Stewardship: A shift in the mindset of the giver
Pastor Christian Straeuli was ordained on the 16th of Februar 2020 and serves the St. Peter’s Congregation since that day. He lives in Greytown with his wife Kristin, née Lange, from Topeka (Kansas, USA) and their son Peter. Pastor Straeuli has written the required examination paper on the topic of Stewardship: A shift in the mindset of the giver, giving a confessional Lutheran response to the book Contagious Generosity: Creating a Culture of Giving in Your Church by Willard and Sheppard in the context of the FELSISA.
Question (Q): Can you briefly explain what the paper is about and why you have chosen this topic?
Answer (A): What is Christian stewardship? What does it have to do with me? How does this help us in the FELSISA?
These questions I wanted to answer with this paper. For this, I analysed the book “Contagious Generosity” through the lens of a Lutheran understanding of Christian stewardship.
Q: How would you define stewardship?
A: Stewardship is the liturgical practice of killing idols. Stewardship is the practice of getting rid of everything that threatens to replace Christ’s position in your day and in your life. It teaches you how to deal with that, which God gives you.
Stewardship affects the entire Christian life, it is a free and joyous activity of a son of God, who takes all that they have received and uses it for the purpose God has intended.
The goal of stewardship is that everything else disappears; everything else loses focus, because the true light “Jesus Christ” is at its rightful place in the steward’s life.
Q: The book talks about a “culture of generosity”. What is meant by this phrase?
A: A “culture of generosity” is a culture in which this happens. It is a culture in which God’s Law is regularly heard and known. It is a culture in which the people are constantly called to repentance and brought to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, who comes through the Word and Sacraments. It is a culture in which God’s people are freed to look towards their neighbour, because they know how caringly and graciously God looks towards them. It is a culture where God’s people rejoice in all they have and give freely to those in need. It is a culture that is liturgically set up to kill idols so that Jesus is put in His proper place. A culture of generosity sets up the Crown of Justification and lets it shine.
Q: A “culture of generosity” can be very helpful in the church. But how should we view this culture through Lutheran lenses? What should we be careful of?
A: Such a culture of generosity can only be properly understood if it is looked at through the Lutheran distinction of Law and Gospel. If this is not done, then this culture itself can quickly turn into its own idol and the attempt to achieve it can drag you away from the true purpose which is Christ.
In legalism lies another danger. We should always remember the final goal is to bring to Christ and not finding something that we can achieve or contribute.
Q: Despite these stumbling blocks throughout the book, what could still be taken away from it? In what way is it a helpful read?
A: Being generous is nothing to be scared about. This book points out the fact that generosity is a blessing. It is something that one could wish onto all people, not for the wealth and benefits that could be attained in such a way, but for the blessings and freedom that the people receive out of being generous.
Q: Our own culture within the FELSISA is influenced by a lot of factors, e.g. consumerism, deficit thinking and fear of an uncertain future. How can it be influenced by a “culture of generosity”?
A: “Do we have enough?” That is a question we ask ourselves a lot – be it in regard to time, money, ability or knowledge – and unfortunately most of the time we answer this question with the answer “No”.
By nurturing a “culture of generosity” we look at the answer God gives you to this question through his word. “You have more than enough! I have given you everything you need.”
If we can realise how greatly God blesses us – many burdens will be taken from us. We learn we are not alone. We learn how our enemies are turned into our brothers. We learn we are not the commander in the battle that is our life – that is Christ!
We thank Pastor Straeuli for the informative answers and wish him and his family God’s blessing for their service in the church and synod.
(The interview was conducted by Angelika Johannes, Panbult)