Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Week of September 6, 2015

How does a church ready itself for a stewardship campaign?  Nah, that's the wrong question.  How does a family ready itself for a stewardship campaign?  Still, that doesn't quite capture it.  How does an individual ready her- or himself for a stewardship campaign?  Maybe that's the start.

The leadership of New Kirk Presbyterian has long begun the preparation for this year's stewardship campaign.  The Business Administration Team (BAT) brought in Dr. Eric Skidmore to meet with their team members, as well as with the members of the session, back in July.  Dr. Skidmore introduced us to processes used in other organizations, opened our eyes to some helpful resources, and really drove home the idea that a church--a family, each individual Christian--is most faithful when stewardship becomes part of its culture.  That means stewardship is a spiritual discipline, no different than praying or reading scripture.

Session and the BAT are readying New Kirk Presbyterian for the stewardship campaign.  We can plan the work and even work the plan, but the real work happens is in the placement of intention within each and every soul considering itself part of the church.  In other words, the system and structures here at New Kirk Presbyterian can work flawlessly or fickly, and it won't matter in the end.  All that matters is whether or not YOU in some way grow during this whole thing.  That's right: it really does all come down to you.

Sure: stewardship includes finances; but, I like to think of stewardship in light of one's membership.  In the Presbyterian Church, "membership" means something.  Unlike civic clubs and organizations, paying dues doesn't cover anything.  Unlike some other denominations, there is no such thing as membership in a local church on the one hand and a sense of salvation attained apart from the church on the other hand.  One's very salvation is in realizing that she or he belongs not to him- or herself but to God through Christ, and that realization comes only from the church.  Membership matters, and it can be boiled down to two major aspects: 1) One's worshiping within a local body of the whole church and 2) One's working within a local body of the whole church.  Therefore, Christian stewardship becomes a mere question.  We answer this question with our living:

How do I worship and work within the local church?

The financial piece, as our Men's Group (meeting each Friday and currently going through the book, The Freedom of Simplicity, by Richard Foster) is beginning to understand, is simple but not easy.  Simply put, there is no particular local church if we cannot afford to be here.  Like coming here to worship?  Like the programs we offer?  Like meeting where we are and doing what we do?  Like with any organization or business, there're bills to pay and obligations to meet.  That's a simple concept.  However, it's not easy to cultivate a healthy sense of detachment from the things we desire in the short term in order to maintain the balance of things we take for granted in the long term.  We can have our cake and eat it, too; but, the eating must come when the time's right.  Jesus told us about houses with sandy foundations and seeds with shallow roots.  Both are short-lived.

We're still talking about the individual here.  When his or her attachments are in balance, then this world (especially the one in which we currently find ourselves) is in the palm of the hand.  Hermann Hesse said it best somewhere in his book, Siddhartha:

When you throw a rock into the water, it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal. This is what Siddhartha has learned among the Samanas. This is what fools call magic and of which they think it would be effected by means of the daemons. Nothing is effected by daemons, there are no daemons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.

Is faith about prosperity?  Heck no! the opposite, actually.  Is money excluded from faith?  Nope.  Jesus took a utilitarian approach to money: have all you want, just don't want what you have.  Honestly, the way I see it, we're no longer talking about a church stewardship campaign when we discuss these matters.  Rather, Christian stewardship aligns more with Hesse's re-imagining the Buddha (Prince Siddhartha) above.  Christian stewardship is concerned with faithful living, which looks a lot like the thinking, waiting, and fasting in the above quote.  Faithful living is embodied in a Desert Jesus.

Probably the most important aspect of Christian stewardship is the GEOGRAPHY of faithful living.  The Reformed Church (that's you, btw) has always agreed that church is the place where the Word is preached from the word and the sacraments are rightly administered.  Wherever that happens, no matter what anyone may say or do to the contrary, there is the church; and, you can rest assured that Christ stands as Head of that body.

As we begin this year's stewardship campaign, the question confronts us all: How do I worship and work within New Kirk Presbyterian?

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