NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Neither guilt over lost souls nor the need to be obedient to God have proven to be motivators for Christian stewardship, Jerry Rankin told state stewardship leaders meeting at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Sept. 18-19.
Rankin, president of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, said stewardship “is a matter of lifestyle choices motivated by one’s relationship with God and a passion for him.
“People are not motivated by lostness,” Rankin observed, citing statistics he has used widely in public settings to demonstrate the need to take the gospel to vast numbers who have not heard the message.
“We have an ego-centric theology,” he said, in which many persons behave “as if God died just to save me.”
Referencing the mandate of the Great Commission, Rankin also said, “You’d think we’d be motivated by a sense of obedience to the Great Commission. But if we are not motivated by obedience, we will not be motivated by a sense of obligation to stewardship.”
Paired with a lack of motivation is the problem of attractive appeals the world makes to Christians for their money.
“We have been duped into a level of consumerism in terms of what we have to have,” he said.
Financial institutions that make enticing appeals for credit cards with which to buy more things, he said, are as evil as organizations that entice persons with pornography.
“A lot of what investment firms feed us is the hype of what we are going to need for the future,” he observed, “not your lifestyle and what your needs are now.”
He said the motivation for stewardship should be that “we are blessed, not for our own benefit, but we are blessed in order to be a blessing.”
“Why does God bless us with a secure job and a steady income but for the purpose of giving to those in need? What greater need,” he continued, “than that of those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel?
“If we fail to be obedient in being a blessing to others, we have no reason to expect God to bless us.”
Rankin also questioned the use of church or ministry needs as an attempt to motivate persons to give more generously.
“If people are beaten over the head and sent on a guilt trip because we have needs, that is an end-means inversion. The reason people give is a need — the need to glorify God and be obedient to his lordship. That is the only legitimate reason to give.
“Supporting the church budget, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program and the International Mission Board are not reasons to give. The objective is reaching a lost world. The church budget, the denomination, the Cooperative Program and the International Mission Board are just channels for people to be obedient to the Great Commission.”
While Rankin said he is “encouraged as I see the increased giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering” in recent years, he told state stewardship leaders that giving should result from “a passion for God, not for program support.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: RANKIN DISCUSSES STEWARDSHIP.