Man doesn’t move in God’s direction easily. Shortcuts can help him down the path of service for a little way, but this will not last. Some church leaders keep hoping that stewardship executives and conferences will find some shortcut or some secret formula to move people to give, serve, and witness effectively. A pastor wrote us: “Motivational talks on stewardship are not needed. Supply what pastors lack: techniques of money-raising. Pastors should be presumed to know motivation. Please show us the ‘tricks of the trade.’ ”

None of us fully understands the truth and power of the Gospel as it affects lives, and that means we need to learn more about motivation in stewardship. Clear understanding and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is intimately tied to stewardship commitment.

Recently I reviewed thirty-one current books on stewardship for their motivational content and discovered a very confusing picture. Inconsistencies abound, and some excellent statements on God’s grace and love in Christ Jesus are contradicted by legalistic concepts and methods. Many use the “will of God” as motivation, and many stop at the acknowledgment of God as owner and giver. “Man is accountable, so be ethical.” Some avoid legalism and suggest grace in their concepts, but give the impression of moral responsibility alone in their practical plans. One spells out God’s promises, the answer of love, and asks, “Is stewardship legalistic?” but fails to define or make the application. The duty motive and ownership by redemption is stressed: since Christ bought the Christian, it is now his duty to get to work. The “love of Christ” hardly ever gets above the level of the cliché, and motivation is perverted in one way or another. One book warns the ...

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