Preaching and Stewardship: Proclaiming
God's Invitation to Grow
by Craig A. Satterlee
Alban Institute, 2011
Available from Cokesbury
What if pastors steadfastly focus on the good news of God in Christ when they preach to inspire generosity? With a positive emphasis, ministers may deflect the spotlight away from themselves and counteract expectations that they function as fundraisers in the pulpit. The Rev. Dr. Craig Satterlee cautions us about the “inherent tension between preaching to shape people’s values, attitudes, habits and behaviors over time and preaching to produce the financial resources the church needs today” (page 13). He believes that faithful preaching on stewardship honors the primacy of God’s grace. Preachers must “proclaim the unconditional love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and only then… invite people to grow in giving in response to the gospel” (19). We must not overlook the action of the Holy Spirit when God’s word is proclaimed. As Satterlee explains, “God gives, and then God both invites and empowers us to participate in what God is giving and doing” (27). Our monetary gifts to the church share God’s love in the world.
Satterlee is a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and a professor at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. His books on preaching, liturgy, and change are grounded in his reflections on leadership in local churches. Biblical theology is at the heart of this book, especially in his dynamic work in chapters 3 through 6. Satterlee counsels pastors to follow their beliefs in the practice of ministry. He provocatively asks if our church’s fundraising practices are congruent with, and serve to amplify, sound preaching practices, or if they instead undermine and contradict them (18-19).
Satterlee sagely discusses the anxiety that pastors and church members feel about stewardship sermons in chapter 7. He encourages us to boldly face and name the spiritual challenges of “the power of mammon” in chapters 4 and 7. An especially insightful section from one of his sermons asks us to consider seriously how our “barns”—our home, possessions, career, busy schedules—make demands of us, even our life, as in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:16-21 (61-64). His goal is to help pastors preach the full range of biblical views of giving (46-49) in ways that connect with people’s experiences, including children and youth.
His commentary on the development of preaching on giving in American churches is instructive for understanding the background of contemporary stewardship issues. Although he doesn’t use the term “year-round” stewardship, chapter 8 demonstrates many ways that pastors and lay leaders can work together on complimentary efforts such as pledge cards, Dedication Sunday, and fellowship meals, to support people’s responses to the gospel. A multi-faceted approach relieves the pressure for a single annual sermon to convince people to give generously.
Preachers may apply Satterlee’s insights to their sermon preparation by reflecting on questions at the end of each chapter. A helpful Appendix, “Money and Giving in the Revised Common Lectionary,” provides brief points of contact for stewardship themes in the lectionary passages for Sundays. For example, Satterlee offers an alternate view of Matthew 6:1-21, suggesting that Jesus “invites us to train our hearts by putting our treasure where we want our hearts to be” (153). This book would be excellent for pastoral study and for church councils, or for clergy group discussions.