A team working together around the challenge of stewardship in the 21st century has worked hard over the past eighteen months to put together “The Generosity Project,” a pilot program running from Sept. 2017 – Dec. 2018 which will work to provide stewardship resources and support to a cohort group of pastors from New England regions. Members of the team have prepared blogs for “The Generosity Project” participants, which will also be shared on the ABCUSA website in the coming months. To learn more about The Generosity Project, click here.
In February, team member Lisa Harris-Lee, director of Mission Engagement and National Network Initiatives for the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, provides her thoughts about stewardship and giving.
Stewardship and mission are all held together in Christ. Harmonious interdependence is the vision of God’s will on earth at it is in heaven. We are eternally united with God and we are purposely and purposefully united to one another. It is in our union…or communion with others that stewardship and mission is especially tangible.
1 – How do we hold stewardship (or management) and mission together? By remembering, rehearsing the scriptures that do the same.
– John 21-16 – Do you love me, feed my sheep. Love (mission) and care of the sheep (stewardship) are woven together.
– Luke 10 – Justice and healing (mission) and use of money (stewardship) are woven together.
– Genesis 1:26-31 – See this link for a fuller scriptural interpretation.
Is our management of time, skills, wealth, relationships and earth connected to God’s mission of love – John 3:16; justice – Luke 4:11-14; healing – Luke 5:31-32; reconciliation – John 17:6-11; and making disciples – Matthew 28:19-20?
2 – By joining the finances, building and campus maintenance ministries with the outreach and discipleship ministries of the church in vision, planning and conversations we show the connection. We can show the connections among all of these during meetings as specific items on agenda and during worship – prayers, offering appeals, in preaching and teaching. Do the mission, maintenance or building and finance ministries of the church meet together only during budget planning or at other times of the year? As you are in the midst of face to face mission experiences, pause to give examples of how the generosity of time, skills and money came together to make the experience possible. Reference the generosity of those you are serving as well.
3 – By practicing communication that replaces my, mine and ours with God’s. “God provided the resources for me to purchase this car.” “God provided for me to receive this education.” “I am giving this gift to you because God gave me the inspiration and money to get it.” “God placed these resources in my hand to bless the lives of others.” It is awkward but effective in giving room for the Real Owner of everything to stand up. We have granite in our kitchens because we have taken from the mountains that God made shaped by the wind, heat, water, pressure, time that God provides. I am thankful for those who, as an act of stewardship refuse to purchase materials that interfere with environmental sustainability or cause harm or mistreatment to laborers. In moderation, the treasures of the earth give their harvest in due season. Too many on the earth however, are in the practice of untimely taking as our own that which God has given us for caring!
Our triune God is the conductor and composer of the musical score of the world and all that dwell in it. We- along with the wind and inhabitants of sky, earth and sea – are the musicians. However, as humans we have the choice of how we want to participate in the grand orchestration.
If we continually prioritize efforts to practice and keep our musical instruments in compartments, silos, cubicles, or sound proof rooms, we limit the potential and miss the greater purpose of the instruments that will always sound more beautiful when working and playing together. And if, when playing together, a musician chooses to play off key, too loud, too soft, at a different tempo or without their peripheral vision on the conductor, the intended harmony is disrupted. Why do we do this? That pesky and persistent irritant of sin is a constant reality and shows up within us personally and the within organizations and systems of which we are a part.
Yes, there are places for solo performances but even acapella soloists are accompanied by breath, timing and presence of audience.
As we keep stewardship and mission as complimentary priorities in ministry orchestration, it becomes easier for congregations and colleagues to see their purpose and comprehend how the vision of God holds together. Where you find great gratitude you find great generosity. Where you find responsible stewardship you find responsive mission.
Jesus Christ, who is the Beginning and the End, is coaching and cheering us on in this enterprise of purposefully living to fulfill God’s purpose.
Bio: The Rev. Lisa R. Harris-Lee, director of Mission Engagement and National Network Initiatives for the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), joined the ABHMS staff in September 2008. She brings to her position the same passion that helped her answer the call to ordained ministry in 1994—“a passion to bring people as close to God and as close to one another as possible,” based on the great commandment to love God, neighbor and self. She previously provided leadership to ABHMS’ Neighborhood Action Program (NAP) Christian centers and Children in Poverty initiative. Ministry has called Harris-Lee to communities in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guyana, Haiti, Thailand, Burma and South Africa. Prior to attending seminary, Harris-Lee served for two years in public policy positions in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.