EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was first published in the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) weekly online newsletter, The Stewardship Journal, which offers practical advice and tips on your church’s financial health. To subscribe to the journal, visit https://mobaptist.org/stewardship/stewardship-journal.
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptists are blessed with great leaders and pastors who model biblical stewardship.The Stewardship Journal will be featuring many of these leaders in interviews and posts. In this article, Executive Director John Yeats interviews MBC President Jon Nelson. Pastor Nelson made history last fall, becoming the MBC’s first black President. He is an MBC church planter and pastor of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City.
The focus of this article is on the pastor’s role in building a stewardship platform. We thought it would be good to hear from a pastor. Who better than our Convention President? It’s part of our commitment to helping you increase stewardship at your church. I think you’ll enjoy this exchange:
John Yeats: Pastor, first, congratulations on being elected to serve as MBC President.
Jon Nelson: Thank you, Dr. Yeats, I appreciate that. It is a wonderful and humbling opportunity.
Yeats: Jon, we wanted to interview you not only because of your office, but we wanted a pastoral perspective when it comes to stewardship. So, let me ask how important is it for the senior pastors to be involved in stewardship?
Nelson: Extremely important. I see over and over that the direction of a church is determined by those in the pulpit. The Senior Pastor not only must support stewardship, but he needs a heart for stewardship as well. We must model what we preach and teach. I try to lead in cultivating that weekly at our church.
Yeats: Amen! Let’s pick up on your last statement about cultivating that weekly. Can you give an example?
Nelson: Let me share a bit of my spiritual journey in stewardship that I think will illustrate what I mean. The church that I first attended after coming to Christ never took up an offering. They had offering boxes that you had to find in order to give. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot at that church, just not about giving. I was blessed soon after I was saved to find a new church home where the pastor led in stewardship. Every Sunday, in both services, he would hold up an envelope and put his check in it, and then he would drop it in the offering plate. He led by example, and I have tried to take that example and build upon it.
I think it begins with a view that the offering is a time of worship. At our church, we call this part of the service “Worship through Giving.” I want to communicate that giving is rooted in Scripture, but I also want to show people what their gift does. We go out of our way to show people how their gift makes a difference. Each week we focus on some aspect of the impact giving can have through Baptist life and programs, pointing out that their gifts make this happen. Helping people understand the why of giving will lead to an increase in giving. I try as Senior Pastor to lead this every week.
At Soma, we focus on 5 Ways to Give. We teach that we are to give our time, talents, and treasure to the Lord. We also stress giving of the temple, our bodies, and living a life that reflects the Gospel well, reinforcing your testimony. We teach these five ways beginning with new members’ classes. Stewardship education must be a part of the discipleship process of the church.
Yeats: What do you see as one of the pastor’s biggest challenges in addressing stewardship?
Nelson: I think one of our greatest challenges is connecting with younger generations in a way that engages them to become good stewards. We all know that there is a passing of the generational baton, but I fear we have made some assumptions about the younger generations that are not helpful. People don’t feel like we truly understand them. We need to work on this. For one thing, I find most pastors assume their audience is more biblically literate than they are. We need to assume they know nothing and start with answering the question, “Why do we give?” It is not enough to say the Bible says to give. We must tell them why it says that. I find this is especially important to younger generations. When they grasp the why of giving, and see what giving can accomplish, they are all in.
Yeats: Jon, what about preaching on stewardship?
Nelson: I try to preach a series on stewardship every 12 to 18 months. Again, I think we assume people know what the Bible says about things like stewardship, when in fact they do not. Regularly preaching on stewardship helps you disciple your congregation.
But for me, teaching on stewardship is also a weekly event when we focus on worship through giving. We must not think that the only time we teach stewardship is in sermons. Preaching once or twice a year on stewardship isn’t enough in and of itself. Yet, I find that too many churches have shied away from any preaching and teaching on the subject, so many churches are experiencing financial difficulties.
Yeats: Jon, thanks for sharing your thoughts with the MBC family. We are looking forward to more posts from you in the weeks to come.