Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Stewardship of Influence and Affluence, Part 1

I just got home from a leadership meeting that was amazing. We watched a video of a message by Rick Warren that he delivered at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2005. I have gone to a satellite broadcast of this in years past, but Angela and I were on our honeymoon during this one (I don't regret missing!!!). I encourage all of you to attend the Willow Creek Leadership Summit at a satellite location near you. You will find it is one of the best training seminars around.

Getting back to the issue at hand, Warren did a fantastic job. His message was touching, heartfelt, thought provoking, and completely relevant. My respect for Warren greatly increased after hearing this message. It inspired me so much that I thought I would do a several part series on different points he made. Warren talks about how God took something very simple, The Purpose Driven Life, and made it into the best selling American book of all time. This brought in ridiculous amounts (millions) of money (Affluence) and took a small farm boy from a town of 500 people and made him into a celebrity (Influence). Warren shares the story of how he came to deal with these two huge issues; issues that changed his life. Now, Warren is talking on the macro-scale, but I think we who are on the micro-scale can glean from this wisdom as well. Rick and his wife made five decisions in response to the increase in finances. Here they are, with my commentary:

1. "Our Lifestyle Will Not Change"

Rick and his life decided that even though millions of dollars were pouring in, they felt that they should not change their lifestyle from what is was before all of money and fame arrose, which we would probably call middle class. They still live in the same house they lived in 25 years ago when they started the church in their basement. Rick mentioned that he only owns 2 suits. Their lifestyle did not change. Amazing! I am not sure if I could do that. Honestly, if money was pouring in faster than I could spend it, I would be tempted to spend a lot of it on "stuff." I'd want a better car and a nice house and a boat etc. But I think they were wise to do what they did. This helps them guard against materialism, in a consumer driven age where it is so prevalent. How is your financial lifestyle reflecting God?

2. "We Will Stop Taking a Salary from the Church"

In order to better serve his body, the local church that he was called to, he no longer accepts any salary from Saddleback Community church. Amazing! A person sure has to have their priorities strait, their heart in the right place, their call secure if they will work for free. I would love to be able to do that. What a great act of love in this day in age.

3. "We Will Pay Back All of the Salary we have Taken from the Church Since we Started"

I know, it is crazy. Rick mentioned that one of the most common criticisms he heard of pastors was that they were all in it for the money. So, in response, he paid back his combined salary from 25 years of service. This touches my heart in an amazing way.

4. "We Will Start 3 Foundations to Help Others"

The 3 they started were The Mercy Foundation, which is to help stop the AIDS epidemic, Equipping the Church, which helps small churches who cannot pay a pastor, and the Global Peace Fund. Rick commented that if we are to truly be like Jesus, we must be exemplary givers. In what ways are you giving?

5. "We Will Reverse Tithe"

Rick and his wife felt God calling them to give 90% of their income away and live on only 10%. Again, this is to ensure that materialism never creeps in and their hearts are always focused on the mission at hand.

Is your financial life in order? It is one of the most accurate ways to tell how committed a person is, particularly in America. How has our culture become so amazingly materialistic in such a short amount of time? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Nonetheless, I think the Warrens are great examples of how we should live. That is not to say we all need to reverse tithe etc., but it is not hard to tell where their priorities are when looking at their life.

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