Reading through the Stewardship Study Bible

About 4 months ago I purchased the Zondervan NIV Stewardship Bible. The idea of stewardship comes from the realization that at no time throughout scripture does God relinquish ownership of anything. Operating our lives from this standpoint is vastly different than the idea that God gives us ownership of what we have or who we are.

One of the most profound readings I’ve read is a commentary on Pride being one of our biggest obstacles to good stewardship. Pride puts us in the owner’s seat. It is impossible for God to be the Lord of our lives and for us live pridefully at the same time.

Pride of: Accomplishment, intellect, possessions, appearance, elitism and influence. Each one vies for us to create subjects, and each one gives Satan a foothold in our lives. He is the prince of pride. His reason for falling was pride. Pride in our lives gives birth to other sins, and ultimately to death.

Our lives are a struggle between master and mastered. Understanding our place helps us to submit our flesh to the one who owns our very being. This is what I’m wrestling out in myself… I’m dragging me out of myself. What do I own? Nothing. God is offended when I take any part of creation as unto my own. The Stewardship Bible is helping me to understand my role in stewarding my relationship to God, self, others and creation.

One of my favorite quotes is from Watchman Nee. “That strong self-assertive will of mine must go to the Cross, and I must give myself over wholly to the Lord. We cannot expect a tailor to make us a coat if we do not give him any cloth, nor a builder to build us a house if we let him have no building material; and in just the same way we cannot expect the Lord to live out His life in us if we do not give Him our lives in which to live. Without reservations, without controversy, we must give ourselves to Him to do as He pleases with us.”

This study Bible has quotes and commentaries from Larry Burkett, Dr. Scott Rodin, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Colson, John Piper and many more. It also provides an incredible index on savings, charity, the poor, debt and more. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this incredible resource, but it is already doing more than just scratching the  surface of me.

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David Sokol and Worldview.

David Sokol is the heir apparent to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. I recently read several articles about this astonishing executive. He’s smart, wealthy, driven and intentional; not the type of person that wastes energy or time.

The most interesting thing to me was how Sokol touts his organizational values. Several years ago he laid out his principles in Pleased but Not Satisfied, a short self-published book about his management beliefs. Sokol’s six laws are: operational excellence, integrity, customer commitment, employee commitment, financial strength and environmental commitment.

These are wonderful values, but in and of themselves they are powerless. What gives them power is the imposing personality of a leader who tirelessly drives them home. I don’t know how effective David Sokol is in helping to create workplace environments that aren’t dependent upon his powerful confidence and charisma. What I believe with all my heart is that without people who believe in the “why” you do what you do, the “how” and the “what” do not bring significance to the work.

The best description I have seen of this concept is found at TEDx. Worldview is critical to aligning values for people who are connected to an organization; whether it is a family, business or church. The Biblical Worldview Institute uses this same premise to develop an understanding of how worldview (why) drives values (how) that determines behavior (what). Go back and click the TEDx link above. You’ll be glad you did.

Stephen Covey writes about the why in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, see habit #3, “Begin with the end in mind”. He also addresses the “why” in The principles of Leadership. They’re both great reads and I highly recommend them. Covey drives home the fact that if we’re not intentionally principle-centric, then something else in our center (core purpose, or “why”).

If I met David Sokol, I would love to find out why he is driven to do what he does. Seeking money is not innately meaningful. It is a behavior (what) sculpted by values (how). One of his principles for business gives us particular insight into his how, but gives no indication of why. “Environmental Commitment” can be motivated out of a biblical stewardship theology, a monetary incentive, a personal affinity for creation or nature, or peer pressure. There are more potential “whys”, but of the four I listed, only one that does not change over time (biblical stewardship may manifest itself differently within a culture, but it does not change based on what people think).

What happens when principles are in conflict with each other? C.S. Lewis wrote, “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.” In Sokol’s case, his ethical instinct became in conflict with his financial strength instinct, when the Waxman-Markey Bill was making it’s way through Congress in 2009. Sokol helped to lead the effort to lobby in the senate to kill the bill in the Senate.

