August 2014 Good $ense Newsletter: Time of Renewal
Dear friends and colleagues,
I have recently returned from my annual canoe trip into the Quetico Wilderness Area in Ontario. It’s a yearly physical, emotional and spiritual time of renewal and on this occasion I was accompanied by two grandsons and a college friend of theirs. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
The trip involves a significant amount of portaging – that is, carrying overland between lakes the canoe and everything else you have with you to sustain life in the wilderness for a week or more. Since portages are sometimes long and almost always over rough terrain, the objective is to have with you only what is really needed. Life becomes very simple. As one author puts it:
“Surplus, the engine that drives civilization, gains little traction in the wilds…Life defined by simple needs promotes equally simple wants. When a mere tent satisfies the need for shelter, the desire is for a flat space. When an open fire provides the element of heat, the desire is for a sturdy hearth and dry wood. When a canoe and paddle are the primary means of transport, the desire is for smooth water and favorable winds. When feet are drenched in mud and water, the desire is for socks that are dry.”
Simplicity begets peace and contentment. Time becomes available to satisfy the desire for reflection on the deeper matters of life and God. Thankfulness focuses on things I take for granted – the ability to breath, to move, to see… for life itself.
Back home I contemplate how different that experience is to the materialism and pervasive emphasis on more that characterize our world. And my thoughts invariably turn to why stewardship ministry is so incredibly important. I hope the following list will put fire in your bones and be an encouragement regarding your stewardship calling.
Stewardship ministry is important because:
First and foremost, a proper relationship to money is a prerequisite for a proper relationship to God (Matt 6:21 & 24)
Good stewardship provides resources that enable the local church to accomplish its God-given mission.
Agreement over handling money strengthens relationships, marriages, and families.
Wise financial decisions bring respect, honor, and peace.
Good stewardship bolsters contentment with God’s provision and imparts the joy of generosity.
Good stewardship frees the believer from the hold of materialism.
Good stewardship places trust in God who is eternal rather than in money and possessions which are temporary.
For more than 30 years, Good $ense has been committed to providing resources that transform not just a person’s finances but their life with God. Biblical truths and practical action steps are integrated in a grace –filled manner that leads to joy, peace and freedom. We hope they will be of help in your ministry.
RECENTLY I PRESENTED AT THE CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP NETWORK FORUM. This annual gathering of stewardship pastors and leaders from around the country is always an inspirational, relationship-building and great-ideas-for-ministry time. Following are some key takeaways from that time and some related questions for your ministry.
STEWARDSHIP IS A HUGE SPIRITUAL ISSUE: Money is the chief rival god for many people. Leaders at the conference repeatedly stressed that the spiritual importance of a right relationship to money should be the first and foremost ‘why’ for our ministries.
QUESTION: Does your senior leadership understand (many do not) that a person’s relationship to money has to do with where their heart is, who they serve, whether God’s word is fruitful in their life and so much more! How can you “lead up” in this regard?
MONEY AFFECTS ALL AREAS OF OUR LIFE – spiritual, practical and emotional. Most of our ministries speak to the practical and spiritual (though sometimes not enough to the spiritual). But very often we do not speak to the emotional. Yet our financial decisions are often driven by emotion.
QUESTION: Does your ministry help folks understand and manage the emotions associated with their finances?
OUR ACTIONS FLOW DIRECTLY FROM OUR THOUGHTS: This means that what we think directs how we act and the results that come from those actions.
QUESTION: Does your ministry take specific steps to attempt to change how folks think about their money in addition to simply trying to manage results or change behavior?
THERE ARE 5 STAGES IN THE JOURNEY OF FINANCIAL DISCIPLESHIP They are: 1. Financially unhealthy and in denial 2. Financially unhealthy and ready for change 3. Financially healthy 4. A biblical perspective on money 5. Christ-centered relationship to money.
QUESTION: How does your ministry shape its offerings to reach out to people in all 5 categories?
Tax time is here –this is the only time many folks are aware of just how much income they had last year. And many will also be wondering where it went! It’s a great time of year to offer the Freed-Up Financial Living course to help them manage this year’s income in a God-honoring and responsible manner.
Your partner in the great adventure of stewardship ministry,
Life is a Gift by Dick Towner
Dear G$ friends and colleagues,
As I reflected on giving thanks during the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded of a question I read many years ago, “How’d cha get what cha got?” The author’s answer was, “It’s a gift!” No matter what it is, it’s a gift. Are you alive? Life’s a gift! Got a roof over your head? It’s a gift! Got a car? It’s a gift!
Sometimes we get a little confused and get to thinking that, after all, we were diligent and should get at least a little credit for what we have. But Dt.8:18 brings things back into focus: “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this [the Bible says ‘wealth’ but you put your own word here] for me. But remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” The ability – health of mind and body, giftedness and talent, interpersonal skills, the circumstances and resources at our disposal, etc. etc. etc. etc., – IT’S ALL A GIFT!
So in this post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas season, may we, as the receivers of countless gifts, give our deep gratitude first and foremost to the Giver of all good things. And may we never lose track of the fact that His greatest gift is the birth we are about to celebrate.
A grateful heart is the antidote to envy and greed and the doorway to generosity. May you, through your personal example and your stewardship ministry, lead others to the joy and freedom that always accompany gratitude.
With gratitude for you,
P.S. A challenge today is raising our children and grandchildren to be grateful and God-honoring with the resources God will someday entrust to them. Raising Financially Freed-Up Kids is a wonderful tool to help parents successfully meet that challenge.
And a final thought: Bill Hybels recently gave a superb message on the first 2 chapters of Ecclesiastes that drives home what’s important in life. It’s good stuff that could be useful in your stewardship ministry.
July 2013 Newsletter by Dick Towner: Be Content
Dear G$ friends and colleagues,
I have just returned from my annual wilderness canoe trip up in Canada and I’m refreshed physically, emotionally and spiritually! In that setting I was reminded once again of how little is necessary to have one’s needs met and to be very content. In the words of a favorite author, “Trying to do more than enough in the wilderness is meaningless… Surplus, the engine that drives civilization, gains little traction in the wilds… When a mere tent satisfies the need for shelter, the desire is simply for a flat space. When an open fire provides the element of heat, the desire is simply for sturdy hearth and dry wood. When a canoe and paddle are the primary means of transport, the desire is simply for smooth water and favorable winds. When feet are drenched in mud and water, the desire is simply for socks that are dry.”
How different that is to the cultural milieu you and I live and serve in! While wilderness camping may not be for everyone (just ask my wife, Sibyl!) the reality is that the more stuff we have, the more complex our lives become and the more difficult it is to spend time with and listen to God. Our goal as stewardship leaders is not to tell folks how much stuff they should have (though most of us probably have too much). Our ultimate goal is to open the way for folks to have a deeper relationship to God by teaching and training them in ways of God-honoring stewardship.
Our ministries are about much, much more than developing a budget and getting out of debt. We are dealing with matters of eternal significance. Be encouraged and emboldened!
May your summer be filled with relationship building times with loved ones and may the fall season find numerous stewardship classes and workshops on your church calendar. Be sure to check out our new website and the Freed-Up series of resources. And watch for our forthcoming revised coaches training resource and our new on-line opportunities!