Published July 10, 2014
If new state missionary Scott Preissler had a television persona, it might be closer to myth buster than anything else.
Preissler, who joined the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Cooperative and Stewardship Program ministry team in December, is perhaps the nation’s most knowledgeable person when it comes to stewardship and giving. Over the past 30 years he has amassed the world’s largest intellectual property collection on biblical stewardship, including thousands of pieces on Christian stewardship dating back more than 900 years from cultures around the world.
On three dates in September and October he will be addressing the myths that allege that evangelicals are still being educated on the topic in the home, church, and Christian institutions of higher education.
Would that it were so.
Preissler has extensive documentation on the rise and fall of steward leadership among evangelical Christians. At the conference he will introduce the BEST Stewardship (Balance, Excellence, Stewardship Service, Trust) concept developed by thought leader Jack Shaw.
His collection of material spans the reference collection for the Library of Congress, artifacts such as the world’s largest group of offering envelopes, and plates, boxes, and pole bags used to collect gifts from worshippers. Rounding out the collection is the world’s most expansive assembly of stewardship art ranging from paintings, etchings and engravings, to modern prints, and archives from stewardship organizations that no longer exist.
Funding the spread of the Gospel
All of the items chronicle how stewardship has propelled the rapid spread of the Gospel.
That is, until now.
What was once a powerful movement of evangelicals sharing their material as well as intellectual gifts has now sputtered to a record low amount of contributions. And it’s not all on purpose or by accident.
The problem is not that evangelicals became at odds with stewardship, but that they simply stopped talking and preaching about it. And when they stopped educating others, giving decreased in importance, he states.
Preissler will chronicle that decline in the lectures – each of which are identical – on September 15, 29, and on October 14. The sessions, which are open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Baptist Missions and Ministry Center and conclude at 8:30. Attendees will be able to view sections of the historic collection on display throughout the building
Reservations can be made by calling Karen Wheeler in the Executive Office at (770) 936-5204. Admission is free but reservations will provide an idea of how many guests will attend.
“Stewardship is everything we do after we say we believe. The Greatest Generation and those that came before it provided the strong foundation for all that we do today,” Preissler believes.
Starving the missions enterprise
“If we don’t make some serious corrections we who live in abundance, will starve that great missions enterprise which they passed down to us; it’s all about teaching the next generations.”
Preissler maintains that since the 1600s, evangelicals of all persuasions have taught that stewardship is at the center of discipleship. There was “a unified heart” that giving was not an option but a necessity, and it was ingrained in teaching that core belief in the home, church, and institutions of Christian higher education.
When the nation was largely an agrarian society families lived closer to the earth and regularly gave thanks to God for the harvest. Farmers knew their livelihood depended on God for providing sunshine and rain, in equal amounts, and at the right time.
But with the advent of the industrial society individuals came to embrace secularized philanthropy, which weakened the power of the church. People solved social ills by pooling their resources through organizations without a spiritual dimension.
And that’s where we are today in many regards, he said.
Secular charitable giving slowly eroding discipled, kingdom generosity
“Rather than seeking God and God’s people, and strategically advancing the Great Commission, today’s philanthropy largely advances giving that has no reference to God as the source of all.”
“Stewardship is what shaped Christianity yet history is showing that we have lost that drive to give from out of a responsibility in return to God. It’s not just about money but about giving our time, our Christian calling, our allegiance.”
Preissler states that current research states that only 1.5 to 2% of those claiming to be evangelicals give anything through their congregation.
“Based on today’s communication and social media outlets, if our stewardship commitment was like that of the previous century we would be enjoying an explosion of kingdom generosity to the Great Commission. We would be out-funding our needs,” he maintains.
Preissler will give options for reversing that decline and challenge attendees to take a fresh commitment of stewardship back to their congregations.
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