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Book Review: “Stewardshift: An Economia for Congregational Change”

Stewardshift: An Economoia for Congregational Change
Stewardshift — Bob Sitzeby Bob Sitze
Morehouse Publishing, 2016
Available from Cokesbury

While the church is undergoing change, we can encourage shifts in thinking about stewardship for renewal. The word ‘steward’ is “a continually active verb,” Sitze explains, as he urges us to keep moving forward in our thinking and practices about stewardship (p. 95). Updating our ways of communication will help us reach younger generations. Informed by his career as a leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Sitze distills wisdom about the life of the steward from a range of contemporary sources.

The first-century Greek word from which our term “economy” derives is “economos,” whom Sitze describes as a manager “who carried out the economia (plan) of a frequently absent estate owner” (p. 2). As stewards of God’s economy, we must carry out his will in the absence of an exact plan (p. 100). An overarching goal is to equip church members “to be effective stewards of God’s will out there in their worlds of influence, relationships and power” (p. 247).

Shifts in our understanding of Scripture occupy the first third of the book. Drawing on recent research by biblical scholars, Sitze proposes some alternative ways to interpret familiar texts. He points out that Jesus’ parables criticize the “injustice perpetrated by the haves on the have-nots of his time” (p. 18). He also notes ways in which the apostle Paul’s understanding of Christ built on God’s revelation in the Old Testament. Specific passages in wisdom literature, teachings of the prophets, psalms and epistles may expand and enrich our conversations about stewardship and Christian living.

Sitze also discusses best practices in the business world that may assist the church. Members may be familiar with these in their life at work or through volunteering in their community. He observes that clergy frequently reflect on the spiritual aspects of giving but have less experience in the world of finance than church members. He addresses relevant concepts in secular financial planning and philanthropy and recommends helpful resources. In the majority of the book, he draws intriguing connections to stewardship from developments in the fields of neuroscience, positive psychology, the simple lifestyle movement, and community organizing. Creative ideas to apply practices in your church are offered in sections called “What You Might Do” near the end of the chapters on secular wisdom. Hopeful yet realistic, Sitze includes a variety of innovative ideas to engage people of all ages in our vital calling of living as a steward.