by Erik Hall planter of Barnegat Anew inBarnegat, New Jersey
One thing you cannot do in a new church-plant is sit on the sidelines. In existing churches with long histories, stable ministries, and solid financial foundations, some folks choose to be by-standers without any real time, energy, or financial commitment. Despite this, these churches are able to continue with some health and vitality because of the faithful ministry and stewardship of others.
In a new church-plant there is no such luxury. Everyone participates fully or the project is likely to fail. New church planting is not for the faint of heart, not for the spiritually immature, and certainly not for the by-stander who wants to keep their time, talent, and treasure in their pockets. Every initiative is taken on with the conviction that God has sent us on this mission and with the priority-one commitment that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will bring the transformative truth of the Gospel to the people around us.
In our beginning phases, when people and dollars were fewer than they are now, we realized that only those who truly treasured the mission of our new church (as an extension of their own relationship with Jesus Christ), remained committed and engaged. Therefore, at Waretown/Barnegat Anew we try and model all of our stewardship (time, talent, and treasure) around Matthew 6:19-21:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” NRSV
Of course, competing life and life-choices often get in the way of our priority-one commitment to God, so when we model our stewardship, we support it with teaching and resourcing around three key areas:
- Seeking first the Kingdom of God. Recognizing that many things which our culture values primarily (career, fame, wealth, entertainment, and material security) we should only value secondarily, if at all. No compromise on participating fully in the community of faith and no compromise in the development of our spiritual discipline and our growing maturity as faithful disciples.
- Putting passion to work. Recognizing that God has gifted each of us uniquely and we should be intentional about choosing who, what, when, where, and how we serve. Our talents and passion point us in the direction God has called us.
- Our finances reflect our faith. Recognizing that our checkbook is more or less an accurate record of what we treasure. Good stewardship begins with good personal financial planning and good personal financial discipline. As a person’s personal finances get on the road to health (or recovery), the natural extension of priority is to express faithful commitment to God through the church and its mission by giving sacrificially.
This is a continual process of learning and relearning, practicing and re-practicing, growing and re-growing, and while we are not perfect, our hope is that our hearts and treasures continue to reflect more and more our mission for Jesus as a new church-plant.
We have so many talents and gifts that lie buried deep within us waiting to be put in service to Christ mission. What has your church uncovered?