  These two ideas are quite broad.  Though grazing focuses on feeding the sheep, caring for them emphasizes his protection.

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that part of the work of the shepherd should be to strengthen weak sheep, heal their sickness, bind up their wounds, bring back the strays and search for the lost. (Ez. 34:4)

In Psalm 23, the psalmist talks about Jehovah as his shepherd, while he presents himself as a sheep.  A shepherd supplies all of his needs. Verses 1 and 2 show a shepherd that meets the nutritional and material needs of his sheep.  Verse 3 appears to refer to socio-emotional needs, while verse 4 apparently refers to spiritual needs.  All of these elements demonstrate a picture of a shepherd that feeds, consoles, cares for, guides, and is present with his sheep.

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The image of a Pastor (Shepherd) in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the disciple Luke, the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the writer of Hebrews and the Apostle Peter all speak to us about the work of a pastor.

In Luke 2:8, Luke writes about the shepherds who heard the news of the birth of the Messiah while they were “keeping watch over their flocks at night.” That detail demonstrates that shepherds were accustomed to spending the night with their flocks so they could care for them constantly.  

In John 10:12, Jesus says that when a hired hand sees a wolf, he will leave the sheep and run away, but the good shepherd will give his life for his sheep.   He helps us to understand that the shepherd is the one responsible to care for the sheep. It is work he takes extremely seriously.  

John 21:15-17 is a revealing passage.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times.  After Peter’s first response, Jesus tells him, “Feed my lambs.” When he responds the second time, Jesus tells him, “Take care of my sheep.” After the third time, he adds, “Feed my sheep.”  In verses 15 and 17, the verb that Jesus uses is bόskw(bosko), which translates as “to feed,” and means “to feed or provide food.”  But in verse 16, the Lord uses the verb poimaίnw(poimaino), which translates as “to shepherd.”  It carries the implications of caring for, guiding, governing and  defending.

 In Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul refers to the elders of the church as “overseers” who the Holy Spirit has placed “to shepherd the church of God.” In Hebrews 13:17, the writer says that church leaders keep watch over the souls of the believers.

It is plain to see that the image of a pastor is important in both Old and New Testaments.  Now that we have examined this biblical foundation, in our next post I will explore some principles and applications of pastoral ministry.

*Rev. Ernesto Bathermy is the pastor of the Celestial Vision Church of the Nazarene in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic. He is also the Dominican Republic Central District Superintendent and Rector of the Dominican Nazarene Seminary.

Great Leaders Think Small

By Gustavo Crocker

In a well-known story, D. L. Moody was asked how the night’s evangelistic meeting had gone. His celebrated response was, “We had two and a half conversions.” His interviewer responded, “You mean two adults and one child?” “No,” Moody replied, “two children and one adult. The adult only has half his life left to follow Christ. The children have their entire lives to do so.”

This exchange reminds me of the inclination to think about children as “not-yet participants in the kingdom of God.” This cannot be further from the truth! Great leaders think of children as essential players in God’s kingdom and God’s plan of reconciliation. They see them as central to their mission.

Jesus used children to illustrate some of the greatest truths about the kingdom of God. Jesus reminded the disciples that not only are children a model of faith to enter the Kingdom, but we are required to examine ourselves on how we welcome children in our midst.

What does it mean to put children in the middle?

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Matthew records the disciples discussing greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Before Jesus responded, He painted a vivid metaphor in leadership: He placed a child in their midst. Putting children in the middle means that we cannot think of children as peripheral. True leadership conversation must start with the perspective that children matter and are at the core of God’s plan of redemption.

Children are a model of faith. Jesus’ bold response to the disciples highlights the damaging power of “growing up” (Matthew 18). “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Child-like faith is absolutely necessary to enjoy the fullness of the riches of His kingdom. A child’s faith is unspoiled, genuine, and unbiased. As children grow older, their faith, already tainted by the Adamic propensity to sin, becomes spoiled by the agnostic, materialistic, self-centered societies that shape and train them. As our faith becomes sophisticated, we begin to question even the most evident truths. To enjoy the rich, unadulterated blessing of God’s kingdom, we must become like children.

Children are the most ripe and ready mission field. Around the world, in any country or culture, more than three-fourths (75 percent) of adults now filling our churches received Christ between the ages of 4 and 18. Missiologists have defined this group age as the 4/14 window, the world’s most ripe yet unreached people group.

Unfortunately, we think of them as “ways to attract their parents,” “a drain on our budgets and programs,” “a distraction to our solemn services,” or even as “non-productive entities who do not vote and who do not give.” The disciples were in the same boat. Matthew 19 narrates another event with Jesus and children. As people brought their children to Jesus for Him to pray and bless them, the disciples rebuked the parents. Jesus’ response was emphatic: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Do not hinder children. You were one of them.

Throughout church history, theologians and practitioners have discussed the “reliability of the faith of a child.” Well-intentioned leaders, infected by the “grown-up bug,” question the validity of a child’s conversion. To them, D. L. Moody responded: “It is a masterpiece of the devil to make us believe that children cannot understand religion. Would Christ have made a child the standard of faith if He had known that it was not capable of understanding His words?”

