Benjamin C. Maxson, Director General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: Ben Maxson shares his personal journey through a growing understanding of biblical stewardship. In this open, honest account, you will glean spiritual insights that will not only move you heart, but help you to discover the missing connection Ben found!
A surprise assignment
It all began with my first morning in the office. I had just arrived in Corrientes, Argentina, to take up my duties as the Youth Director of the North Argentine Mission. Now, the president told me that I had been chosen to be the Stewardship Director as well. I was 23 years old and I felt overwhelmed by the challenge.
My mind immediately went back to the stewardship training I received as a pastor. I was introduced to materials and concepts by Mel Reese. Fortunately this solid foundation enabled me to develop a spiritual approach which focused on committing every area of life to Christ. During the next three years we saw positive results in local churches and in the lives of church members.
I continued this basic approach to spiritual stewardship when I returned to pastor a church in North America. A few years later I was asked to be stewardship director in a local conference. By this time I had received training in biblical money management. Most of my stewardship time was dedicated to helping individuals in this area of life. I talked about stewardship as a lifestyle, but much of my emphasis was on money management and on giving.
The search led back to me
During this period of my stewardship journey I began a different and separate pilgrimage. In 1978, driven by the need of the members of my church, I sought out resources to help them in their walk with God. My search led to the self-discovery that I needed to know how to walk with God. I was surviving from the ?spiritual crumbs? of my professional ministry. Yet I did not know how to feast at God’s banquet table! I was in God’s word every day, giving Bible studies and preparing sermons. I was praying for and with others every day. But I needed something more in my own life. This triggered a search to know God—to know Him intimately and to walk with Him. My journey in spirituality had begun.
The next few years my personal spiritual pilgrimage and my professional ministry maintained parallel tracks. Each was growing. Each was bearing fruit. I had defined spirituality as ?the opening of every part of life to the presence of God.? I was teaching discipleship seminars and at the same time, I was teaching stewardship seminars. But there was a missing connection!
Then came 1994. The General Conference invited me to join the stewardship team. We struggled with the decision. There were many reasons for not accepting a call. But the real issue was, ?What was God’s will?? We prayed as a family. We committed ourselves to do whatever God convicted us to do, but we wanted to know His will. Each of us went about this discovery process in a different way.
The narrow ministry of stewardship
I will never forget that Friday morning. I was at home—alone. For nearly four hours, I wrestled with God. And during those four hours, I opened my heart to Him in prayer. What did He want for us? How could I be at peace? Now, please understand me. I am not saying that God spoke to me audibly. However, I am not sure He did not.
Finally I faced a critical question, and in prayer I asked it. ?Do I really want to narrow my ministry down to just stewardship?? I was enjoying my parallel ministry in the Ministerial Association in a conference. Did I really want to narrow it down? Almost immediately an alarm sounded in my head. That’s the wrong question, Ben!
Was it what I wanted that was important, or what God wanted? I had fought that battled through before. Immediately, I surrendered to Him and said, ?Lord, it is what You want that is important.? Then I turned back to God and asked the question, ?Do you really want me to narrow my ministry down to just stewardship??
What it really is
I experienced the strongest conviction I have ever known in my life. In my heart, I heard God say to me: ?We are not going to narrow your ministry down to stewardship. We are going to broaden stewardship to reflect what it really is—the integration of the lordship of Jesus Christ into every area of life.? Suddenly I realized that my personal spiritual pilgrimage and my professional journey had come together. I had discovered the missing ingredient in my stewardship ministry—lordship.
During the last nine years I have come to understand this incredibly powerful concept. Stewardship is the intimacy of integrating God into every area of my life as Lord and Partner. It is based on a continuing process of reaffirming my salvation in Jesus Christ by faith, my acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Owner, and my acceptance by faith of the living presence of Christ dwelling within to guide and control.
This is the missing connection. Stewardship without this intimate lordship is powerless and empty. But with the presence of Christ, stewardship becomes a life transforming adventure—each day a new experience with Christ, each day a deeper walk with God.