It was Daniel’s first time visiting the workshop on effective stewardship and local fund development. Daniel had been a clergy member for almost 10 years with the Anglican Church of Kenya in his small town of South Kinangop.
Like most of the pastors of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Daniel’s salary had been cut drastically as a result of a drop in funding that had been provided by a benefactor from the West. Desperate for a way to get paid, Daniel approached the workshop with an eagerness to learn. Much of the conversation surrounding this three-day workshop was focused on the funding of ministries and in particular how pastors could get paid.
In an effort to refocus the workshop attendees on a more whole-life view of stewardship instead of simply focusing on finances, we tried an exercise we had not done before. Taking a whiteboard and a marker, we suggested that the participants create a list of all that God has trusted us with that is intangible. We wanted to get a better grasp of all that God has trusted us with beyond those things we can simply wrap our fingers around.
The list began slowly. From the back row one participant suggested, “our breath.” Another from somewhere in the middle of the room called out, “the Gospel message.” From there, words like “faith,” “grace,” “relationships,” and “time” started flowing faster than we could write. By the time we finished this list 72 words were written on the board. We then made this suggestion to the pastors that were present: “Perhaps instead of preaching sermons regarding money, giving, and your salaries, you might consider a four-week sermon series on the stewardship of things we cannot touch like those items listed here on the board.”
At the time we weren’t sure whether anyone would attempt this or even seriously consider it as an option. However, while teaching a different workshop six months later in another part of the country, we were approached by Daniel. Daniel’s request was similar to that of a number of pastors who have approached us while we were in Kenya. He asked, “Would you be able to preach in a couple of churches this coming Sunday?” Our response to questions like this is always the same, “You have a far better grasp of your culture and your people than we do. It makes much more sense for you to preach the sermon this Sunday than to have one of us there to preach for you.”
Daniel’s reply was a bit surprising. He told us that upon returning home from his initial workshop he was determined to attempt a four-week sermon series on the stewardship of things we cannot touch. He stated that the people in his congregation didn’t seem to understand generosity. He said, “There are approximately 100 people in our congregation and on a typical Sunday when you count up the entire collection from the offering it will total right around $2 US.” He continued, “Our people are poor, but they’re not that poor. It is almost as if instead of giving, my people are tipping God. It’s as if they are saying ‘thank you God for not messing up my life this week. Here are a few coins that should make you happy.’ I believe God wanted me to challenge this way of thinking and behavior. So I decided to take your challenge. I began a four-week sermon series on the stewardship of the intangible things God has trusted to our congregation.”
On the third Sunday of the sermon series Daniel saw that the offerings that week were slightly higher. He wondered if this was the beginning of something God was doing in the midst of His people. So he modified his plans and changed his four-week sermon series to an eight-week sermon series. Following his eight-week series on the intangible gifts God has given us to manage, he returned to teaching from the lectionary as was his habit.
It was now 14 weeks since Daniel began the sermon series on ‘stewarding the intangibles.’ He was now 6 weeks back into the lectionary. But on this Sunday, he began his sermon in a way that he and the church will never forget. He walked to a table carrying a large paper bag. He opened the bag and began to pour Kenyan shillings into a pile at the center of the table. As he finished he said to the congregation, “Because of your generosity and because you desire that the resources you have been entrusted with by God be used to build His kingdom, we have paid off all of our debts and I, your pastor, have all of my back salary through today. What is piled on this table is what is left over from your generosity, and as stewards of this money we need to decide together how we are going to best use this to advance God’s Kingdom.”
The congregation met late into the afternoon that Sunday until they were all in agreement that the money should be used to plant two new churches. Today if you travel 3 km to the east of South Kinangop Anglican church you will find the first church that they planted now with a congregation of approximately 110 people. And if you were to travel 5 km to the west of South Kinangop Anglican Church you would find a second new church with 89 people in the congregation.
It was these two new churches that Daniel wanted us to speak at that coming Sunday. What a pleasure it was to plant trees on the property as a sign of permanence and new life and to fellowship with new believers who are in the kingdom today because one congregation powerfully exhibited what effective stewardship can look like in the life of their community. A humble yet passionate leader led a congregation beyond tipping God. They grew from gratuity to generosity through the effective stewardship of their lives and their resources.