This week I came across a striking observation. As citizens of the United States, we are recipients of the amazing blessing of the Lord. Prior generational leaders, while not always copacetic with church leaders, were for the most part people of faith who understood the value of righteous behavior and the need to order one’s life according to biblical principles.
Historically, our nation’s birth and prosperity demonstrated to the world the importance of freedom of conscience and personal responsibility. These are two high values in the Word of God that are worthy of acceptance by every citizen. Do you not find it interesting that the weak spots in our history are those points of departure from the ways of God?
Currently, we are experiencing an economic phenomenon. Our nation once rode the wave of expansive optimism and blessed economic prosperity. Now we appear to be trying to find our place in line with the long list of mediocre economies that were corrupted by greed, injustice and violations of biblical conscience.
Yet, in the scheme of things we are still immensely blessed in comparison to the rest of the world. According to GlobalRichList.com, U.S. income of just $2,000 per month places you in the top 2.24 percent of the wealthiest people in the world. That is $12.50 per hour compared to the average laborer in Zimbabwe who makes only 53 cents per hour. In a year, an American worker makes $24,000. It would take the average laborer in Zimbabwe 23 years to make the same amount.
To echo the words of the Lord Jesus when he spoke the parable of the talents into the lives of his followers, “Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48 ESV). The Lord Jesus didn’t make this statement to simply fill the room with words. He was issuing a warning and at the same time encouragement. He is driving home to His followers the principle of financial stewardship.
Stewardship is both personal and communal. Personally, I have the responsibility to determine the most effective use of the resources the Lord has entrusted to me. As a part of the body of Christ, as part of His team on planet earth today, good stewardship of my local church’s collective resources is also imperative. My generous giving through my local church is at the heart of being a profitable steward in God’s kingdom. My giving demonstrates my being part of the team. My church’s investment through the Cooperative Program and other mission enterprises is an expression of our being on the team.
John Maxwell writes, “Teamwork is at the heart of great achievement. The question isn’t whether teams have value. The question is whether we acknowledge that fact and become better team players. That is why I assert that one is too small a number to achieve greatness. You cannot do anything of real value alone.”
In the context of Baptists working together to fulfill the Great Commission, Maxwell nails it. In the book where I found the above quote, I wrote in the margin, “The Great Commission is great. That is why one individual or one independent church of any size is too small to achieve the greatness God has in mind for simultaneously reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth with the gospel.”
It takes Baptists working together in the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish what is “great” before God. You know the old 80/20 principle where 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the resources of a local church or of any ministry. In the Southern Baptist Convention, 8,200 local churches give 80 percent of all the Cooperative Program funds.
But the beauty of responsible stewardship, the fantastic nature of teamwork is that it doesn’t matter whether you are in the 80 percent or 20 percent crowd, you have value to God and He is always encouraging us even in a sagging economy to step up our game and trust Him more.
Why trust Him more? Because as devoted followers, as faithful stewards, we are individually and collectively engaged in something much greater than ourselves. We live to be on mission with Him. And responsible stewardship through our local churches is a vital part of my devotion to His purposes of making disciples here and to the ends of the earth. The Cooperative Program gives our churches the methodology to advance the kingdom of our God for generations and for people who live here and over there.