Jesus looked out over a crowd described as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Seeing the needs, he talked to his disciples about getting laborers into the fields—individuals who could make a difference in the lives of hurting folks.
The needs are still great. And Jesus still expects his followers to work the fields and help meet those needs. Fortunately, churches can do some simple things to equip members for that kind of service.
“Stewardship” means different things to different people. Outside the church, people talk about environmental stewardship. Inside the church, it’s confused with capital campaigns and fundraisers. But true, biblical stewardship really boils down to knowing the difference between owning and managing.
God owns it all (Ps. 24:1), while we are called to manage his stuff for his glory. That’s the foundation of biblical stewardship. If we don’t get that right, we’ll never minister effectively. Churches that make a difference around the corner and around the world embrace this ownership-stewardship connection.
The Bible never has anything positive to say about debt. But while we may know “the borrower is slave to the lender” (Prov. 22:7), we also know that debt is way too normal today—even among church members.
Debt definitely affects people’s giving, and giving affects ministry. Church members who really want to give simply can’t. They’re not greedy or selfish. They’re just broke. They struggle to make a difference in the world because they struggle to make their monthly payments.
If churches help folks get out of debt and stay out of debt, the whole picture changes. Money is freed up for ministry and missions. People start giving toward their passions. A single mom down the pew gets help paying her electricity bill, and families in Africa get clean water for the first time. Instead of being slaves to debt, people start seeing needs and meeting needs.
I always ask, What could the people of God do for the kingdom of God if they were debt free? The answer is, More than we could ever imagine!
Once people understand stewardship and get out of debt, the party really starts. I believe generous giving is the most fun anyone can have with money. So, we need to give people plenty of chances to give and challenge them toward big levels of generosity.
It all starts with leadership. The psalmist talks about unity flowing like anointing oil down the beard of leaders (Ps. 133:1-3)—the same principle applies to generosity. If leaders practice incredible generosity, their influence will flow down to the people in the pews.
That’s when the body of Christ operates at its best—and the world feels the impact of that work.
Dave Ramsey is the author of five New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, EntreLeadership and Smart Money Smart Kids. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8.5 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations, The Dave Ramsey Show channel on iHeartRadio and a 24-hour online streaming video channel. Follow Ramsey on Twitter at @DaveRamsey. Additional information is available at StewardshipCentral.org.