Recently, for a class of mine, I had to think through what I thought about the idea of “Stewardship”, or how we relate to and care for the material things around us. The context for this was trying to think well and deeply about how we would attain and treat money being raised to plant new churches. Here were some of my thoughts.
Economics of Abundance
“It is here that the revolutions of empty and inordinate desires takes place: of the lust for a superabundance which is not the natural and beautiful abundance of life but the overflow of nothingness….” (Karl Barth)
“We live lives at the intersection of two stories about the world: the Eucharist and the market. Both tell stories of hunger and consumption, of exchanges and gifts; the stories overlap and compete.” (William Cavanaugh)
When it comes to stewardship, I have two guiding principles. The first is that the Kingdom of God is an economy of abundance that protests the dominant economic narrative of our culture that resources of all kinds exist in a state of scarcity. An economy of scarcity means we must compete in a zero-sum game to maximize our gains and defend against our losses.
To lead on the basis of scarcity is to seek excellence not to honor God, but to “compete” in the ecclesial marketplace for the most market share. It is to turn fundraising into conquests and battles, rather than a loving invitation into vision and mission (as Henri Nouwen beautifully reminds us). In my personal life, scarcity breeds anxiety, worry, and fear; letting the next pay-grade guide my job decisions more than vocational call. It puts a greater emphasis on saving now rather than spending wisely.
As part of my seminary program, I’m currently in an Urban Church Planting class. As an assignment, I’m supposed to ask you all:
What are some things you wish you had known before planting, or things you wish you had done differently?
A penny for your thoughts? Please also include your church’s name and your position there.
I just completed my first trimester of seminary (round 2). I took a class class on Urban Christianity that, while it may not sound like a difficult and comprehensive graduate course, really was demanding at every level. So much so, in fact, it has really changed a lot of the ways I’ve thought about the city and how humans relate to it (especially Christians).
The class really caught me at just the right time. To a certain extent, even before coming to this class, I “got” it. I had imbibed enough Tim Keller and Church Planting material to understand the centrality of the city in the story of the Bible. Further, my church is now my fourth urban church plant, I go to church and live, literally, in “Center City” Philadelphia, and I work in the midst of the brokenness of the city, seeing the extremes of its beauty and brokenness in ways that few people do in their everyday lives.
And yet, especially due to the rural roots of “certain people” extremely close to me (haha), I felt I needed to engage in this class to develop a far more nuanced view of the city. And I think I got that. Over a few posts over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through this time. I think some of these things are lessons that all of us cool urban twentysomethings could do well to internalize.