Children are the most prolific mission field. Harvest it!

Children can be agents of God’s mission. We cannot stop at ministering to children and youth only. Great leaders invest in children and youth as agents of the transforming mission of God. Children and youth are capable of sharing the love of Christ to their relatives, friends, and social networks and leading others to join them in their faith.

The Scripture is full of stories of children and youth used by God to accomplish His mission:

…a trafficked child, Joseph, brought hope to his people…

…a shepherd boy, David, defeated a giant and became king of Israel …

…a young minister, Samuel, led God’s people while serving in times of dryness and desperation…

…an anonymous, well-prepared boy provided resources for Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand…

…and Jesus Himself, while still a young boy, declared His commitment to the Father’s business…

It was said by the prophet Isaiah: “…and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

Great leaders express their greatness by thinking small. We must focus on the child in our midst.

Pastors, the Church is not our Personal Platform

By Karl Vaters

The church does not exist to give us an audience for our ideas, projects or egos. It exists to fulfill Christ’s purposes.

The church belongs to Jesus.

It is not owned by its denomination, its donors, its members, its staff or its lead pastor.

Jesus said he would build his church – and he’s not about to give up that ownership to us or our ideas.

As a pastor, this is a lesson I need to remind myself of regularly, so I thought I’d share that reminder with you as well.

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Why The Church Exists

The church does not exist to give us an audience for our ideas, projects or egos. It exists to fulfill Christ’s purposes. Our role is to equip the church members to enact those purposes, both inside and outside the church walls.

The church exists to make Jesus known, not to make pastors famous.

Yet we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We (try to) take control because without our strong hand on the wheel (we think) the church will fall to pieces. The budget won’t be met. The membership won’t grow. The ten year vision won’t be realized.

The Pastor’s Role

This happens in churches of every size and type. From the charismatic founding pastor of the high-energy, non-denominational megachurch, to the long-term, patriarchal pastor of the traditional, centuries-old congregation.

We have big ideas. Grand projects. Exciting opportunities. And it’s tempting to use the resources at our disposal – namely the people, building and finances of the church we pastor – to bring those about.

But it’s not our job to get a group of people to agree with us and carry out our vision. No matter how good that vision might be.

As a pastor, it’s our calling to help the church body (re)discover God’s purposes together, then participate in them as the Holy Spirit leads us all.

If we want to build a platform, a project or a ministry based on our ideas, we need to start a parachurch ministry – or a for-profit business. Not use a church body to carry them out for us.

The Pastor’s Focus

The focus should never be on the pastor, but on Jesus.

  • • Not on the preaching, but the equipping.
  • • Not on the presentation, but the discipling.
  • • Not on the music, but the worship.
  • • Not on the building, but the gathering.
  • • Not on the platform, but the people.
  • • Not on the packed (or vacant) seats, but on the empty cross.

Always and only.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

What I Wish I had Known about Stewardship

By Dave Briggs

Five insights that changed my awkward relationship with this core part of the Christian life and church ministry.

I grew up in church, and my family rarely missed a Sunday. I don’t remember a single sermon, but I do remember feeling nervous about the word stewardship.

Every September our church hosted Stewardship Sunday, where the minister would preach an emotional sermon stressing the need for everyone to give more. It worked—I left those services feeling guilty. To make matters worse, when I was in high school I was recruited to visit the homes of church members and present them with a Stewardship Pledge Card. It was my job to compel them to fill out their giving commitment for the coming year. They felt awkward. So did I.

Thankfully, in my mid-20s I was exposed to some outstanding teaching about the biblical perspective on stewardship. It changed the trajectory of my life. Things I had never seen before jumped out at me. I discovered that the Bible speaks about money and possessions more than any other topic except love. Jesus talked often and openly about our relationship with money.

For the last 14 years, I have served on staff at two large churches leading their stewardship ministries. During that time, I realized a surprising number of church leaders also have an awkward relationship with stewardship—similar baggage to my own. Here is what I wish I had known about stewardship.

  1. “Stewardship,” “generosity,” and “giving” are not synonyms.

I now realize, using these terms interchangeably confuses people. Stewardship is a role, giving is an act, and generosity is an attitude. In biblical times, a steward was a respected person of high integrity who was entrusted with the master’s possessions. The steward managed the possessions in accordance with the master’s wishes. Since God created and still owns all we have, stewardship is recognizing that God is the owner and we are his managers, responsible for using God’s possessions to please him. This elevates “stewardship” for people.

Generosity involves a willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others. Giving is merely the act of releasing something of value. Giving can be done without generosity (the Pharisees are one example), but you cannot be generous without giving. However, generosity is only one characteristic of a biblical steward. A steward’s primary responsibility is to manage the resources that are not given away. Take a look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–28 for a good example of both positive and negative stewardship.