The instincts and principles of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and more were firmly opposed to Sokol’s environmental ethic. Their principle of conservation and protection of the environment is rarely subverted by a financial principle. On the whole, people I’ve met from those organizations are living primarily for the purpose of the environment (what). That may sound like a worldview, but the actual “why” of their existence is peer pressure that leads to situational ethics. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration, shared learning and synergistic relationships. Those are all noble efforts (how), but the core purpose of their organizations is, on the whole, poorly defined and feeble-founded. An exception within the environmental movement is The Evangelical Environmental Network,  claims to operate from the “why” of “tending to the garden” (a reference to the Genesis story of God entrusting Adam and his descendants to steward creation).

Why does David Sokol run businesses for Berkshire Hathaway? I’d like to know. Why did he (seemingly) oppose his environmental values by fighting the Waxman-Markey Bill? Because the “how” of his life was in conflict. I don’t know if his instincts were even at war with each other. Maybe it was such a simple financial decision that he never explored the environmental commitment that he claims to live.

Vacationaries

My first mission trip was in 1991 as a high school student traveling 1300 miles in a school bus from Seattle to Ensenada, Mexico. Our team of 65 youth and leaders from church spent a week digging out the basement of a small church building so children could have a separate room for Bible class. The cost of this adventure was in the range of 10,000 man-hours and $25,000.

The sentiment of those who completed the 12-day quest was unanimous; “It meant way more to me than it did to them (the people we served)”. I am certain that is true.

I am not attempting to dissuade anyone from serving abroad, but this is my still-developing theory that short-term missions do more harm to those who are served than if we didn’t go at all. The exception is short-term missionaries that provide a particular professional service to people who need that type of help (legal, medical, or engineering would all fit into this category).

Tony Campolo recently wrote about all of the problems created by well meaning religious tourists who are wreaking havoc on the post-earthquake Haitian culture.

“Haiti has continued in a downward spiral into greater and greater poverty and social disorganization, not in spite of all these “good works,” but in great part because of them. So much of what has been done in Haiti has disempowered Haitians and diminished their dignity by doing for them what they could have done for themselves.” Tony’s Blog, March 2, 2010.

I can picture these missionaries going in to build a church, or some other structure, flying in with power tools, seemingly limitless resources, possibly spending $50,000 to provide a solution to people who can’t even articulate the problem. Do they need a school? A church building? A store? A home? You cannot pretend to know the answer to the question until you immerse yourself in the need of the people.

I am reading “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The premise of their theology and philosophy of helping the poor is that all poverty is rooted in broken relationships. This is contrary to the prevailing thought that poverty is caused by one or more of the following, with the solution in parenthesis:

Lack of Knowledge (Provide Education)

Oppression by Powerful People (Work for Social Justice)

Personal Sins of the Poor (Evangelize and Disciple the Poor)

Lack of Material Resources (Give Material Resources to the Poor)

These are naïve and short-sighted solutions to the problem. Corbett and Fikkert theorize the following:

“(Missions and relief) exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically rich – their god-complexes – and the poverty of being of the economically poor – their feelings of inferiority and shame.” (Emphasis mine)

In other words: Well intentioned short-term paternalistic missionaries rob the poor of the joy of being a part of the solution. They do not really carry the burden of the poor, they take a Costco-sized sample, make a consumer-based decision for them (with THEIR money!), and go on to brag, even if only to themselves, about their experience.

Christ’s example does not allow us the luxury of living in two worlds. Their pain MUST become our pain (Luke 7:13 – read about compassion “splachna”). The poor MUST be a part of the solution (1 Tim 5:8). We must acknowledge our own brokenness (Romans 7:21). We MUST steward all that we have as Gods; never giving from our kingdom to His, but simply using what he has entrusted us to use as HE would see fit (Galatians 2:20).

Get to know someone, even if you never visit them oversees. Pray for them, even right now. Carry their burden. Know their families, and share in their pain and joy. Experience their suffering and, when the Lord leads, use what is in your power to transform their lives (Proverbs 3:27).

