What Does the World Think of Steward Theology?
An encouraging report from my travels in China and Egypt
It happened again. In the past two weeks I witnessed how God used the message of the journey of the faithful steward to touch and change lives in two diverse and challenging cultural contexts. I have seen it before in Australia, the Philippines and Canada, and with teams from South America, Eastern Europe and West Africa. Now here it was again.
From September 19 – 30, I traveled to China and Egypt on behalf of The Steward’s Journey. My main goal was to build key relationships for teaching on this thing we call ‘steward theology’. If you follow this blog and the work of The Steward’s Journey you know what that means. In short, it is the message of freedom and joy that comes when we embrace the call to be stewards, acknowledging that everything in the entirety of our lives belongs to God who simply asks us to be faithful and trust him to provide.
In China the door is opening wide for this message. Chinese pastors are refreshed when the burden of caring for the explosive growth of the church is lifted and replaced by the freedom to be a steward leader and trust God for the energy, safety and resources to do their work. For Christian business owners it is the message of turning their business over to God, relinquishing the control that has them in bondage and enjoying the freedom to do their work God’s way. For NGO leaders it is the first time they have heard that there is a difference in raising kingdom resources in a Biblical, God-pleasing way, that brings joy to their work and freedom to their giving partners.
Wherever this message is heard, it is bearing fruit. In China there is a robust website and a micro blog to keep the message accessible and fresh. Imagine Chinese Christians being able to log on to a Chinese website and learn the freedom of joy of the journey of the faithful steward. It is happening today, and in the past 15 months it has received over 1 million visits! In the next ninety days, three of my books will be published in China in Mandarin. God is opening doors and the message of steward theology is changing lives.
The following week I traveled to Cairo and had the supreme privilege of spending three days with pastors and seminary teachers from a leading evangelical seminary in the Middle East. As I stood in front of these dedicated brothers and sisters I wondered how this message might be received. I wondered if the context of their challenges might be so different that that connection would be lost. I had seen God use this message powerfully in so many different cultural settings…but Egypt?
Yes, in Egypt. The response was overwhelming. “We need this teaching in Egypt.” I heard that from large church pastors to teachers providing biblical training in some of the remotest places on earth. The message of freedom and joy lifted burdens, broke chains and renewed spirits. I was deeply humbled to be the imperfect conveyer of God’s truth to these wonderful people. We hope to provide training resources, online courses and curriculum in Arabic for their long-term use, and throughout the Arab speaking world.
As I traveled home I asked this questions again – what is it about this message that is so powerful, so universal in its impact and so deeply appreciated by God’s workers? I believe in part it is its simplicity and its profound connection with our deepest struggles. When we talk about the ‘two-kingdoms’ and the bondage it brings, everyone knows exactly what we mean. In every culture we can name our second kingdom stuff and we know in our spirit the damage that stuff wreaks on our life and work. The opportunity to be set free is welcomed in every language and corner of the world.
The majority of leaders I speak to nod in affirmation at the simple phrase, “we can become so busy doing the work of God in the world that we have no time left for God to do His work in us.” The loss of intimacy with God because of our busyness seems to be a universal malady. To be set free to make that intimacy the leader’s highest priority is greeted with joy. We speak about how we can tie our identity to our jobs, which leads to burn out, fear and a heightened sense of defensiveness. The opportunity to be set free in the certain knowledge that our identity is in Christ alone brings a sense of release and relief to so many with whom we work.
And the freedom continues for all seven chains; playing the owner, living in two-kingdoms, experiencing stagnancy in our relationship to God, losing our identity in our job, using people for our own ends, becoming complacent about our care for creation and all God’s resources and facing our spiritual battle with fear and apathy. In every place we have taken this message, leaders are acknowledging that they are bearing many or all of these chains. The enemy’s work knows no geo-political, ethnic or cultural boundaries.
And God’s mighty work through the Holy Spirit to bring freedom and joy and equip His people for dynamic service is equally boundless. Thanks be to God for His provision for His people in the powerful name of Jesus through the power of the Spirit.
I hope you are encouraged by this report. And I pray that you are experiencing that same freedom and joy in your own life. What chains need to fall for you…today? Thank you for your partnership in his ministry, and God bless you on your own journey of the faithful steward.