  1. Poor stewardship is dangerous for you; rich stewardship is for your benefit.

When I communicate to people about money, I guide them to understand that I want something for them, not something from them. If my teaching on money is only about giving to the church, people will check their phones, and I’ll miss a great opportunity to help them grow.

Poor stewardship is dangerous for you. Between 25 and 50 percent of church attenders give nothing or next to nothing. This is not a financial problem but a spiritual one. God is a giver. Our willingness to give reveals our relationship to God.

Examples can be found throughout Scripture, but two of the most potent are found in Luke 12 and Revelation 3.

In Luke 12:15–21, we see a rich farmer blessed with an abundant crop. He gives no credit to God, nor does he give thought to being a steward. He thinks only about himself. Jesus calls him a fool, not because he had great possessions, but because his possessions had him.

In Revelation 3:14–17, we get to eavesdrop on God’s letter to the church in Laodicea. The people in the church believed their material blessings indicated they were right with God. But God exposed their blindness, nakedness, and depravity.

In both cases, a harmful relationship with wealth became the root of spiritual blindness.

On the other hand, rich stewardship benefits everyone.

The Acts 2 church provides an encouraging contrast to the church in Laodicea. In Acts 2:42–47, the early church lives out a culture of stewardship. Verse 45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” This first-century church is a beautiful picture of generosity in action, even in their scarcity.

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  1. Stewardship is about hearts, not causes.

We live in a world fraught with causes to support. Yet the point of stewardship isn’t about causes, important as they may be. Jesus surprised his disciples with this principle. The story of Mary and the expensive perfume in Mark 14:3–9 is one example. During a visit to the home of Simon the Leper, a woman emerges with a year’s wages worth of precious perfume and pours it on Jesus. Some of the disciples grumbled, imagining all it could have accomplished for the poor. But Jesus wanted to focus their attention on the heart of the giver. This woman showed her deep love for Jesus through the use of her resources. The disciples missed the point. When we make God our highest priority, our desire is to honor him. This releases a spirit of love, which releases resources to meet real needs.

In 2 Corinthians 8:8, Paul addresses this same concept when challenging the early Macedonian church: “I am not commanding you, but want to test the sincerity of your love.” Generosity, even amidst poverty, reveals our love for God (2 Cor. 8:2).

  1. We need more teaching about money, not less.

When I became a stewardship pastor, I was shocked to discover how much people were struggling financially. Money is an emotional topic, so people want to hide their financial struggles. They often feel they are not in a position to be generous. Avoiding the topic of money only deepens the problem. Preaching frequently about money creates a greater willingness in your people to address their financial health.

Here are three aspects of money to address to help your people grow as stewards:

The practical aspect: This involves teaching people how to organize their finances and manage their money. We have all preached at some point on the Good Samaritan, but have you taught this parable from a financial perspective? In Luke 10, the Good Samaritan not only gave of himself, but he was also a good steward. He saved money in advance for an unknown and unforeseen need. Because he was a saver, he had a surplus from which to express his generosity to the wounded traveler.

The emotional aspect: This is rarely addressed and usually leads to bad financial decisions. When it comes to money, if the heart overrules the head, the result is frequently disastrous. Just follow teenagers around the mall to see what I mean.

The spiritual aspect: Your people will never be good stewards if they do not align their financial decision making with the wisdom of God’s Word. It’s that simple.

A powerful example of how our relationship to money impacts our spiritual lives is found in the parable of the four seeds and the four soils in Mark 4. Beginning in verse 18, Jesus explains the meaning of the third seed: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful”. Don’t miss the striking message here. A wrong relationship with money robs God’s Word of its fruitfulness in our lives.

However, Jesus gives us good news in explaining the fourth seed: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” Isn’t this the kind of multiplication we want to see in every area of our lives and churches? Teaching your people to resist the deceptive power of wealth will keep the door to their hearts open to accept the Word and to experience fruitfulness.

  1. Your relationship with money impacts your relationship with God.

This energized me to leave behind the financial apprehension of my childhood and commit to helping people grow in this area. Stewardship is not a financial ministry; it is a discipleship ministry. If people don’t hear teaching and preaching about money, they are left exposed to one of Satan’s favorite tools.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says it is impossible to serve two masters. Either we will follow and serve the powerful force of Mammon (greedy pursuit of wealth) or we will serve the one true God. It is not possible to do both.

In one of the saddest passages in Scripture, we experience a conversation between Jesus and a rich young ruler. In Luke 18, the intelligent and influential man asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus engages him in conversation and learns that the man believes he has kept the commandments from an early age. Knowing the one thing holding the young ruler back, Jesus asks him to part with his wealth and follow. When confronted with prioritizing Jesus or his wealth, the rich young man chooses his wealth.

The stakes are high. We cannot leave our people lacking a clear understanding of the spiritual implications of their relationship with money.

As I’ve learned over time, if you build a healthy stewardship culture, your church will never be the same. Your people will grow closer to God, your congregation will experience increased spiritual vitality, and greater resources will be unleashed for kingdom impact.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today