Vivid Description

A friend of mine is the president for a large design/build company. To average Joe, they are a construction company. To those who know, they are a community-driven people-first company. He is helping me to write our Rooftop 519 “Vivid Description”. The Vivid Description is a brief narrative of what our organization will look like when we achieve our strategic plan while living the values our culture agrees upon. Here is my first stab:

Long-Term Vivid Description

The Rooftop 519 movement connects millions of people in relationships that are deeply meaningful and help to complete their identity in Christ, and catalyzes them to fulfill the cause of Christ. We will help hundreds of thousands of children to be physically transformed from brokenness to wholeness. Our ability to tell the story of injured and ill children is the best in the world. Nearly everyone who hears our stories will be compelled to help. The name Rooftop 519 will become a household staple in the U.S. that represents the very best in Christian service. The worldwide perception of our organization will elicit feelings of compassion, respect and love.

Interim Vivid Description

Rooftop 519 is a social movement that engages millions of people in the cause of Christ through healing injured and ill children in his name. By 2012 we have healed over 100 children and engaged one million people to help kids reach healing. We set the industry standards for using media to tell their stories.

Our GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) adherence and best practices exceed the standards for excellence as identified by Guidestar, Charity Navigator and ECFA.

Our team of employees and volunteers live and breathe their purpose in life through the culture identified in our guiding principles.

The children who are treated through Rooftop 519 are meticulously monitored for progress before, during and post-treatment. Our team of experts establishes the best system for identifying children for treatment and connecting the resources they need for healing.

We partner with hundreds of nonprofit organizations worldwide. Our goal is to help other nonprofits fulfill their mission while simultaneously fulfilling ours.

Our relational mapping systems allow us to segment constituencies that allow us to engage people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be.

We envision a better solution to mobilizing resources and passions during Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHE’s). We will build the system that governments, NGO’s and other leaders look to when children are best served by coming to the U.S. for treatment after a CHE.

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I would love your feedback.

Mending Kids International

In this new wave of technology, you can’t do it all yourself, you have to form alliances. Carlos Slim Helu

A lot of people talk about partners, but what they really mean is that they want more people to get on board with their program. Partnership is not about convincing someone or a group of people that they should help you with your mission. It is about helping another person or organization achieve their mission in alignment with your own. The win-wins that ensue are inevitable.

I recently met with the leader of Mending Kids International (MKI), an organization that focuses on providing surgeries for children outside of the U.S. who cannot get help on their own. Marchelle Sellers began leading MKI 18 months ago, and she graciously gave me and one of our Rooftop 519 board members some of her time.

When the three of us entered the conference room at MKI, Marchelle was quick to open by telling us how much they rely on and look for partners. Churches, hospitals, clinics, and more… people and organizations that MKI is able to serve. The mission of Cure International is a great example. Cure International builds hospitals oversees, in underserved communities. MKI helps to find kids and get them to CI. MKI even raises money to offset the costs associated with these surgeries.

Maverick organizations are dying. In the for-profit world, organizations that isolate themselves from “outside” forces are struggling to keep up with nimble companies who find ways to help other organization while serving their own. Case in point: Google vs. Microsoft. Microsoft is a very good maverick organization. Only the U.S. Justice Department seems to have any influence with Uncle Bill and all of those that have “gone blue”.

Google is taking a different approach, and in just a few years they have built an organization that has almost half the total assets of Microsoft ($40 billion vs. Bill’s empire of $86 billion). Where Microsoft has tried to create or buy-out everything they retail, Google partners with AOL/Time Warner, NASA, Sun Microsystems and more to create better products. They have bought a few subsidiaries along the way, but their best successes come with help from partners through shared experiences.

At MKI (which doesn’t have assets in the billions, but does have the potential to serve millions of hurting and dying children), I heard Marchelle list off at least 10 partners and a potential partner during our meeting. This doesn’t water down their brand or effectiveness. On the contrary; I believe MKI is building a recognizable and sustainable brand that will influence people all over the globe. I hope I can help them to reach those kids.