Book Review: 'Stewardship in African-American Churches: A New Paradigm'
Stewardship in African-American Churches: A New Paradigm
by Melvin Amerson.
Revised edition. (Discipleship Resources, 2015) 135 pages
Available at the Upper Room bookstore
The revised edition of this excellent guide includes a new chapter on “Capital and Smaller Campaigns.” The first edition was a classic in church generosity. While grounded in African-American church experiences, its teachings may be applied to all kinds of congregations. Amerson is an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference. His pastoral ministry informs his work as a resource specialist for the Texas Methodist Foundation. Rev. Amerson is also the co-author with his brother James of Celebrating the Offering and its companion volume, Fruit for Celebrating the Offering.
In “Developing a Theology of Generosity,” Amerson’s biblical teaching on stewardship soars. He analyses Scripture passages with life application questions that pastors may use with church officers (27-37). He avoids the false hopes of a prosperity gospel, saying, “Our windfall or harvest from God often comes in the form of life-transforming ministry” (36). His reflections provide inspiration for sermons to uplift and challenge people to greater faithfulness in giving.
The heart of the book tackles fears and misconceptions in “Leadership Roles in Stewardship.” Amerson urges pastors to develop a teamwork approach with others. He explains, “Clergy and laity need each other in the undertaking of a stewardship paradigm shift” (40). He advises to always use the Bible and encourage others to give testimonies (44). Leaders can influence others, remembering that generosity is measured “in the spirit in which it is given” (40).
Prayer is a dynamic feature of “Stewardship in a New Era.” When pastors and leaders share a vision of serving in partnership with Jesus, their plans may result in a shift to a culture of generosity. Amerson recommends a variety of opportunities for all members to uphold the church in prayer during stewardship month (52). By inviting people to commit to praying for the church, the spiritual and personal dimensions are made clear. He even calls a quarterly giving statement a “Statement of Celebration” in order to focus on gratitude for the Lord’s work (53).
The goal of stewardship education is to “help people develop a lifestyle of stewardship” (66-67). Amerson advises, “do not apologize for what the Bible says about honoring the Lord with your gifts” (76). This wisdom is woven throughout the book. By being intentional, pastors and leaders can have a lasting impact. We model the spiritual maturity that we hope will develop in others. When we consider what is of ultimate importance, our faith keeps other things in perspective.
Summarizing his message, Amerson writes, “leaders lead, and campaigns are faith-raisers!” (100). He advises pastors to “Lead believers to a place where generous people worship and serve with generous hearts, as they steward their God-given potential” (100). This book should be read by all pastors and church officers who seek to develop a flourishing culture of generosity.