Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: We look at two aspects of “revival” and “reformation” within the framework of Stewardship Ministries.
The call for “revival and reformation” by Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is an invitation for the church to renew itself spiritually and to refocus on what is most important in terms of its life and mission.
This call to revival assumes that something is already at work, and this something is the working of the Spirit of God in the world and in the lives of people. It also recognizes that the church is continually bombarded by the devil in his attempts to take God’s people away from Him. In this context, it is very normal and possible for people to lose their focus on Jesus-the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:1-2).
The call for revival is necessary and needed. At this time God’s church is called to look at Jesus anew, and to reach out to Him for His power both to live and do His will. Stewardship, as a ministry of the church, takes this challenge seriously.
In this article we will look at these two aspects of “revival” and “reformation” within the framework of Stewardship Ministries. We will illustrate how stewardship is a ministry “tool” and a partner in this call and invitation for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to be revived and transformed.
Stewardship a spiritual experience
Many Christians and Seventh-day Adventists think of stewardship as a matter of finances only; meaning, the returning of tithe and the giving offerings. While finances may be part of stewardship by themselves, finances do not reflect the whole picture of stewardship as expressed in the Bible. Stewardship first and foremost is an acknowledgement of who God is-Creator, Owner, Sustainer, Lord, and Savior.
Biblical stewardship is a spiritual experience where one accepts and submits to the rule of God in Jesus Christ (Matt 6:33). This spiritual experience and relationship with God is primary and the living out of His rule in one’s life is what stewardship is all about. It is a way of life where Jesus is the focus of everything we do: our worship, relationships, possessions, finances, and human expressions.
Stewardship a spiritual discipline
Stewardship is a personal choice to let Jesus take control of our lives. In this sense it is a spiritual discipline. It calls for our full cooperation and partnership with the Spirit of God working within us.
For example, the setting aside of a special time for personal Bible study and prayer is stewardship. The intentional planning of family worship and devotion is stewardship. The scheduling of regular time for physical exercise is stewardship. The systematic returning of tithe and the giving of freewill offerings is stewardship. Personal decisions and choices are part and parcels of stewardship—it is a spiritual response and discipline of the Christian life.
The goal of Christian stewardship is a valuable transformation at the deepest level of our being where Christ is constantly working within us. This work of changing us from the inside out by the Holy Spirit is a must because we cannot do this on our own (John 15:4-5). In fact, it is impossible because of our sinful nature. Our only hope in producing that which is pure and right is through Him working in us and for us (Gal 2:20). Let me illustrate. It is not our normal self to be kind and forgiving of each other but rather it is Christ manifesting His life in us. The work of God in us is also shown in relational activities such as our faithful Sabbath attendance and when sharing our faith in Christ. More importantly, these behavioral changes happen naturally because they are produced and motivated by the Spirit of God.
Transformation and financial stewardship
If transformation is the work of God, and I believe it is, then how can this behavioral change taking place in my mind and value system impact my faithfulness in returning the Lord’s tithe and the giving of freewill offerings?
First, faithfulness becomes a way of life. Very often we do it even without thinking about it.
Second, faithfulness flows out of us naturally without coercion or manipulation. It is not dependent or motivated by external promotions or rewards.
Third, our giving becomes regular, and it includes giving in all other areas of the Christian life: time, spiritual gifts, family, possessions, etc.
Fourth, giving becomes a joy. It is no longer an obligation of church membership but an extension and expression of a loving relationship.
Stewardship Ministries is committed to spiritual renewal in the church through its ongoing educational and training activities around the world, while at the same time focusing on Jesus and His Spirit as the transforming power to bring about lasting changes in the life of God’s people everywhere.