Illustration by Sarah Duvivier.
Skepticism is very much a part of my DNA. Appeals based on historical precedent or past performance are only as good as the real value they show today. The currency of my world is spending money on experiences instead of things. I crave the lifestyle flexibility of entrepreneurial ventures that create impact.
My millennial mindset reveals itself in another way. My parents’ and grandparents’ generations had an established sense of duty, but the word “duty” is pretty scarce in my vocabulary. Baby Boomers bought into establishments and their support. Not so much millennials. We find that participation in civic duties and government don’t meet our expectations. We center on items involving personal choice. Is it any wonder that consistent financial engagement with the organized church is at an all-time low? For us, tithing is a personal choice, not a Christian duty.
However, I believe the word “duty” connotes differently today. Talk to me about duty in the form of encouraging accountability and initiating change, and I’m in! I find that to be especially true with those in my generation who are still engaged in being a Christ-follower. We vote with our dollars on what we perceive as important to our values, not because of any institutional loyalty.
It’s not like I’m unengaged. I was a missionary kid in post-communist Europe, helped plant a church in college, and even did full-time Bible coaching for three years before I got my MBA. After I married, my husband and I made a decision to live 3,000 miles away from our family and friends for the primary purpose of helping a five-member church community grow in post-Christian New England. And, yes, I still sometimes struggle with giving on my own terms to whom and what I value, not out of any objective Christian duty.
What’s been stretching my mind lately is the idea that the individualism leading us to participate out of preference and not duty can come at a cost. After all, what survives if all of us are isolated in our own bubbles of preference? As Os Guiness, author and social critic, brilliantly summarized, “Without individuals nothing happens; without institutions nothing survives.”
The Jesus story that blew my mind on this dimension of faith is the one where Jesus commends the sacrificial giving of the poor widow to an institution that was planning His death (see Luke 21:1–4). There is no question in my mind that Jesus was challenging the religious leadership of His day. His very life was a 180-degree contrast to theirs. His words were powered by The Word and not by policy. Yet, He remained spiritually, physically and financially engaged while modeling a drastic difference. Jesus making the giving widow a model of faithfulness is a revelation that faith’s priority is our heart. And my faith response to Him — as reflected by my time, talents, and finances — is the currency of freedom that vindicates to the universe that God’s ways of other-centered love wins!
Selfishness looks for every excuse to opt out; faith looks for every reason to lean in. That is Messiah-driven mission. It beckons us to something greater than our- selves. It is a response to being radically loved, called and chosen. It is what it takes to fully engage the human heart — millennial or not — at a level where time, talents and finances are poised for action.
Last year, I had the privilege of being asked by North American Stewardship Ministries to “lean in” to help create strategy and synergy around the challenge of re-framing stewardship for the next generation. I was encouraged to see administrative leadership questioning their own assumptions, thinking outside of the box, and earning trust by sharing the mic — capstoned by the AdventistGiving app that leverages technology to connect you to your local church’s offering plate and broader Adventist-coordinated missions. The AdventistGiving App* is not revolutionary; it’s leveraging technology to empower our funding of Messiah-driven mission. I’ve never been more excited about a simple app since forever and a day! I celebrate the tool that leverages tangible faith. But that’s not all. The app contains inspiring stories from the lives of everyday Adventists. Featured as “I am a Steward,” twenty-four stories were released in 2019, twice a month, which shared the stories of everyday millennial Adventists, be they an engineer, farmer, lawyer, chef, social worker or entrepreneur.
These are real stories of real people engaged in God’s redemptive economy by experiencing God personally and professionally. All twenty-four stories revealed that engaging with the mission of reflecting Christ’s radical commitment to us is practical and even sometimes dirty. This messiness is driven by leaning in to the trenches of an imperfect world and, yes, an imperfect church. It doesn’t lessen my responsibility to reflect God’s ideal of total engagement in Messiah-driven mission.
Stewardship is the act of carrying out mission in our everyday lives. I trust that like me, you, too, will be challenged and inspired by the experiences of the real people in these stories. Everyday people leveraging time, talent, and finances to make a difference in God’s redemptive economy.
It has been a privilege to lean in to the ongoing opportunity to reframe stewardship because I’m like everyone else . . .
I am a Steward.
Diana is an impact strategist consultant who, along with her food crafts- man husband, Kasee, lives in New England where, among other social entrepreneurial ventures, they are helping build spiritual community in the tiny tourist town of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
*AdventistGiving is a ministry of North American Division Information Technology Services.