Many compelling reasons for a major, denomination-wide emphasis on Christian stewardship can be named, but there is only one ultimate reason.
The compelling, but not ultimate, reasons are worthy of consideration.
Doors are open to enlarge the worldwide ministries of the church. The Brethren blend of practical social action and wholistic evangelism speaks to increasing numbers of people around the world, particularly in such places as Nigeria, Latin America and Sudan. Nearer home, new church development in the United States and Puerto Rico is emerging as a major new adventure in the '80s. In order to offer our partnership in these places, near and far, we need additional resources.
The quest for justice and peace is becoming more urgent. Currently honesty, fairness, and social development are being sacrificed on the altar of Mars, the god of military might. The bold initiatives once called for in order to assure that "within a decade no child will go to bed hungry" have been abandoned. Even the cherished goal of a balanced federal budget has been sacrificed in the consuming zeal for national security. Brethren, the quest for peace, even for survival, requires no less sacrifice. Let us commit time, energy and dollars to the challenge of peacemaking, beginning in our local congregations and reaching to the uttermost parts of the earth.
A denomination-wide stewardship emphasis is needed to undergird efforts to address the challenge of developing church leadership. We need to call and train capable pastors and leaders at all levels of the church, including leadership for small congregations.
The peril of affluence is a personal reason to emphasize Christian stewardship. Although we may think that we are not wealthy, in the eyes of most of the world we are. Remembering "how hard it is to be rich and still keep the milk of human kindness," we need those appeals that warm our hearts and unfreeze our hands and eyes. And remembering how tempting it is for the affluent to become self-reliant rather than God-reliant, we need a renewed understanding of Christian stewardship.
Gratitude is still another compelling reason. Despite the perils of the world in which we live, we have been wonderfully blessed. Let us remember that life expectancy has been extended, health is improving, technology is providing many benefits and conveniences, our homes are more comfortable and attractive, our educational systems provide enlightenment and training. To celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God and to express our gratitude in acts of worship, we are invited to bring our gifts.
The ultimate reason, though it incorporates the compelling reasons, reaches beyond them. Simply put, it is Christ.
Only because of Christ do we dare to call upon people to reexamine the priorities of their lives and their churches and to contribute more generously. We have felt His claim upon our lives, our personhood, and our possessions. Because He valued all life in this world, we seek also to take care of the earth, the land, the air, the oceans, the rivers, the lakes, the plants, and the animals. Because He responded to human need in His time, we now in His name seek to continue to carry out His ministry through the church. Because He lived and died to liberate men and women from sin and death, we seek now to live sacrificially in order to be good stewards of this gospel. Although Christ may not require the vow of poverty, He does expect that we dedicate to His work ourselves and all we have - 100 percent.
Brethren congregations need help in challenging members to grow in Christian stewardship. One measure of stewardship-the proportion of our income shared with the church for all its ministries -averages about 2.6 percent for Our members. The 1979 Annual Conference called on us to increase this level to 5 percent by the end of the decade of the 1980s. To date, the progress has been minimal.
The self-allocation system of providing congregational support for outreach ministries -currently called Mission '80s-was adopted by Annual Conference in 1960. The basic idea was to Structure a more unified set of outreach ministries while continuing to place the support decisions with the individual congregation. In recent years there have been signs that improvements are needed to the Mission '80s model to provide a greater challenge to the congregations as they develop their outreach ministries.
In response to these needs the General Services Commission of the General Board in its March 1984 meeting discussed the need to find new ways of' assisting congregations in challenging their members to growth in financial stewardship and in outreach support. A committee of six persons was named to develop a program design to work at these issues. The original committee consisted of Guy Wampler, Jr., pastor, Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Darryl Deardorff, management consultant, Dayton, Ohio; James Kinsey, executive of the Michigan District; Donald Rowe, executive of the Mid-Atlantic District; Connie Burk, staff for stewardship education; and Dale Minnich, staff for congregational support.
Bethany Theological Seminary affirmed its readiness to join the effort, since this is in the spirit of the 1974 Annual Conference "Plan to Establish a Bethany Seminary Fund" which calls upon the General Board and the Bethany Theological Seminary Board and their staffs to plan and arrange for "unified promotion of the Brotherhood Fund and the Bethany Fund." Kenneth Frantz and E. Floyd McDowell of the Seminary staff joined the committee to represent Bethany. Later as the program design began to unfold, Dale Minnich was named staff for the committee and Connie Andes, executive of the General Services Commission, assumed the vacated position on the committee.
This report of the Adventure in Mission Committee to Annual Conference is brought with the support of the General Board, the Bethany Seminary Board, and the Council of District Executives.
The committee concluded that a denomination-wide emphasis on Christian stewardship is needed. The emphasis, called Adventure in Mission, represents a partnership among the General Board, the Seminary, the district, and the local church. It has the following goals:
Components of Adventure in Mission
The Adventure in Mission effort represents an important enterprise for the Church of the Brethren, offering an opportunity to expand the church's ministry. Even more significant, it offers an opportunity to join together in a joyous adventure of faith.
On behalf of the General Board, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Council of District Executives, the committee commends Adventure in Mission to the congregations.
Elaine Sollenberger, Chair
Robert W. Neff, General Secretary
Action of the General Board, March 1985: to endorse the report of the Adventure in Mission Committee to Annual Conference.
Action of 1985 Annual Conference: Harold I. Mohler, Standing Committee delegate from the Missouri District, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that Annual Conference adopt the report of the Adventure in Mission Committee as sent by the General Board to Annual Conference and give strong encouragement to the congregations to give this new denomination-wide stewardship emphasis their energetic support. The recommendation was adopted by the delegate body with one amendment for which the wording was incorporated into the paper as it is now printed.