“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). God is the owner of every organization and the one who directs its future. We are stewards of the leadership positions we occupy and of the ministries entrusted to our care. This biblical understanding or theology of the steward informs our thinking and drives our practice. It shapes the way we lead and put God’s resources to work.
One aspect of the theology of the steward concerns our faithful administration and governance of churches and organizations. “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:4). The faithfulness of the steward involves knowing and executing the will of the owner. And how do we know the will of God for church and organizational settings? We study His Word.
I was the chief fundraiser for Asian Theological Seminary when it transitioned from American to Filipino leadership in the 1990s. For 16 years, I worked directly with Dr. Isabelo Magalit, the seminary’s first Filipino president. I learned from him that everything I do as a Christian fundraiser and as a manager must have a clear biblical basis. I had to know my Bible!
Who is a faithful steward?
A faithful steward knows the Word of God and aspires to live it out. A faithful steward knows the Creator intimately. As such, he/she strives to carry out His plans and purposes to reflect His design and desire for churches and organizations. Jesus, the model of a perfect steward, says, “For I have come down to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will” (John 6:38).
In the Philippines, we understand the meaning and the role of a steward. The word “steward” in Filipino is “katiwala,” which literally means “a trustee.” A trustee manages the affairs of the owner. Since he/she has been given the owner's trust, the steward ensures that he/she carries out his/her responsibilities to please the owner. This role gains greater importance for us as pastors and ministry administrators because we steward God’s mission and Kingdom work, and represent Him before a watching world.
What are the implications of the theology of the steward in our practice?
Whether we are planning, strategizing, implementing, monitoring, or evaluating aspects of ministry, we aim towards faithfulness to God’s Word. The Bible provides the best operational manual for doing ministry. Staying faithful to the Scriptures helps us move from surviving to thriving. It also ensures that our service reflects the values of the Kingdom such as love, justice, integrity, accountability, peace, and the total well-being of the community.
This theology also results in Kingdom building. A faithful steward strives to build the Kingdom of God and consciously avoids building a second kingdom. Fueled by the deceitfulness of human hearts, the second kingdom pursues pride, lust, and worldly desires. To guard against such, the faithful steward seeks peer accountability or makes himself/herself accountable to another. Success has a way of deluding us to self-reliance and independence from God and from others.
Lastly, this theology fosters flourishing in community. God lives in the fellowship of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As people created in the image of God, we value relationships and aspire to live in community and harmony with others. Organizationally, we cooperate and coordinate efforts with like-minded ministries. When we do this, we steward God’s resources with greater efficiency and effectiveness by combining our efforts and collaborating as God leads us.