Scripture emphasizes stewardship. Many of Jesus' parables deal either directly or indirectly with stewardship issues. Why is stewardship so important?
I believe it is because it is an outward visible indicator of an inner spiritual condition. Show me how someone handles their money and material possessions and it tells me volumes about their relationship with God. The same can be said for a couple and the same can be said for a church. How a church deals with financial and material issues speaks loud and clear about that church's relationship with God.
In regard to a church dealing with money, many words could be used but I focus on three key words: integrity, accountability and witness.
If finances are handled with integrity it is done with honesty, accuracy and truthfulness. Integrity can be described as the opposite of hypocrisy. When a church and its leaders handle finances with integrity they do it based on the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
This is critical. On a basic level this includes things like tracking how much comes in, who it comes from and what it's used for. A church must have good internal controls and there must be a healthy transparency. On a higher level, it recognizes that all persons who handle money in the church recognize that it is God's money. It does not belong to any one individual or group of people in the church. Though it may be done with good intentions, whenever a person or group in the church approaches the money like they are the owners, problems will eventually develop.
The way a church handles its finances and material possessions will present either a positive or negative witness to the community. An individual's witness is made stronger or weaker by their reputation. The same is true of a church. Over time, a church and its leadership gets a reputation for how they handle financial issues. That reputation then impacts the church's collective witness to church members and to lost people in the community.
These three words are connected and in reality are three ways of expressing a very similar concept. It is important we make sure people handling any part of the church finances are doing it in a way that helps facilitate, enhance and strengthen the ministries of the church.
Don Spencer is Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Financial Benefits Consultant.