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Celebrating gifts

Conference looks at new ways of doing stewardship, putting joy into giving

March 31, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS

Stewardship is often seen as an obligation rather than an opportunity, but churches can change that view, participants at the Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference learned.

The March 15-17 conference, hosted by several presbyteries, synods and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), focused on several angles of stewardship — its theological and spiritual basis, new ideas for campaigns and ways to bring joy to giving.

At the opening plenary session, the Rev. Brian Blount said that pastors can talk to people about the importance and pleasure of sharing their resources and gifts with their faith communities.

Blount is president and professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. He spoke of going to church as a boy and hearing his pastor say that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) and that it’s better to give than to receive. But he remembered thinking that on Christmas morning, he enjoyed getting more than giving.

Many people hear the word “stewardship” and think of money. They think about how to keep more and give less of their money. This is a natural human reaction — people work hard for their money, so why wouldn’t they want to keep it?

Because stewardship often means money and money often evokes self-preservation, churches need to think of stewardship in new ways, Blount said.

Looking at the New Testament, stewardship can be thought of in terms of apocalyptic spirituality, Blount said. He spoke about Paul and Jesus and how stewardship can look different when viewed through their work. Jesus was a radical and spoke to communities on the move, while Paul was establishing communities to celebrate Jesus.

“While Jesus is championing a kingdom, Paul is establishing a church,” Blount said, adding that Jesus had a sense of urgency while Paul looked to the future.

When thinking about stewardship, it’s important to figure out its intent. From there, one can figure out how to make that happen. And with stewardship, the gifts of creation are for the intent of glorifying God.

“It’s that simple,” Blount said. “Stewardship is about using the gifts and resources God has given us.”

When people use their time, talents and gifts, they are working to make the world more properly reflect God’s kingdom. To do that, people must put their gifts in harm’s way, if that’s what it takes.

“It is scary stewardship, it is apocalyptic stewardship — type J for Jesus,” Blount said, adding that Jesus was an act of living stewardship.

Stewardship is really a response to God’s gifts — it’s a celebration, and people can celebrate by praising God and giving to others, Blount said. The gift of the promise of eternal life is certainly worthy of celebration.

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