March 13, 2017

Stewarding Leadership

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A Note from Luminex: Starting today and continuing for 10 weeks, each of our Monday blogs will be focused on an essential leadership attribute. In the coming weeks, we’ll share thoughts on compassionate leadership, joyful leadership, innovative leadership, and much more. Today Dan Ackerman kicks off our leadership series by sharing his thoughts on stewarding leadership.

When I was a senior in high school, my parents announced that they were going to spend four months in Australia – and leave me at home. My father, a pastor, had the opportunity to take a sabbatical that would allow my mom and him to pastor a church, travel in Australia and visit a newly born grandchild who lived there.  One day, as my parents’ departure approached, my dad took me down to the bank. We walked in, but we didn’t go to the usual teller window. Instead, we went to one of the larger desks near the back. Behind it, a bank manager rose and greeted my dad. Over the next 30-40 minutes, I read and signed forms, found out my parents had a safety deposit box (who knew) and was given power of attorney over my parents’ finances and estate – all at 17 years old. In a few relatively short minutes, I was given a bunch of new responsibilities – including sending in my parents’ quarterly tax payment – to perform on behalf of my parents. In a few short minutes, I received a crash course in what it meant to be a steward of everything my parents owned.

A steward is not an owner. A steward leads from the trust placed in her or him by the owner (you can debate my parents wisdom in choosing me at 17 to do this). Many years later, I read a book by R. Scott Rodin, The Steward Leader (2010), that helped me sort out what my parents did to me during that year of my life. Rodin contends that Christian leaders are created to live as stewards in “joyful response to the God who is for us in Jesus Christ.” He further maintains that healthy leaders must recognize that “our salvation and our understanding of our call to be stewards are based on our participation in a gracious act already completed for us.”

Since reading this book, I often catch myself acting as if I own the office where I work. I find myself using “my” in front of the name of a church or a ministry I lead. I find myself thinking, “What do I have to do to grow this ministry?” or, “What do I do to solve this situation?”  Later, when I reflect on those moments, I really want an alarm to go off inside me – like a warning light in a car – that warns me that I’m stepping over a line. I want that warning signal to tell me I’m starting to act like I own something of which I’m really a steward. The good news is that sometimes that happens. The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t. Building and recognizing that warning light is one of many challenges that a healthy leader faces.

In the world in which we live leaders are tempted to see themselves as owners – responsible for things – because the leader gets the press. The leader gets the notoriety. The leader gets the promotion. Sometimes, the leader actually physically even becomes an owner (think stock options, etc.).  But in God’s kingdom, there is only one owner who should get all the glory – the God who accomplished our salvation. Those of us who are leaders in that kingdom are called to be content as stewards, living out our “joyful response to the God who is for us in Jesus Christ.”

In Ephesians 1, Paul writes a prayer that I believe was born of his own understanding of being a steward leader.  Let me close by praying it over you using the words of Eugene Peterson, who writes it this way in The Message.

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

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