I don’t know whether it is because I was born and raised in the Church of England, C of E we would always proudly answer when asked our religion as if it were a badge of honor, or whether it was that classic Anglican schoolboy upbringing, but belief, faith in God, Jesus his Son, crucified and died for us and for our sins, it always seemed relatively uncomplicated for me. God created heaven and earth. He gave his only Son Jesus to come among us in the flesh. Jesus was crucified for our sake and after He died, He was given life again. He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. It really is no more complicated than that, is it? And so I go to church on Sundays, haven’t missed so many in my life as far as I can remember, I get my cup refilled, although sometimes not completely refilled depending on who is preaching the sermon that day, and I consider myself a Christian.
But as I have grown and matured as a human being and matured in my faith journey, so I have come to realize that it is a little more complicated than that and that going to church is really not so much about membership but rather, it is about discipleship.
For a number of years now, my great passion has been how we practice servant leadership in the workplace; how we take the servant leadership that Jesus modeled for his disciples over 2000 years ago and explore and translate how that model looks and can be applied in our present culture. And if leadership is truly about servanthood and servanthood is about discipleship then the stewardship of that oft quoted and accurate trio of treasure, time and talent must naturally be about becoming a better disciple, becoming a better servant. And so I have come to realize and appreciate that stewardship is not about an annual pledge campaign but it is all about discipleship, serving others and in so doing, growing in my relationship with Christ.
My stewardship of the talent I have been blessed with, the time I can devote to the ministries of my church community and the treasure I have received has become central to my relationship with God. My financial giving has become motivated not by the budget needs of my church, although that is clearly an important aspect, but rather, it is motivated by what my church is doing with my treasure. How my church is responding to Jesus’ call to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, to reach out to those on the margins of society. And more and more I see wonderful mission and outreach activity in our corner of God’s kingdom and occasionally beyond to places like Haiti and other communities stricken by tragedy, and I see a church that is reaching out to others. I once read a definition of stewardship as the effective commitment or investment of human and material resources in participation with Christ in His love for others. It seems to me that my church is taking that to heart and I am blessed to be a part of that journey and blessed to be growing in my relationship with Christ.
Perhaps it isn’t so complicated after all!
-- Martin Darby is past President of the Institute for Servant Leadership and is now Senior Partner of MRD Group, an organization dedicated to working with church communities on leadership development, stewardship and evangelism. He is a member of St. James Episcopal Church in Greenville, South Carolina.