Nine Disciplines of a Steward Leader (The Final Three)
Become the Leader God Called You to Be.
Steward leaders succeed because they are attentive first to who they are and what God is doing in them. There are no ‘traits of a successful steward leader’ to emulate but there are consistent disciplines that position us to be used by God most effectively. We previously covered disciplines one and two, three and four and five and six. Here are the final three.
7. Leading a Lifestyle that Reflects a Love and Care for God’s Creation.
Everything in this world has come from the simple combination of the human being created in God’s image, and the Garden, which was created for the human, and the human for it. Those ingredients are the foundation for all that exists in God’s creation: a man, a woman and a garden.
All of our advanced technology, our science, our music and literature, our civilization and global economy—everything grew out of the formula of man, woman and nature. Sometimes we make things too complicated. God says to Adam and Eve,
“You love me and I love you. Cherish each other. Tend the garden.”
After the redemption of all things in Christ, God still says to us,
“I love you and you love me. Love one another. Care for my creation.”
Is there any- thing in all of the gospel that is not included in this simple statement?
All four levels of relationship are here. Evangelism and world missions are here. Caring for the poor and working for justice are here. Creation care and stewardship of our money are here.
As steward leaders we have a mandate to have dominion over and subdue this creation according to God’s vision for a redeemed world. For a people who bear God’s image, these words must be defined by the God who has created and redeemed this world and who calls us to be caretakers of it. We are called to love what God loves, and that includes his creation.
This does not amount to a deification of creation. Nor does this mean that if we love God’s creation too much, we will divert our attention away from more “important” work like doing evangelism and supporting pro-life and pro-family issues.
After all, what could be more pro-life than caring for the very creation that supports all of life? What could be more pro-family than helping mothers and fathers be stewards of their time and financial resources, and passing those lessons and values on to their children? What could be more supportive of our evangelism throughout the world than to be able to connect billions of people who make their living from the earth to the God who created the earth, giving them an example of responsible creation care combined with the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ?
Caring for God’s creation may be the ultimate expression of our freedom in Christ.
It will require the steward leader to cultivate a heart that hears only the univocal call to one-kingdom living; a heart that will not be dissuaded by the cacophony of voices screaming to us the gospel of wealth, the benefits of our our consumerism and a justification for a lifestyle of increasing consumption.
Nor will the steward leader be persuaded by the misguided voices from our own ranks that can only see a world that is passing away instead of a creation that
“itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)
How will you bear witness today to your vocation as a caretaker of God’s good creation?
8. Daily Submitting our Time, Talents and Treasures to God’s Work.
One of the greatest challenges to our life as faithful stewards is complacency. That may sound strange, but if the enemy can get us to ignore certain issues by dismissing them as problems we have mostly overcome, he can use them to eat away at our peace.
Many of us have heard about being good stewards of our ‘time, talents and treasures’ so often that we can be tempted to wave them off and say, as did the rich young ruler, “All these I have kept” (Matthew 19:20). My prayer is that through these blogs we have been somewhat jolted back to the reality that full surrender of everything to God brings these all too common notions back into sharp relief to be considered and taken with a higher degree of seriousness.
Time complacency leads us to make a sacred/secular division in our view of time. We are lulled into the belief that since we spend much time working for God, the remainder of time is really ours to do with as we wish. We may not say so in so many words, but our attitudes toward our time belie this subtle ownership mentality.
Steward leaders submit all of their time to God seeking how He would have them invest it for His kingdom work. This does not put leisure time in jeopardy, it redeems it.
Are you an owner or steward of your time?
Talent complacency is our unwillingness (or laziness) in investing our strongest skills in our work. God created us with latent skills and talents that He intends for us to steward wisely by employing them to their fullest for His glory. When talents remain unused they slowly slip from our radar screen and soon we almost forgot those skills we love to use and that bring us satisfaction and fulfillment.
Are you stewarding your greatest skills of have you become complacent and let them sit idle?
Treasure complacency is the result of our pride when we believe we are generous stewards and need not seek God’s leading for how we spend or invest His resources. The enemy assures us that we are giving all we can, probably more than most, and we should be content to continue as we have been. God cannot steer a heart that is in autopilot and the Spirit cannot direct a will that has closed its ears.
Are you consistently seeking God’s guidance for your use of His resources, never content to move without His leading?
Steward leaders cultivate the disciplines that confront complacency, assuring that they are ever on the upward path in following Christ with joyful obedience. Check your spirit for signs of complacency and drive it out with prayer and a recommitment to absolute obedience to God’s loving direction in these areas of your life and work.
9. Death that Leads to Life
It may seem strange that the final discipline is death. Have we journeyed all this way as a steward leader only now to be asked to die? In a word, yes. The life of the steward leader does not end with death, it begins with death. Indeed, until you have died, you cannot lead or live as Christ intends.
The disciplines of the steward leader are dependent upon a heart that is fully submitted to Christ. And submission requires a real death to all that would encumber us from being ‘all-in’ for Jesus Christ. In his wonderful book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared,
“When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.”
The radical values of the kingdom of God tell us that the abundant life in Christ starts with death. Victory in Christ comes only through surrender. If we are to be filled up with all God has for us we must first empty ourselves. As leaders, Christ works in us and through us to the extent that we have put to death our self-serving ways.
The most vital question for every Christian leader is NOT “are you leading effectively?” but “have you died?”
- Have you died to your need to own and control?
- Have you died to your need to be right?
- Have you died to your need to be liked and affirmed?
- Have you died to your need to use others to get what you want?
- Have you died to your desire to be measured by what you accomplish more than by who you are?
Our death is our liberation. We leave the old life behind and embrace the new creation we have become in Christ. As leaders, we are freed for selfless service in the name of the one who came ‘not to be served but to serve.’
When we have died this death, we rise anew, and we are given the rather breathtaking truth that all we have ahead of us is life. In a world limited by birth as its beginning and death as its end, we are citizens of a kingdom marked by death as its first act, and life without end as its reality and promise.
Are you tired of trying to lead from your own strength, your own skills and on your own terms? Are you ready to lead in greater freedom than you have ever experienced? Are you thirsting to take hold of the life that is truly life? It begins with a glorious death and an embracing of the life of the steward leader.
The discipline we must follow is daily dying to self and rising anew in the love and grace of Christ. As you do you will embark on the journey of a lifetime, the journey of the faithful, obedient and joyful steward who serves at the will and for the sake of our lavish and abundantly gracious God.
Welcome to the journey!