Recommendation: 'Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance'
By Ken Sloane
Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance: A Transformational Guide to Church Finance
By Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Ann A. Michel
Rowman and Littlefield, 2021
As you read this, I will have just returned from our first vacation in eighteen months: a driving trip from our hunkered-down posture in Nashville to a semi-hunkered-down posture in a condo on the Florida Panhandle. On any vacation, you can count on a few mystery/thriller novels in my bag. On this trip, I snuck in a new stewardship book that just arrived, and so with two novels down, I’ve just started on Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance: A Transformational Guide to Church Finance by two of my heroes at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Lovett H. Weems Jr., and Ann A. Michel. Like my other vacation reads, this one is hard to put down.
This is not a review but more of a highlight of what I’ve read so far.
From the preface, I realized that this book would be a part of a new generation of writing that incorporates the perspective of change and the separation from what went before that is the hallmark of any work written amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t misunderstand—my shelves are filled with books full of great ideas and teaching about stewardship and generosity. However, the changes and new realities of the post-pandemic church are going to be essential insights for churches and those of us who work to resource them through these new days.
I was immediately struck by these words, and while not so far from things I had felt and shared, I had never heard this stated with such clarity and power:
God’s purpose in calling us to lives of faithful stewardship and generosity isn’t merely to sustain the church. In fact, it’s the other way around. The continued existence of the church is essential to sustain the powerful, transformative message of our faith regarding how we are to live in relation to money and possessions. (p. 3)
I’ve been saying for the past ten years that the conversations we have around stewardship need to be less about the church’s need for money and more about a disciple’s need to give. Weems and Michel have taken that a step further: it’s not so much about the church’s need for money as it is about the world’s desperate need for what the church has to say about money, possessions, and generosity. Without the church—without your church—all the world will hear are the messages we are bombarded with every day about getting more, spending more, and about how accumulation of money will make us happier and more loved!
The first chapter of the book talks about the shifts going on in our approach to stewardship. Some of these you have heard, but Weems and Michel set them in the context of the spirituality of money: moving from fearfulness to faith, from scarcity to abundance, from acquiring to giving, from obligation to joy, from owner to steward, from secrecy to transparency, and from transaction to transformation.
If I haven’t whetted your appetite enough to get on Cokesbury.com or Amazon and order your copy, let me mention that before Chapter 1 closes, the authors include a section on talking about money with two clear and succinct principles that alone could easily be worth more to your church than the cost of the book. If every pastor in the church embraced these two principles, our resources for meeting the needs of a hurting world could multiply significantly overnight.
To find those two principles and the wealth of other wisdom that is available in the book, you’ll have to do what I did: not necessarily take the book on vacation, but purchase Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance by Lovett Weems and Ann Michel as part of your continuing education and as an investment in the growth of generosity in your church and the world.
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.