The first-ever “Reclaiming Biblical Stewardship” conference was held at the Ramsey headquarters in Brentwood, TN from Nov 5-7. Dave is seeking to intentionally expand his message of Biblically-driven stewardship to church leaders, helping them leverage their influence to help believers effectively manage their God-given resources to advance the Kingdom.
The conference coincides with the recently launched StewardshipCentral.org - a valuable new resource for pastors seeking to promote biblical stewardship in their churches.
As might be expected for a Ramsey-led conference, there was an all-star line-up of anointed leaders. These included Ron Blue and Howard Dayton, two of Dave’s own mentors; Dave’s daughter Rachel Cruze, author of the new book Smart Money, Smart Kids; best-selling Christian author and pastor Max Lucado; Rabbi Daniel Lapin; pastors Pete Wilson and Chris Brown; and even professional photographer Jeremy Cowart.
I was blessed to attend the conference with parishioners Jerry Fowler and Ed Wegscheid. The ten-hour drive each way (thanks Ed!) was totally worth it. Here are some take-aways for me:
Wealth = Kingdom building tool
Dave set the tone in his opening remarks by describing three prevalent spirits. Pride (wealth comes from my hard work); Poverty (wealth comes from the devil); Gratitude (wealth comes from God, who blesses us to be a blessing for others). Pride and Poverty undermine the gospel and thwart the Kingdom. Gratitude goes with stewardship, resulting in generous giving to God and others. In this context, wealth is useful. The Good Samaritan had a beast and spare cash; without it, he could never have helped the beaten man. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Vision exceeds Resources !?
Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, observed that for good pastors, vision always exceeds funding. But how to advance the vision when 70% of the congregation is in serious debt? It starts with leadership. Pastors need to teach and model biblical stewardship. “You can’t shepherd hearts without shepherding pocketbooks - which means shepherding attitudes.” Wilson gave lots of helpful advice for preaching and teaching on money, including this Andy Stanley gem: “I don’t want something from you, I want something for you.”
Let’s say a charismatic, Spirit-filed pastor succeeds in firing up his congregation to love their neighbor, serve the poor, and advance the Kingdom. People are rearing to go out, spread the good news, and reach the lost! But... the problem is, they just can’t. They have spent too much, owe too much, work too much. They are intentioned for ministry - but not positioned for it. Stewardship bridges this gap. Without some level of margin and freedom, resources are frozen, and the best Kingdom intentions will be thwarted.
Idolatry is the Enemy - not Money
The god of the age is “stuff.” Idolatry of money shrivels the heart and makes an end out of the means. St Paul did not say money was the root of all evil; the love of money is. Jesus said, no man can serve two masters. God is master; money is servant. Gratitude sees wealth as a gift from God, to be used for advancing the Kingdom. In this sense, our relationship to money is an important spiritual issue, falling well within the purview of the pastor.
Stewards, not Owners
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24:1) God is the owner; we are the stewards. We are called to manage the Master’s assets with which we have been entrusted. The ownership mentality breeds entitlement and hoarding; while stewardship breeds gratitude, leading to the generosity of open hands and hearts. Reclaiming the biblical definition of stewardship means changing the thinking of believers. “We’ve got to help them stop thinking like owners and start acting like managers,” says Dave.
I have to confess that I have too little considered my responsibility as pastor to equip people to manage their resources in the way that God intended. 15% of all Jesus said in the gospels had to do with possessions, while the Bible itself contains 2350 verses on the subject. Handling money and managing personal resources is a crucial part of every adult’s life. It’s clearly an important part of God’s plan - so why not a part of ours? How could a conscientious pastor neglect to include this aspect in his ministry?
Rachel Cruze gave a gripping presentation on the debt slavery of today's young adults - "the most indebted generation in history." Parents have the crucial role of teaching their children how to handle money and stay out of debt. Rachel's years of experience speaking at schools around the country have indicated that parents are simply not parenting on this issue. Indebted parents feel hypocritical and ill-equipped, so they neglect the issue altogether. Debt is a thief, stealing income and peace of mind. If parents do not teach, their children are liable to be life-long debt slaves.
It’s Not Just About Money
One of the most moving presentations was not about money at all. Photographer-philanthropist Jeremy Cowart's spoken-word voice-over video blew everyone’s minds. In it, he told how his artistic gifts were revealed and released for incredible purposes in the world: giving hope to the hopeless in poor America; voice to the voiceless in earthquake-ravaged Haiti; documenting the power of radical forgiveneness in Rwanda. Fueled by his father’s repeated declaration that he could do all thing in Christ who strengthens him (Phil 4:13), Jeremy has stewarded his talent and creativity to help thousands.
And so much more...
We began and ended everything with prayer. We worshiped frequently. Honor and love were exhibited throughout the conference. There was that rare feeling one gets upon entering the established domain of an extremely good leader, a sense of rightness and order and hope and safety. Dave Ramsey’s company is consistently voted among the happiest workplaces in Nashville, and it does not take long to see why. Every detail of the conference exuded class, care, and excellence. I kept thinking of Matthew 13:52 and Prov 24:3-6.
“I can’t do what God has laid on my heart without you,” Dave told the audience of over 200 people, mostly pastors. What God has laid on his heart is to offer Biblically-based, common sense education and empowerment giving hope to everyone.
Dave Ramsey has been stewarding God’s dream of financial peace to millions of people over two and a half decades. He is now equipping pastors and congregations to help their people regain financial freedom, reclaim biblical stewardship, and advance the Kingdom of God in exciting and creative new ways. I feel blessed to be a part of this anointed movement of God!
May God, who has begun this good work, bring it to completion - in me, in my congregation, and in everyone who attended this wonderful conference!