"Stewards R Us" has a ripple effect
- Tuesday, January 05, 1999
One of the most critical issues facing Christians these days is the question of ownership. We know that we'll leave everything behind when we die, but we often act as though we're going to keep our possessions for eternity.
This represents an important lesson for believers, since Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). In addition, He warned that if we aren't faithful in the use of money, we can't expect God to entrust His "true riches" to us (Luke 16:11).
In a recent message on the topic of ownership, Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in metro Atlanta, did more than simply talk to his congregation. He made them a hands-on part of that day's lesson. They became "doers of the word, and not merely hearers" (James 1:22). The message kicked off a four-part series on stewardship titled "Stewards R Us."
When people arrived at church that day, they received envelopes containing various amounts of money. Attendance at North Point on Sunday mornings averages 5,500, and the money given to the congregation totaled about $35,000. Pastor Stanley told the people to invest whatever they received in God's kingdom, but the money had to go to something other than their church.
The envelopes also contained small, green cards that read, "As a faithful steward, I invested in God's kingdom by . . ." and these cards were to be returned in about three weeks. To illustrate the lesson of ownership, Pastor Stanley noted that the money in the envelopes belonged to the church. "Just because something is in your possession does not mean it's your possession," he said. Members had simply been entrusted with what they received, just as God entrusts His children with various amounts of things to manage.
Several thousand of the small green cards were returned to the church in the weeks that followed, and the testimonies written on the cards tell some amazing stories of how God used this lesson in the lives of His people (see examples below).
Some people took from their personal funds and added to the money they had received from the church. Others received donations from friends and relatives to supplement the church's money. Pastor Stanley said he believes the $35,000 handed out to church members was at least tripled before being invested in God's work.
- "I am sending the money to a couple who takes in crack babies and who feed and help find employment for the homeless."
- "We have a very precious Christian neighbor who works at our elementary school and is a blessing to hundreds of kids every day. We found out that her husband had been in the hospital for a while, and we knew that her bills must be piling up, although she always praises God every day. So we got together with [others] and our $15 turned into $100 [to help her with her expenses]."
- "I am taking the money with me to Bolivia to help with the college education of a girl there. She is 20 years old and the oldest of six children. She has worked since she was 8 years old to support her family and is currently director over eight Compassion Centers in Santa Cruz. . . I was at my Dad's house in Florida this past weekend, and I shared the story of what Andy had done at church and how I was taking my $5 plus to Bolivia. Each time I told the story, people gave me money [to help with this girl's education]."
- "I gave the money to a lady with two children who is going through a divorce. When I gave her the money, she told me she had just told God that morning that she didn't have enough money for milk for the kids."
- "The Tuesday before [Andy preached on ownership], I was in Kids R Us. . . [T]here was a woman ahead of me who was purchasing warm clothing for her daughter, who was with her. [T]he woman gave [the cashier] a small amount of money toward the purchase. She was putting the clothes on layaway. She walked out of the store with nothing she had purchased. I put myself in her shoes and imagined how it would feel to have to wait to get warm clothes for my children. . .I wanted to pay off her balance right then and there, but I didn't want to make a scene or embarrass her. When you gave out the money that Sunday morning, I knew exactly what I needed to do with it. I went back to Kids R Us and had them look up the transaction. They allowed me to pay off the balance. On the way, I stopped and purchased an adult Bible and a children's Bible to include with the clothes."
- "Six of us put our money together and made sack lunches with it. We went downtown one night and handed out 45 lunches."
- "I bought cookie dough with my $5 and made cookies for the local nursing home."
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