Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: The Church is a living organism that God expects to grow. But how do you “grow” the Church? Elder Puni shares GC Stewardship Ministries goals for growth in the new Church initiative, Tell the World.
Spring is the time for new life, rejuvenation, new growth and new beginnings; and there is no better picture of this change in season than the cherry blossoms of Washington DC, capital of the United States. On the day we visited in April, thousands of cherry trees lining the lake were all blossoms—flowers of pink and white—quite a scene to behold. The cherry blossom is evidence that the trees, in spite of their leafless appearance, are still alive and growing.
The church, the community of God’s people in the world, is like cherry trees. It is a living organism and God expects it to grow. In fact, growth is a natural manifestation of anything that is alive. But how do you grow the Church? The Church grows when members are spiritually connected to Jesus Christ, and as disciples they, in turn, go out and introduce others to Him.
As a Stewardship Ministries, we believe in a growing church. Because of this, we chose “Growing Disciples in the World” as our theme for the 2006 World Advisory. This decision to focus on growing disciples is not only consistent with our philosophical understanding of biblical stewardship, but also demonstrates our commitment to the “Tell the World” initiative of the General Conference. Of the seven goals identified as focus areas for the initiative (see Stewardship Window, p. 5), I want to address two—spiritual growth and personal witness—that we can contribute toward in our stewardship ministry around the globe.
Spiritual growth and Tell the World
The intent of this goal is to increase the percentage of Seventh-day Adventist members in the world who are engaged in daily, personal Bible study and prayer. But why is such an emphasis important for the individual church member and corporate church? Daily Bible study and prayer is essential food for spiritual growth. It is the fruit of the life that is connected to Christ. In the Christian walk, we study the Word of God because in it we find Jesus, the “Living Word” (Jn 5:39). It is in the Bible that we discover the will of God for ourselves and are confronted with the person of Christ, whom to know is life eternal. It is in the study of Scriptures that God will change our mindset and our behavior (Lk 24:32-35).
But Bible study in the context of this world initiative is more than what we do for personal devotion or study for the purpose of understanding an issue or query. We study the Word to know and experience Him as our personal Saviour and Lord, and this is Christian stewardship. As Seventh-day Adventists, we must commit ourselves to this goal as a matter of lifestyle. Moreover, this spiritual goal has to be part of our ongoing stewardship education in the churches.
In the real world of Christian living, Bible study is the natural partner to prayer. They go together like hand and glove. In the context of spiritual growth, prayer is both communion and communication with God. It is talking to Him as our Father and listening to Him daily. But more importantly, it is being in the presence of the Almighty. In the words of Ellen White, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” (Steps to Christ, p. 93). Prayer is a gift from God, and the lifeline that connects us to Him 24/7. It is the breath that gives life to our soul and, in this sense, prayer is critical to being alive in Christ and fundamental to being a disciple and steward of God.
Personal witness and Tell the World
Personal witness as a goal of Tell the World is a challenge to five-million Seventh-day Adventists to reach at least one person for Jesus and to bring them into fellowship with the Church by the year 2010. This goal of five-million is established to encourage Adventists to participate in God’s mission, but it is also a reminder to every church member that by accepting Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, we are under obligation to God to share His love with everyone we come in contact with. It is important to note, however, that the challenge is to church members and not to pastors or professional evangelists, and the reason for this broad appeal is clear. Christ’s mandate to His Church to make disciples of all peoples (Mt 28:18-20) is an invitation to every believer and member—and pastors and evangelists are included. Involvement in personal witness is based on our relationship with Jesus and our responsibility as stewards and disciples. Personal witness is the lifestyle of the Christian, and an expression of biblical stewardship.
Our personal involvement with Tell the World
While I have limited the discussion of Tell the World to two areas, the other five are also important in fulfilling God’s mission in the world. My intention is to simply identify two of these goals where I see the Stewardship ministry of the Church playing a major part in implementing this world initiative. My prayer for the reader is this: “God, help me to recognize the value of growing together with You in prayer and Bible study. Use me as an instrument of Your grace to share Your love to others every day.”