Would you drive a car with windows painted black to obstruct scenery? Would you drive three days straight for just one day at a classy resort, only to get up early the next morning for the three-day drive home? Would you go to the Grand Canyon and linger for just five minutes? People who travel like this miss out. It doesn't work. These travelers say, "What was the big deal with the Grand Canyon anyway?" or "Why don't I feel rested?"
You can drive hard on the stewardship journey only to wake up the next morning and say, “What was the point?" That is because stewardship doesn't make sense outside a relationship with Jesus. We talk about the godlike power of money, and it does have a god-like power, but could we hope to resist that power without Jesus? We talk about using money to communicate God 's values, and we want to promote the whole gospel to a broken world through our money, but that is hard to do without a relationship with Jesus. We talk about giving the first and best of who we are and what we have, and that can be done for a while by suffering through it, but duty and obligation leave bitter tastes.
We need Jesus. Everything about stewardship hinges on Jesus: profound conversion in Jesus. Everything.
Too often stewardship education efforts are about funding church ministry rather than an invitation to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. This leads members to believe their church talks about money to keep the lights on, or to have fancier chandeliers than the church down the road. But stewardship, giving, and generosity are not about meeting budgets. They are about meeting God. When church members get in touch with an overwhelmingly generous Creator, then a generous response makes complete sense. An ongoing relationship with the One who specializes in generosity helps put stewardship in perspective. We give to those we love.
This stewardship story is an excerpt from the article "The Giving Project: Lessons Learned on the Journey" by Michele Hershberger, found in the Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine volume 3. Create an annual stewardship emphasis using this magazine's theme "Dessert First: Celebrating God's Blessings" using the magazine and accompanying theme materials.