It is observed that the Chinese word for crisis is written with two brush strokes. The first mark stands for danger, and the second for opportunity. Recent American national news has daily broadcast and commentated on the current financial ‘crisis.’ Powerful images and stories have pervaded with convincing reports fostering fear and investigations that seek who and what is to blame for this crisis.
Still and all, as the dust is settling and reality is becoming obvious and clear, the foremost cause emerging is the individual consumer debt. Cultural attitudes of instant gratification and beliefs about money have encouraged the use of credit that has systematically created a system of living with debt as the lifestyle norm. The element of danger this has created in risk, uncertainty, instability, and insecurity with the basic necessities of work and housing is cause not only for alarm but also a call to take an earnest and honest inventory of our relationship to money. In summary, it is “our relationship to money and possessions [that] is at the heart of the macro [financial] issues facing our world today” (Towner, Tofilon, Plate, Freed-Up Financial Living).
Therefore these conditions and state of affairs give way for ‘opportunity,’ the second Chinese brush stroke. Opportunity that will rise to the challenge and address the cultural myths about money. Also, opportunity that will contribute biblical stewardship principles extending to and inclusive of money management.
Bob Marette observes, “One would think that we, as Christians, would handle our money in a way very different from the world, but that has not happened. As you look at every area of life, there is no distinction from the Christian and the non-Christian” (From a Millstone to a Milestone).
With implications that are relevant to all cultures the words of Dick Towner merit reflection, “The bottom line is that if we care about our congregation’s day-to-day lives, if we are concerned about their lives, if we are concerned about their spiritual well-being, if we profess to teach the whole Word of God, then leadership must address the vital topic of financial stewardship. We are in a battle of competing ideologies, perhaps the major spiritual battle of our day—and we are losing badly!” (Revolution in Generosity).
It is in kindred spirit that I acknowledge that few seminaries train or equip those of us in pastoral ministry in financial stewardship. Furthermore, “most pastors do not make financial expertise or monetary accumulation a central focus. Combine lack of preparation and lack of expertise and interest with the typically modest income of most pastors and it is easy to understand why many feel intimidated and ill equipped to lead in this arena”(Ibid.).
This issue of the Dynamic Steward has been created to afford you updated, foundational tools for your own self-leadership as we must begin to lead and practice faithful biblical financial stewardship ourselves before we are able to teach others and have influence by modeling and mentoring. For those with time and experience in stewardship ministry, included also in this issue are resources for both church and small group use.
We value the timely and distinctive interview by Matt Bell, well-known author and speaker as well as Bob Marette, along with the worthy contributions of Susan Murray and MD Joseph.
Alongside you in His service,