OUR PRESIDENT AFFIRMS STEWARDSHIP
Ted Wilson is a great advocate of Biblical Stewardship. Larry Evans, Editor of the Dynamic Steward and Associate Director for GC Stewardship Ministries, draws out his thoughts on this vital topic: LRE: When you speak about stewardship, what comes to mind?
TNCW: Stewardship is one of the most important aspects of a Christian’s experience and goes far beyond financial management. Christian stewardship has to do with the discipline of our lives in accordance with God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to become more and more like Jesus. Christian Stewardship involves a disciplined use of time, and in so doing guides how we will go about our activities, directs how we use our abilities and manage the resources God has placed in our hands. Stewardship is really a lot about priorities: time, talent, abilities, and, of course, personal finances. Because of our connection with the Lord, it helps us know how to get through life and be a blessing to others.
LRE: You feel, then, that stewardship flows out of that total commitment to Christ including but not limited to financial concerns?
TNCW: Absolutely. It’s our response to God’s incredible love for us.
LRE: What counsel would you give for pastors in the local churches?
TNCW: I would certainly encourage every pastor to be focused on ways in which to bring the subject of stewardship to the forefront. Pastors do a large disservice if they believe that stewardship is something to be left to only private conversations. It is an important factor in guiding the spiritual experience of others. Helping members know how to recognize and respond to the resources God has given to them is part of the spiritual growth experience. Tithing is God’s plan. This is not the General Conference’s plan. This is God’s plan, from the Bible! It is simply 10 percent. The principle is absolutely the same whether the person has very humble and modest means or if they have been blessed financially. It’s not the amount; it is the response. I would encourage pastors to be very proactive in helping church members understand this larger picture of what stewardship is all about and to publicly encourage faithful giving to the Lord.
We can’t have evangelism, freewill offerings or the returning of our tithe, if we aren’t really inspired by the Holy Spirit and have a relationship with the Lord. So I just felt we needed a very strong emphasis on stewardship along with the existing emphasis on evangelism.
LRE: Soon after your election as president of the General Conference, you expressed your desire to strengthen the stewardship emphasis around the world. You specifically asked that there would be individuals at different levels of the church who would give their full attention to stewardship. Why did you feel that was so important?
TNCW: I learned from a seasoned administrator some years ago, that every area of church life is important—nothing is to be discounted. However, I also learned that there were two areas to which the leader ought to give strong emphasis. One is evangelism and the second is stewardship. This senior statesman explained that when one gets those two things correctly in place, everything else seems to fall into place. All of the departments and activities come in line. Of course, all of it is motivated and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We can’t have evangelism, freewill offerings or the returning of our tithe, if we aren’t really inspired by the Holy Spirit and have a relationship with the Lord. So I just felt we needed a very strong emphasis on stewardship along with the existing emphasis on evangelism. We did encourage organizations to appoint full-time stewardship directors. If I were a conference president, I think that this would be one of the first appointments I would make. Such appointments in a conference or mission will help church members see the need to become fully committed to the mission of the church and take the time to put their talents and resources to work for the Lord.
LRE: Stewardship has been going on now for a number of years. Is there some aspect of stewardship that you feel should receive a particular emphasis?
TNCW: I do think we need to remain very practical. Members need to know how to structure their lives so that they’re using their time, talents, abilities and financial resources the best way they can. It’s nice to talk about philosophical aspects and the theological foundations of stewardship. However, if it does not produce practical results in our use of time, our use of talents, and, of course, in our faithfulness in returning tithe and giving of our offerings, then we really haven’t delivered the message.
LRE: When you say “practical,” are you talking about finances and time, or are you talking about some other practical aspects of stewardship?
TNCW: Malachi 3 is very plain. I believe God intends for us to return not only a faithful tithe but freewill offerings as well. The practical expression of how we use our time, talents, abilities, and financial resources will definitely explain to others whether or not we understand that we are stewards of all that God has entrusted to us on this earth.
LRE: Sometimes individuals become disillusioned with the church. What counsel would you give for those who are tempted to withhold their offerings when this happens?
TNCW: There’s always the temptation for people to vote or speak by withholding money. Certainly tithe should never be withheld. Tithe is sacred, regardless of whether or not we agree with everything that’s happening. It’s a covenant and a relationship between us and God, and not between us and the person(s) with whom, or the decisions with which we seem to be having difficulty. Offerings provide an opportunity for us to choose where to place our money – with church programs and activities we feel are effective or with other selected worthwhile projects. If a challenging problem exists that is preventing someone from freely giving offerings to some worthwhile projects, the giver should work through appropriate channels to help clarify the situation. Sometimes it is a matter of misinformation. If there is something radically wrong, then the person should bring it to the attention of the organization next in line appealing that they clarify and advise on the issue. Under no circumstances should we simply, withdraw our funding of church projects and activities----and certainly not withhold the Lord’s tithe. It’s not even our money. It’s God’s money. Our tithes and offerings represent a covenant with Him and it binds us to Him.
LRE: What are your thoughts regarding a systematic approach to giving versus project giving?
TNCW: I believe we need to recognize that with the changing of generations, economies and cultures comes different approaches as to the way people like to give their offerings. We need to recognize that many people become excited about projects. The church and the individual can benefit when they share specific projects and when adequate information is given about what is happening with those projects . On the other hand, the systematic approach, where I give a certain percentage or amount, is vital to the Church’s ministry. I will always try to give to the local church budget, to the world mission budget and then a certain portion for conference activities as well. After that, it’s pretty wide open as to what one would like to provide. That’s the wonderful thing about offerings. We can choose. The Lord allows us to return our financial resources according to our connection with Him. It is a spiritual decision. It’s a spiritual function to be able to return the Lord’s tithe and then give offerings for mission and outreach activities.
We need to recognize that all good things come from the Lord. A certain joy comes when we return a faithful and complete tithe, give our offerings for church activities and give to other worthwhile projects. It just makes me feel much more complete in God’s service and in my connection with Him when I faithfully return tithe and give my offerings.
The signs around us indicate that we are coming close to Christ’s return. We should be even more faithful in our submission to the Lord in terms of our time, abilities and financial resources than ever before."
LRE: Any last words you would like to add to this whole idea of being a faithful steward?
TNCW: The signs around us indicate that we are coming close to Christ’s return. We should be even more faithful in our submission to the Lord in terms of our time, abilities and financial resources than ever before. This is not the time to become slack in our giving and in our sharing of what God has provided. It’s very much a part of our connection with Jesus and allowing Him to truly take full control of every aspect of our lives, so that we become disciples of His. Stewardship shows, in practical ways, what that connection produces in everyday living. At some point in the future, our funds will be useless. What a privilege to see them used by God today in advancing His mission of lifting up Christ, His righteousness, His sanctuary service, His three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, and His soon second coming. I’m just a great believer in stewardship because it is so all-encompassing and I thank you for the opportunity of speaking to those who are reading this very special magazine about the great subject of Christian stewardship.